BATON ROUGE -- Top-ranked Alabama used a 72-yard drive in the final 1:34 to escape Tiger Stadium with a 21-17 victory over fifth-ranked LSU on Saturday night.
LSU (7-2, 3-2 SEC) overcame an 11-point deficit to take a 17-14 lead early in the fourth quarter, and looked to be on its way to earning a thrilling victory behind an efficient offense and a stout second-half defense.
However, the Crimson Tide needed only five plays and 43 seconds to score the go-ahead touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron led the Tide into LSU territory and dumped a screen pass to running back T.J. Yeldon, who scampered 28 yards for the back-breaking score against an LSU defense that had only allowed 49 yards in the second half.
After converting a pair of scoring drives in the final minute of each half, the Crimson Tide remained undefeated at 9-0 overall and 6-0 in the Southeastern Conference.
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a career night against the top-rated Tide defense, completing 24-of-34 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times, but helped LSU convert 7-of-11 third downs in the second half with clutch throws in tight quarters.
Wide receiver Jarvis Landry led the Tigers with eight catches and 76 yards with a go-ahead 14-yard touchdown catch with 12:58 remaining. Odell Beckham Jr. added 73 yards on four grabs including a 22-yarder on LSU's penultimate drive that ended in a missed field goal that would have put the Tigers ahead by six with less than two minutes to play.
LSU running back Jeremy Hill had 107 yards rushing and eclipsed the century mark for the third-straight game, the first Tiger to do so since 2008 (Charles Scott). Hill had 29 of LSU's 49 carries, while Russell Shepard added 22 yards and Michael Ford had 13.
The Tigers outgained the Tide, 435-331, and ran 33 more plays (85-52).
However, LSU missed two field goals, had a failed fake field goal and an onside kick that was touched the kicker a half-yard too soon.
Alabama made mistakes of its own - two fumbles, one of which was at the LSU 10 - but came away from the slugfest with a victory.
McCarron's final scoring the drive highlighted an otherwise average performance for the Heisman Trophy candidate. He managed 14-of-27 passing for 165 yards, of which 53 came in the deciding drive. McCarron also scored on a 9-yard scramble with 11 seconds remaining in the first half.
Alabama running back Eddie Lacy had a team-high 83 yards while Yeldon added 76. Kevin Norwood had a team-best five catches for 62 yards including a three for 44 yards to setup Tide's final score.
Alabama won the toss and deferred its decision until the second half. The Crimson Tide kicked off to LSU from south to north out of the endzone.
Starting at its 25, LSU quickly gained a first down with a 7-yard run by Hill and an 8-yard catch by Kadron Boone to its 40. A second third-down pass to Boone went for seven yards and another first down, as LSU crossed midfield to the Alabama 47 less than two minutes into the contest. With the Tide coming to blitz on second-and-long, Beckham Jr. slipped and couldn't recover to make a finger-tip catch and another pass in his direction was overthrown. Brad Wing entered and his punt was fair caught at the Alabama 11.
With Tiger Stadium rocking, Alabama took the field for the first time. Facing a third-and-3, McCarron had a third-down pass batted away by linebacker Kevin Minter and the Tide punted for the first time.
Cody Mandell's 46-yard effort was returned near midfield by Beckham Jr., however, an illegal block instead gave LSU possession at its 26. Using its running game, the Tigers again moved down the field against the vaunted Tide defense. A 19-yard run by Russell Shepard went to the LSU 45 before Michael Ford and Hill each had first-down runs. From the Alabama 35, three more runs gained another first down to the 25. Consecutive incomplete passes again stalled the drive and LSU put its three points on the board with a 38-yard field goal by Drew Alleman.
LSU led 3-0 with 6:11 remaining in the opening quarter.
Though Lacy broke off a 28-yard run to enter LSU territory for the first time, an offensive pass interference penalty pushed the Tide back to its side of the field and led to another punt by Mandell which sailed into the endzone.
For the third time in as many drives, LSU entered Tide territory, this time with a 19-yard run by Hill to the 47. Back-to-back sacks of Mettenberger ended the drive and Wing's punt was fair caught at the Alabama 8.
