Two weeks after saving the day in a three-point upset of then-No. 3 Ole Miss, the LSU defense was up to the task again Saturday night.
Returning to the scene of that monumental 10-7 victory over Ole Miss on Oct. 25, the Tigers almost did it again.
LSU’s defense stymied fourth-ranked Alabama’s explosive offense for much of the evening and did enough to come away with another stunning upset of a top-10 team before dropping a 20-13 overtime decision in Tiger Stadium.
LSU forced seven three-and-outs and also had a takeaway on Alabama’s first 13 possessions. The Tigers limited the Crimson Tide to 216 total yards — with just 40 coming on the first five series of the second half — until yielding 10 late points that allowed the visitors to escape with a victory.
The Tigers forced the only turnover of the night by the Crimson Tide with 1:13 remaining in the hard-fought game, which led to a go-ahead 39-yard field goal by Colby Delahoussaye with 50 seconds to play.
But even that turned into despair for LSU when its offense, which scored just 10 points in the first 58½ minutes, failed to capitalize on the big break the defense gave them with 1:13 to play.
After LSU linebacker Lamar Louis forced T.J. Yeldon to fumble on a running play inside the Alabama 10, with linebacker Kendell Beckwith recovering at the 6, the Tigers couldn’t punch it in the end zone — partly because of a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct on left guard Vadal Alexander.
Alexander was flagged for pushing an Alabama defender after replays showed another Crimson Tide player pulling Alexander’s leg after a run play by Terrence Magee got nothing.
The Tigers eventually had to settle for Delahoussaye’s three-pointer, which, at the time, seemed big, considering how LSU’s defense was playing.
“It was a great, great, great effort by our defense,” said Tigers center Elliott Porter, who would not comment on the penalty assessed against Alexander.
“We have to capitalize (with a touchdown) on the 6-yard line. That was great defense by LSU.”
Despite the stout effort, the Tigers could hold on no longer.
Starting the next drive with good field position after the ensuing kickoff by Trent Domingue sailed out of bounds, Alabama, which had one second-half first down to that point, made LSU pay.
Quarterback Blake Sims cranked up a nine-play, 55-yard drive — 15 yards more than the Crimson Tide had in the first five drives of the second half — en route to Adam Griffith’s 27-yard game-tying field goal with 3 seconds to play.
“They were catching balls in the flat on the way out of bounds and not being aggressive downfield,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We probably should get a little more pressure. I like how our defense played up to that point.”
While LSU, which didn’t make any defensive players available for interviews after the game, desperately tried to come up with one more stop that would have secured the win, Alabama quickly marched down the field.
Sims converted twice on third-and-4, producing a 5-yard run to the Alabama 46 with 30 seconds to play and throwing a 22-yard pass to Christian Jones to give his team a first down at the LSU 26 with 13 seconds remaining.
Already in position to attempt a game-tying field goal, Sims got his team a lot closer with a 16-yard pass to DeAndrew White to the LSU 10 to bring on Griffith.
Griffith, who earlier hit the left upright on a 27-yard attempt in the second quarter and made a 29-yarder with 9 seconds to play in the first half to give his team a 10-7 lead going to the locker room, nailed the kick to force overtime.
After LSU won the coin toss at the start of overtime, Miles deferred to the Crimson Tide, and Sims immediately threw a 24-yard pass to wide-open tight end Brandon Greene that moved the ball inside the 1.
A 14-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of the play, however, pushed the ball back to the LSU 15 and five plays later Sims floated a 6-yard touchdown to White that turned out to be the game-winner when the Tigers couldn’t match the score on their overtime possession.
After getting the ball back following Delahoussaye’s go-ahead field goal, Alabama picked up 99 yards and five first downs on its last two possessions and finished with 315 total yards.
“We didn’t make a lot of first downs (in the second half),” Alabama coach Nick Saban said, “but you have to give LSU’s defense a lot of credit.”
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.