Alabama still has LSU’s number.
Now, it’s six.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide eked out a 10-0 victory over the Tigers on Saturday night in rocking Tiger Stadium, winning a sixth straight game in this physical, emotional rivalry.
Nick Saban’s group claimed a 21st consecutive victory dating to last September and continued LSU’s woes in this yearly battle. The Tigers (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) haven’t beaten the Tide (9-0, 6-0) since that 9-6 overtime win in Tuscaloosa, exactly five years ago Saturday.
ESPN.com earlier this week dubbed that game “the last great defensive struggle.”
There’s another one now.
This was a violent, hard-hitting slobber-knocker of a game reminiscent of that 2011 “Game of the Century.”
Saban’s club broke a scoreless tie early in the fourth quarter with freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts’ 21-yard scramble for a touchdown. After picking off LSU quarterback Danny Etling, Bama marched 50 yards, eating nearly 10 minutes off the clock for a game-sealing 25-yard field goal by Adam Griffith.
"I thought we played our butts off on defense, but we lose as a team," interim coach Ed Orgeron said. "We need to find a way to win that football game. It was all about LSU tonight. It wasn't about anybody else."
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The Tide held running back Leonard Fournette to 35 yards on 17 carries and handed Orgeron his first loss since taking over as interim coach, dropping the Tigers to 3-1 in what they’re calling their “new season.” Up next is a trip to Fayetteville, Arkansas, to meet a Razorbacks team that blasted Florida 31-10 on Saturday.
That game, set for 6 p.m. on ESPN, surely will be an easier fight than this bruising battle.
The teams traded blows like heavyweight champs dueling in the ring. No one landed a real whopper, and it was scoreless until Hurts’ third-down scoring scamper with 13 minutes, 8 seconds left in the fourth quarter. It was the first FBS game this season to go scoreless through the first three quarters as two of the nation’s best defenses clashed in an electric environment.
ArDarius Stewart took a reverse handoff and looked like he would run for a mile. But LSU’s John Battle closed the green gulf like a heat-seeki…
At one point in the third quarter, there were more punts in the game (12) than first downs (11), and Alabama sacked Etling five times in his first 25 dropbacks. The Tide rocked and flustered an indecisive Etling all night, and Saban’s defense pressured him into an interception to set up that game-securing field-goal drive.
LSU’s defense kept the Tigers in it. LSU became the first team since Florida State in 2007 to hold Bama scoreless in the first half.
"You talk about winning ugly, and maybe it wasn't pretty because we certainly didn't execute and do things the way we would like," Saban said. "You have to give credit to LSU. Their defense played really, really well."
"Defense did a hell of a job all night," LSU guard Will Clapp said. "They got us the ball on our side of the 50 multiple times. Offense has to execute. We’ve got to put it in."
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s crew forced two turnovers and stuffed Alabama with a masterful goal-line stand on Bama’s first drive of the second half. Safety Jamal Adams picked off Hurts’ second pass of the game, and later Frank Herron stripped Hurts and Arden Key recovered. On that goal-line stand, linebacker Duke Riley and Key dropped Hurts for a 5-yard loss on fourth-and-goal at the 1.
Hurts’ legs took over on that fourth-quarter field-goal drive. He ran for 48 yards during the 15-play march, converting third downs of 15 and 9 yards with his feet.
"It wasn’t him," outside linebacker Arden Key said. "We just missed tackles. The two times he ran, I could have had a sack on him, and I missed those two sacks."
The LSU defense was determined not to be overshadowed by Alabama’s nationally ranked defense…
LSU’s offense — so electric under interim coordinator Steve Ensminger’s first three games — failed to take advantage of a defense that stood tall until the very end. The Tigers finished with 125 yards of offense, running for just 33, and Etling threw for 92 yards on 11-of-24 passing.
The Tigers punted eight times, had only 25 yards in the second half and were 4 of 15 on third down.
"Big one-on-ones. They beat some one-on-ones," Orgeron said, explaining the line's struggles.
"It was our execution as a whole," Etling said. "I think they did a good job putting pressure on us and making plays, which you knew they would. I think we had enough chances on offense to execute and get things done and we didn’t."
They never got their big horse going.
Fournette, fresh off his record-breaking 284 yards against Ole Miss, was stuffed against the Tide for a second straight year. The draft-eligible junior will likely finish his LSU career without tasting success against the Tide, and he’s rushed for a combined 66 yards in the past two meetings with Bama.
"It’s definitely going to be a rough night for him," Clapp said. "We thought we had a great game plan. Our offensive line, we need to open up holes and execute better and we’re going to put this one on us."
Fournette and the Tigers offense wasted their last real opportunity with 5:43 left in the third quarter, when Herron stripped the ball from Hurts and Key recovered.
What did the Tigers do? They went in reverse. Delay of game and intentional grounding penalties forced a punt. The Tigers went from facing third-and-2 at the Bama 32 to being pushed back into their own territory.
"Very frustrating," Clapp said. "Kept shooting ourselves in the foot."
This all played out in front of several LSU standouts-turned-NFL stars.
Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu and Jeremy Hill attended the game. In the first quarter, LSU announced a $1 million gift from Mathieu — the current Arizona Cardinals star signed an extension in August that called for $40 million in guaranteed money — the biggest boon on a disappointing night.
"We struggled," Orgeron said. "We struggled tonight. Obviously, we struggled to run the ball. We struggled to pass protect. We struggled."