On the first drive of the second quarter, Yeldon and McCarron paced the Tide to its first scoring drive of the game. Yeldon ran for 40 yards and McCarron was 4-for-4 for 43 yards on the 92-yard drive that ended with a 7-yard run by Lacy. Alabama led 7-3 with 8:17 remaining in the half.
Beginning its drive at its 12 after Ford's short kickoff return from the endzone, Mettenberger connected with Beckham Jr. for nine yards to the 21. But, two plays went for minus-5 yards and Wing was called upon again. His 48-yard effort was fumbled by Jones at the Alabama 36 and recovered by LSU's Jerqwinick Sandolph at the 32.
A 19-yard Hill run on first down gave the Tigers first down at the Alabama 12, but a dead-ball personal foul on fullback J.C. Copeland cost the Tigers 15 yards that they couldn't overcome. On fourth-and-12 from the 30, Alleman entered and setup for a 47-yard field goal attempt that was faked. The placekicker took a pass from Wing, the holder, but the play was sniffed out by the Tide and went for a loss of two yards.
The missed opportunity on the turnover was compounded by a missed field goal on LSU's next drive after an Alabama three-and-out. On the drive, Mettenberger got out of his endzone's shadow with a 38-yard catch and run by Ware to the LSU 47. An 8-yard pass to tight end Nic Jacobs gave the Tigers another first down to the Alabama 35, but LSU moved backward two yards and Alleman's 54-yard field goal attempt was well short.
Alabama took advantage of the final 68 seconds of the half, driving 63 yards in six plays for its second touchdown in the quarter. A 9-yard scramble by McCarron capped the drive, and the Tide took a 14-3 lead into the half.
LSU didn't give Alabama the chance to gain momentum on the first drive of the second half, as the Tide quickly went three-and-out. Alabama and LSU traded three punts, but a 64-yarder by Wing trumped Alabama's 33 yard punt that Beckham Jr. caught at the LSU 42.
Four third-conversions including three via Mettenberger passes led to LSU's first touchdown against the Tide since 2010. After a false start negated a touchdown catch by tight end Chase Clement, Landry converted the final third down with a 10-yard catch to the Alabama 1. Hill jumped over the line for a touchdown that cut Alabama's lead to 14-10 and sent the crowd into a frenzy.
LSU's attempt to keep the offensive momentum just barely backfired when kicker James Hairston tapped an onside kick straight ahead and looked to recover. However, the bounding ball bounced back toward him, hitting his facemask just short of the 45-yard line and the recovery was negated by a penalty.
The Tide's attempt to capitalize was spoiled when McCarron's handoff to Yeldon bounced off the running back's hip and was recovered by defensive end Sam Montgomery at the LSU 10.
On the ensuing drive, Mettenberger's short pass to Copeland out of the backfield turned into a 42-yard rumble when the 270-pound fullback broke a tackle and started a foot race down the LSU sideline. Another third down conversion - this time 23 yards from Mettenberger to Landry - moved LSU to the Alabama 18. Two plays later, the pair connected again for a perfectly thrown back-shoulder fade into the left corner of the endzone for a go-ahead touchdown.
LSU led 17-14 with 12:58 remaining.
Alabama went three-and-out on its next two drives, giving LSU possession with 7:20 remaining. Mettenberger gave LSU first downs with a 13-yard pass to Landry, a 7-yard pass to Hill and a 22-yard pass to Beckham Jr. to the Alabama 32. The Tide called timeouts after first and second-down runs, but LSU gained only four yards before Alleman missed a 45-yard field goal to the left.
With 94 seconds remaining, McCarron used Norwood three-straight times for catches of 18, 15 and 11 yards to get to the LSU 28. After an incomplete pass in the endzone, McCarron rolled left and found Yeldon alone. The running back went nearly untouched into the endzone for the game-winning score.
The announced crowd was a stadium-record 93,374 surpassing the previous high of 93,129 against Florida in 2009.
