Maybe there’s another team in the country that can beat Alabama.
Maybe Clemson? Maybe Michigan? Maybe Washington? How about Auburn?
Maybe none of the above or anyone else.
LSU’s best efforts, at least defensively, certainly weren’t enough in Saturday’s 10-0 loss to the top-ranked Crimson Tide at Tiger Stadium.
“You come in here with the noise and the emotion and the music has you jumping around and everything,” said Bama sophomore safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, whose fourth-quarter interception of Danny Etling at the Tide 43 ended any LSU comeback effort. “I loved it. And then go out and do what we did is a tribute to our whole team. We’ve been feeling this way for the last two weeks, and we kept our focus the whole night.”
What the Tide defense did was hold LSU to 125 yards. The Tigers had but one first down in the second half, and it didn't come until the fourth quarter.
As it did last year, Alabama made things tough on LSU running back Leonard Fournette.
Fournette had 17 carries, all but five in the first half, for 44 yards. He was dropped for losses four times, and his longest gain was for but 9 yards as the Alabama defensive front consistently beat the LSU offensive line to the punch, giving Fournette little room.
The Tide also put constant pressure on Etling, sacking him five times and forcing him into making early and/or awkward throws.
Etling did have a 41-yard completion to D.J. Chark in the first quarter. But that was followed by Fournette being dropped for a 5-yard loss and two incompletions by Etling, who finished 11 of 24.
Those 41 yards were 33 percent of the night’s output for the Tigers.
“You can’t ask much more from a defense than that,” said Tide coach Nick Saban, who has now beaten his former employer six straight times with no end — other that perhaps his retirement (Saban turned 65 on Halloween) — in sight. “The guys had a great week of practice, and then they came in here and executed it tonight.”
To be sure, the LSU defense wasn’t bad.
The Tigers kept a Saban team from scoring in the first half for the first time since 2007, his first year in Tuscaloosa. They added another zero in the third quarter before finally surrendering a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth.
But when you’re going against a defense like Alabama’s, even that’s not enough.
The Tigers were shut out at home for the first time since 2002 — when Saban was the Tigers’ coach and Alabama did the blanking 31-0.
“It’s amazing to be able to come in here and get the goose egg,” Alabama senior defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson said. “We knew how well their offense had been playing (scoring 42, 45 and 38 points in three games under interim coach Ed Orgeron) and how much they wanted this. We had some adversity (an interception in the first quarter and a fumble in the third that gave LSU possession in in Alabama territory), but we fought through it.
“The main thing we knew was that if they didn’t score, they couldn’t beat us.”
For a while, it looked like Alabama might not score either, although the Tide did pass on an almost sure field goal on fourth down at the LSU 1 midway through the third quarter, only to be foiled when freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts was dropped for a 5-yard loss on what Saban deemed a busted play.
Hurts also had the interception and fumble. But in the fourth quarter, the Tigers started guessing wrong on Hurts’ read option decisions, especially on a pitch to Bo Scarbrough for a 10-yard gain on fourth-and-1 from the LSU 32 on the first play of the final period.
Four plays later, Hurts weaved his way for a 21-yard touchdown run that saw him break two tackles.
Later on, Hurts had a 23-yard scramble to the LSU 17 that was the key play of the soul-crushing, spread-beating, 15-play, 50-yard drive that took a whopping 9:58 off the clock.
“That’s the kind of player he is,” Alabama senior tight end O.J. Howard said. “He’s going to make some mistakes, but then he’s going to come back to beat you either with his arm or his feet.
“We had to play some old-school, smashmouth football to win here tonight. Jalen was ready for it.”