(3) Alabama - 24, (9) LSU - 15
November 7, 2009
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Julio Jones left defenders grasping at his heels
and Alabama's defense was typically immovable. The Crimson Tide is
riding that combination to the SEC championship game for the second
Julio Jones races to the end zone on a 73-yard touchdown reception
during the second half against LSU.
The popular Jones made the biggest play of what has been a relatively
quiet sophomore season, breaking free for a 73-yard touchdown in the
fourth quarter, and No. 3 Alabama locked down No. 9 LSU in a 24-15
Leigh Tiffin booted a 40-yard field goal with 3:04 left to seal it
and the Tide (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) earned a rematch with
No. 1 Florida for the league championship.
The hard-hitting affair left the Tigers (7-2, 4-2) without injured
quarterback Jordan Jefferson and running back Charles Scott for most
of the second half.
"It was a tough, physical game," said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who
beat his former team for the second straight year. "Man, those games
are fun to be a part of."
The win touched off another big celebration for Alabama, which
survived a 12-10 victory over Tennessee two weeks ago with Terrence
Cody's two blocked field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. Tiffin
came up big in that one, too, with four field goals.
Jefferson had an ankle injury and Scott hurt his right shoulder in
LSU coach Les Miles, who said Scott's injury was probably the more
serious, didn't shed much light on their status.
On Jefferson, Miles said the quarterback was "trying to get back in
the game. We felt like it would be best that he sit."
"I still like our chances, injuries or not. No excuses," he added.
LSU would have taken control of the West. The Tigers, whose only
other loss came to the Gators, took a 15-10 lead into the fourth but
managed only 9 yards in the quarter. They had won four straight games
at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Once again, though, LSU is left taking a backseat to its former
Saban & Co. moved a step closer to their second straight perfect
regular season. The Tide outgained LSU 452-253, and narrowed the
number of SEC national championship contenders to two.
Alabama is 9-0 for a second consecutive season, which hasn't happened
since 1973-74 under Bear Bryant.
Greg McElroy completed 19 of 34 passes for 276 yards with two
touchdowns and an interception as the Tide aired it out 25 times
in the first half against a defense that was putting extra defenders
near the line.
The second half was more typical Tide. Mark Ingram gained 106 of his
144 yards after the half to continue to mount a strong campaign for
Heisman Trophy consideration.
Jones had his best game of the season, with four catches for 102
yards, including his second touchdown.
"We practiced that all week," he said. "A situation like that, I
feel like I should just step up and make the play. I did what I
had to do."
And the Tide defense -- as it has all season -- came through in the
Needing two scores, backup quarterback Jarrett Lee and LSU couldn't
get it to midfield in the final minutes.
Alabama hadn't left them much time, anyway, milking more than six
minutes off the clock in setting up Tiffin's final kick, made possible
when a running into the kicker call led Saban to go for it on
fourth-and-1 just across midfield.
Ingram got the first down after taking a direct snap.
"That gives everybody confidence," McElroy said. "It's coach Saban
having faith in us."
Tiffin, who became Alabama's all-time leading scorer in the game,
also had a 20-yarder early in the fourth after a drive that took
nearly six minutes.
LSU had failed on a 2-point try late in the third quarter trying to
push its lead to seven points. Trent Richardson's 2-point run after
Jones' touchdown made it a two-score game at the end.
Alabama gave fans two things they covet in the process: The lead and
big plays from Jones, who hasn't made as many as he did in his
fantastic freshman year.
He caught a short pass from McElroy, juked a defender and sprinted
down the sideline for a touchdown.
"Put it in his hands, and you never know what's going to happen,"
Then Richardson made it 21-15 Alabama.
Alabama forced the short-handed LSU offense into a three-and-out,
then pushed the ball across midfield.
After Patrick Peterson nearly picked off McElroy's pass -- he was
ruled out of bounds -- Jones' catch converted a third-and-7 to help
move the Tide into field goal position.
"There's not one part of the team that didn't play well," Saban
said. "The offense played extremely well. Greg played well. The
receivers played well. We ran the ball. The offensive line did a
Jefferson and Scott were thriving before going to the sidelines.
Scott ran for 83 yards and his 34-yarder was the longest run play
given up by Alabama this season. Jefferson passed for 114 yards and
also had some success running the option.
"Losing those two guys was a big blow to our offense," receiver
Terrance Toliver said. "It was a letdown to lose both of them, but
Jarrett came in and played hard."
Lee was 4 of 10 for 44 yards with an interception on a fourth-down
play at the end, and the Tigers were held to 95 yards rushing.
LSU's defense held its own through three quarters. Drake Nevis sacked
McElroy in the third quarter for a safety, cutting Alabama's lead to
Fullback Stevan Ridley bounced off 354-pound nose guard Terrance Cody
for an 8-yard touchdown run and the 15-10 lead. Scott's big run set
up the TD, but also ended his day. The pass for 2 did not connect.
The Crimson Tide take on Mississippi State next Saturday, Nov. 14 in
Starkville. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Central Time on ESPN.