LSU vs. Alabama
Nov. 3, 2012
LSU HEAD COACH LES MILES
"First of all, hats off to a very good Alabama team. I felt like that we didn't do some of the things late in the game to win it. Our football team came in here to win. We did not go timidly into the game. We went after it. I felt that we played extremely hard. I was thrilled with how Zach Mettenberger played. I can tell you that he made all the passes that he was competitive and fought. Defense gave up two big drives. That is uncharacteristic of them. I can tell you one thing. It is really interesting. The idea that people would sit there and discount this football team before they even played the game is just unbelievable. There was no one in that locker room that thought that they were going to do anything but win tonight just so you know. The idea that someone could pick somebody else. I can tell you this, I am proud of my team. I like how they fought. I wish I could have had a couple of my calls back just so you know. That is the way it goes. The good news is that we have a good football team. The good news is that we will fight again. They learned a tremendous lesson today: give everything you got. That is what they did. They gave everything they got."
On the halftime adjustments...
"There were several adjustments made in the running game. There were some nice play calls made. We wanted to get the ball to three (Odell Beckham Jr.) a little bit in the second half. Eighty (Jarvis Landry) had some big plays. Those were all in the game plan. The adjustment was come after them."
On the play of quarterback Zach Mettenberger...
"I can tell you one thing, they had good chemistry between the receivers and that quarterback today. That number three (Odell Beckham Jr.) made some spectacular catches. There was a lot of confidence in the throws and more confidence in the receivers."
On Alabama's final drive...
"I know that there was a missed assignment on the big screen play. They were efficient throwing the football. AJ McCarron played pretty well in that game."
On the onside kick...
"The onside kick was a real momentum taker. We had an opportunity to take the momentum of the game. It bounced the wrong way. Those things happen."
LSU OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
RB Jeremy Hill
On the loss ...
"It's tough. We gave it a great effort and played our heart out. It's tough getting a loss like this, but the guys did a great job tonight. Once you know you gave a great effort, it's not that bad of a loss. We have to regroup tomorrow and see what we did wrong and get back on for the game next week."
On the offense's performance in the second half ...
"We just made the second half a testament. We moved the ball pretty well in the first half as well, but we knew we could make some plays. Our seniors did a good job of getting some yards off the catch, and the line did a great job blocking for (quarterback) Zach (Mettenberger). It's just tough. If we could've put the ball in the end zone one more time, we could've helped our defense out."
On losing in the last minute of the game ...
"It's a huge emotional swing. For us, we wanted to close off that last drive. It's still killing me that we didn't finish that last drive getting the first down when we needed it. To give the ball back to Alabama's offense with the things that they were capable of doing on that last drive, I think those are the kind of things they've been doing all year long."
On the offense's performance ...
"The receivers, the offense and I knew we were fully capable of that all year. There are finally things that are clicking for us. As well as I've played, I would've traded three interceptions for the win tonight. We have something to build off of that we'll work on Monday so we can be ready for Mississippi State. I feel like we had a good rhythm the whole game. We handled the ball really well and had great defense. We played with confidence tonight. We executed well and didn't make a lot of mistakes."
LSU Defensive Player Quotes
On the final Alabama drive...
"I think there was just some miscommunication on defense, and they were running really fast. Alabama is a good team, but we brought our A-game."
On new team goals...
"I remember my first year here when we did not win a national championship, and somebody told me it's going to be your role to seek revenge. I can lead these guys to a title, but it's going to be the younger guy's responsibility to seek revenge in the future. Rivalries will never die."
On coming up short...
"It's something you will have to deal with, and only a mature person can do that. We've been ready for this game a long time, and I played the best game I could. We will move past this, and we will come back after a loss."
DT Bennie Logan
On the game...
"This one hurt. We put our heart and soul into it. We had the game in our hands and little mistakes cost us the game. We have to learn from our mistakes and come back from that loss."
FS Eric Reid
On the last drive...
"Well, we held them for the most part. It just goes to show you it takes one error for you to lose the game. It's so unfortunate for it to happen to us tonight."
On the inability to close the game out...
"It just cost us the game, and we have to go back to the drawing board. Our season isn't over, and we have three more games to play."
