Alabama grinds out another big victory over LSU
- Edward Aschoff -
Nov. 9, 2014

Alabama wide receiver DeAndrew White (2) grabs the game-winning TD over LSU safety Jalen Mills (28) during the first overtime of the Alabama at LSU football game, Saturday, November 8, 2014, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.
Photo Credit - Vasha Hunt/
BATON ROUGE, La. -- As Nick Saban walked into a small, crowded media room tucked away inside the depths of Tiger Stadium, he weaved around a throng of cameramen to find his wife, Terry.

The two embraced and shared a short kiss of both happiness and relief following No. 5 Alabama’s exhausting 20-13 win overtime win over No. 16 LSU.

“That was hard,” Saban said as he walked away from his wife.

You bet it was.

It was incredibly hard for two sledgehammers that bashed each other’s brains in for nearly four hours on a brisk night under the lights in Death Valley. In front of a raucous crowd of 102,321, the Crimson Tide came from the brink of possible SEC and playoff elimination to drowning out college football’s most famous four notes with a deafening “Roll Tide.”

“It was tough down there, and I’m really, really proud of our players for finishing the game the way they did,” said Saban, whose Tide improved to 8-1 and 5-1 in SEC play. “Great win. Great win for Alabama, and I’m really proud of our players.”

With the college football season in its final weeks, this was another one of the SEC West’s defacto play-in games for both a trip to Atlanta and the College Football Playoff. With the sport’s best division devouring itself in this bloody month of November, Alabama couldn’t risk being yet another victim.

The Crimson Tide nearly succumbed to the fates of Auburn and Ole Miss before it with a last-minute fumble inside its own 6-yard line by T.J. Yeldon with the game tied 10-10. Shortly after, Saban rallied his players and told them this was where his team showed how to win a game.

Alabama forced a field goal, then drove 55 yards in 50 seconds -- with no timeouts -- to tie it at 13-13 before Blake Sims threw a beautiful, back-shoulder touchdown pass to DeAndrew White for the eventual game-winner in overtime.

Players and coaches celebrated like children after LSU’s offense went four-and-out. Sims, who couldn’t get out of his own way for the better part of the game, sprinted toward Alabama’s band and the team’s section of fans as if he were going to leap into the stands. Players jumped in each other’s arms and hugged a few lingering fans in the back of the very end zone, where Alabama crushed LSU’s upset hopes. Offensive lineman Leon Brown strutted toward the party with his hands raised and tongue out.

Saban even smiled as he jogged off the field, thumbs up, radiating toward the crimson faithful who made the trip.

“When Coach Saban’s smiling, you know that we did a good job,” Sims said.

No other rivalry game hits like this one or causes so much pain and anguish for the loser. In the ultimate play-in game, Alabama ground out an old-school slugfest to stay in control of its own destiny and show the country it’s very much a real threat to be one of the last four teams standing when the playoff rolls around.

There was even another Alabama missed field goal in a game that perfectly summed up this hellacious rivalry.

“That’s a tough, physical game,” Saban said. “That’s old-fashioned ball. That’s the kind of football that, when I played, we played. Nothing spread about that.”

There’s nothing soft about this Alabama team. It isn’t the team that won games by halftime in previous years, but it’s tough and wears down opponents. There were 85 rushing plays in this game and hardly a passing game to save anyone’s life, but Alabama never stopped chugging.

It wore down an equally tenacious LSU team and made critical plays in critical moments while stopping LSU in even bigger moments.

This wasn’t sexy by any means, but it was the kind of game these two teams thrive in and play better than anyone.

We’ve quietly wondered if this Alabama team is elite or even great. Honestly, we still don’t know because of its inconsistencies. But it’s winning, and I’m sure there are a lot of teams outside the SEC that wouldn’t want to see the Tide in January with the national championship on the line.

Alabama didn’t earn style points Saturday night. It earned respect.

“You’re not going to be able to blow everybody out by 45 points every game,” center Ryan Kelly said. “You look at playing in Baton Rouge at night time, we knew it was going to be a hard game. We anticipated a four-quarter fight, and that’s what we got.

“This is the SEC. This is football to me. ... This is the only football I’ve ever known. You know in the SEC that this is what you’re going to get.”

With Mississippi State and Auburn looming, there’s no question Alabama has to get better, but Saban and his players know that. But a win like this can do wonders for a team’s confidence and serve as a turning point with so much left to still play for.

“It’s always good when you go in a hostile environment in the SEC and you make a statement win,” defensive end Jonathan Allen said. “I feel like games like this will keep your hope high. When you’re in a tough situation, you think back to games like this.”

Alabama takes on #1 Mississippi State next Saturday, 11/15, in Tuscaloosa at 2:30 pm CT on CBS.