It took just 20 seconds for LSU to grow its lead from six points to 20 points.
As the Tigers ran in for halftime, their offensive execution was only half the story.
As water and blue Powerade cascaded over his back, spilling down his shoulders and soaking his clothes, Ed Orgeron raised his right hand in the air. He closed it into a triumphant fist and rushed to midfield. LSU had beaten Alabama. It was his moment of validation.
"It was obviously a mistake on our part," Alabama coach Nick Saban said after his team's 46-41 loss Saturday night, "and I take all the blame for that.”
Saban was referring to a sequence in which Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa unleashed a pass with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter that landed in the hands of LSU linebacker Patrick Queen. His return was coupled with an unnecessary roughness penalty that brought the ball to Alabama's 13-yard line.
The Crimson Tide trailed 26-13 at that point, having fallen behind by 13 points after the Tigers had scored on their previous possession.
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And here's the play that really set up the nightmare finish of the first half for Alabama: LSU's Patrick Queen intercepts the pass (can't tell if it was tipped) and returns it to the 29 ... roughness penalty moves up to 13. pic.twitter.com/7gWgo4iijy— Jeff Nowak (@Jeff_Nowak) November 9, 2019
That drive included a toe-tapping grab by Thaddeus Moss in the red zone and a 1-yard touchdown dive by running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
The Tigers took just one play to cash in again after the Queen interception, as Edwards-Helaire made a 13-yard touchdown catch — his second score on back-to-back plays.
Saban explained his reasoning for the ill-fated pass, adding that with the benefit of hindsight, he would've "obviously" run the ball and gone into halftime down just two scores.
"Since the result that we got was what we got, I wish we’d have ran the ball. I wish we’d have taken a knee. ... But being aggressive in the game at the time, I thought that we would throw the ball down the field and give ourselves an opportunity to make a big play," Saban said, "and even if it was a bad play, it’d be no worse than a punt.”
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The streak died right where it started, banished to the past by an Ohio quarterback who is now the champion of Louisiana.
That scoring outburst proved massive after LSU struggled to mount much offense after the sun went down.
The 20-point halftime margin never fell to fewer than five points as Alabama tried to fight its way out of a hole.
“A lot to overcome, but I have to tell you that I was really, really proud of our players," Saban said. "The second half they fought really hard to get back in the game and actually got themselves back in the game but couldn’t get a stop when we needed to.”
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Alabama nearly completed the comeback, but Edwards-Helaire scored another two of his career high four touchdowns in the fourth quarter, beating back every Alabama advance with a score to match it.
An LSU third-down conversion after Alabama converted a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play to Jerry Jeudy was particularly crushing to the Crimson Tide's hopes. Alabama had cut the Tigers' lead to its smallest margin at 33-27, and the Tuscaloosa crowd was roaring loud as ever.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Goodbye, Alabama losing streak.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow escaped some pressure and slung it out to Edwards-Helaire in the flat, who turned upfield and bowled over Alabama defenders as he stretched for the first down. He scored his third touchdown later on the drive.
"We tried to pressure (LSU) and didn’t get the back covered," Saban said. "You’ve got to give him a lot of credit. He ran through a guy for 4 or 5 more yards to get a first down.”
Editor's note: A previous version of this story said LSU grew its lead from three to 20 points in the final 20 seconds of the first half. It was six points to 20 points.
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