ALABAMA HEAD COACH NICK SABAN QUOTES
"We really knew this would be a tough game. LSU played a great game. They had a great game plan. They did a great job of executing. I think their quarterback played really well. There was a stretch there in the second half where they converted seven straight third down and five or mores. We couldn't get off the field on third down, but our players competed in the game. We told our players, and it's kind of ironic, that they would have to overcome a lot of adversity to win a game here. And when things went bad and the momentum of the game changed, that's what we kept talking to them about. And they kept their poise, and they kept playing, and they kept competing. I've never been prouder of a bunch of guys to overcome adversity. It was obviously a good [final] drive in two-minute [offense]. We've never really had to use two-minute [offense], but we actually scored two touchdowns in two-minute offense - one before the half and one at the end of the game. Both teams really played hard and competed. I kind of told our guys at the end of the game that I've never been prouder of a bunch of guys for the way they competed in the game. I don't think we played our best game; I think they played an outstanding game. Our players can either take this one way or the other. This win is either going to affect them in a positive way or a negative way in terms of what they do in the future. They can focus on the things they didn't do and take the next challenge and continue to improve and be ready to play next week and prepare in practice next week, or they can say we're satisfied for what we did with ourselves. I'm really, really pleased and proud of them. That last drive was something that I'll never forget. Offense did a really good job of executing. There was a lot of tough football played out there - this was a very physical game. I'm going to tell you that our guys are probably going to be as sore as they've ever been after any game."
On trailing in the second half for the first time in two years and how the players responded...
"Our guys don't really look at the scoreboard. We're constantly coaching our guys not to look at the scoreboard, but I was really concerned not in the locker room at halftime - the energy was good. I told our guys that we're going to have to keep fighting in this game and keep punching until we knock them out. It's important that we go out there, start the second half and reestablish the tempo that we had in the first half - we didn't do that. We went three-and-out two-in-a-row. We had trouble stopping them defensively, but our guys don't really look at the scoreboard. We're always trying to get them to focus on playing their best, executing their best and doing the best they can together as a team. I'll tell you what, I'm really proud of these guys."
ALABAMA OFFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
RB Eddie Lacy
On staying positive throughout the game...
"We always stay positive. I mean, whenever we see a teammate getting down another teammate will pick them up. We got to stay positive. We can't allow anybody to get down because the fact that the guy's are playing (hard) on the field. So, we did a great job of staying positive, and we had a positive outcome."
On the last drive...
"It was a quick drive, real fast. [Kevin] Norwood came up with big plays. T.J. [Yeldon] finished with a huge play."
On AJ McCarron's composure on the last drive...
"He was locked in. He's always locked in every game, but it was something different this time, this drive. I mean, he knew he had to make plays. He got the plays in. He did exactly what he was supposed to do, made the right reads and made the right passes. You can't ask for anymore from AJ McCarron."
C Barrett Jones
On calling the screen on the last play...
"I actually had a talk with coach. We were talking about what we wanted to run, me and Coach Stout [Stoutland]. I said screens have been there all night. He called it, and it was great. It reminded me of that drive we had in Auburn when we had a few big screens. It was fun."
On trailing in the second half for the first time in two years...
"It was weird. I think we were calm the whole time. We never really panicked. It was a frustrating second half, really. I don't feel like we could have played worse in the second half. We didn't execute anything until the last 50 seconds of the game. Sometimes you have to win them like this, especially in a place like this. This is a great environment. What a night, something I'll never forget."
ALABAMA DEFENSIVE PLAYER QUOTES
DB DEE MILLINER
On tonight's game...
"It was a very hard game. We needed a hard game. It was another great victory for us. We fought to the end."
On LSU's offensive success...
"Their skill guys were making great plays. They did some formations that we hadn't seen yet. (Zach) Mettenberger made some great plays. The receivers got open and made great plays on the ball. You just have to overcome it."
LB C.J. MOSLEY
On LSU's offensive gameplan...
"We knew they were going to run the ball. It was going to be a battle in the trenches. At times, they got big plays. At times, we got big plays. It was all about the momentum change, and we came out with the win."
On tonight's game...
"This was a game. Watching the offense come back with 51 seconds left and get the win is something I'll remember forever. It doesn't get better than that."
DEFENSIVE BACK ROBERT LESTER
On defensive mistakes...
"There are a lot of things we could have done better. There were a lot of missed assignments that we had. But when you miss an assignment or mess up on a play, you want to have a short memory and dominate the next play. You never know what is going to happen."
On LSU's offense...
"They are a good, physical team. They run the ball right at you. You have to stop that, or they are going to make plays."