TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The gains got longer and longer as the night wore on.
From LSU coach Les Miles’ perspective, that’s just what happens when a defense is on the field for most of a game.
Alabama, ranked fourth in Sunday’s new Associated Press poll, pulled away from LSU, No. 9 in the new rankings, en route to a dominant 30-16 victory here Saturday.
The Tigers (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern) surrendered 246 second-half yards with 13 plays of 10 or more yards, but Miles noted time of possession was heavily skewed in the Tide’s favor.
“Our defense was on the field the whole second half, virtually,” he said. “First and foremost, having the defense on the field 10 more minutes more than the opponent, you really see how difficult it is to play defense.”
Alabama (8-1, 5-1) held possession for 39 minutes, 27 seconds — nearly two-thirds of the game. LSU’s defense played 79 snaps, its poor depth along the line exposed against the Tide’s persistent rushing attack. Junior running back Derrick Henry rushed for 210 yards on 38 carries, while change-of-pace back Kenyan Drake added 72 rushing and 40 receiving yards.
“He’s such a workhorse,” junior defensive tackle Christian LaCouture said of Henry.
The Tigers bent but didn’t break in the first half, limiting Alabama to a 13-10 halftime lead. But LSU’s defensive breakdowns started when its offense stalled.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Harris opened the second half with an interception, granting the Tide field position at the Tigers’ 28-yard line. Henry made LSU pay with a 1-yard touchdown run before the Tigers punted on their next four drives, two of which were three-and-outs.
“You don’t keep the ball, possess it, move it down the field and allow your defense to rest,” Miles said. “It’s three-and-out, so they go right back out and have to stop that big back again.”
Senior right tackle Vadal Alexander placed the disparity in time of possession “on our shoulders as an offense.”
LSU’s offensive line failed to open holes all night as the Tide defense swarmed to sophomore running back Leonard Fournette, who averaged only 1.6 yards per carry.
“Too many three-and-outs. Too many quick drives,” Alexander said. “We can’t expect our defense to get a three-and-out every drive. If we get three-and-outs and force them on the field every two minutes, that’s not how we’re going to win as a team.”
Being on the field for so long hurt the defense, sophomore safety Jamal Adams said, though he didn’t blame the offense for failing to sustain drives. He claimed the defense lost focus instead of getting worn down.
LSU’s longest drive of the night lasted six plays. Alabama reeled off seven drives of six plays or more and melted the final nine minutes off the clock with a run-heavy, 13-play series.
Miles did not specify sophomore fullback JD Moore’s condition after he left the game and did not return, though the coach said he’s “operating with a brace.”
Moore stayed on the turf clutching his left knee following a play in the second quarter. That’s the same knee that kept him sidelined since suffering the original injury against South Carolina on Oct. 10. He left the field under his power and without a limp.
“I didn’t think there was any reason to have him coming back,” Miles said.
The Tigers’ home game against Arkansas will kick off on ESPN at 6:15 p.m. Saturday. CBS at 2:30 p.m. will air Alabama-Mississippi State, a game in which LSU has a vested interest. The Tigers need the Tide to lose to have a shot at reaching the SEC title game. ... The LSU-Alabama game drew a 6.3 overnight rating, the second-highest of the year behind the Ohio State-Virginia Tech game (6.6) on Monday night of opening weekend.