BATON ROUGE -- In a battle of two of the SEC's most successful programs and its top 2 defenses, 12th-ranked LSU came to life in the second half and all but buried fifth-ranked Alabama's Western Division hopes, 24-21, on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium.
With 433 yards of total offense and enough big plays in the second half to match the highlight reel from its first eight games, LSU improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the gauntlet that is the SEC West - and Tiger Stadium came alive in the process.
The win was LSU's fourth over a ranked opponent in 2010 and kept the Tigers alive in the division -- though LSU will need wins over Ole Miss and Arkansas, and help from two Auburn opponents to make the SEC Championship game.
Alabama fell to 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the SEC.
Ironically, the victory was LSU head coach Les Miles' fourth over Alabama, tying his predecessor at LSU and opposing coach Nick Saban for the most in school history.
"I'm very thankful that I live in a country and have a job that allows me to experience some of the really positive things in our lifetime - college football," Miles said. "College football was celebrated today. That was two quality football teams slugging, start to finish, hard-nosed, clean, violent, competitive football, and how wonderful was it? I have to say this. Tiger Stadium was never any better than it was today, never any better."
Led by linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, Miles' was presented with the game ball in the Jeff Boss Lockerroom following the game.
"We get great leadership from our guys," Miles said. "Kelvin Sheppard is a great leader as well as Drake Nevis. It's just the way it's supposed to be. It's certainly a great experience, and I'm very thankful to have had it. I promise you I will cherish it for a lifetime"
After a lackluster first half, Miles and the Tigers found their offensive swagger and put the defense in a position to impose its will in the final 30 minutes.
A 75-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Jefferson to wide receiver Rueben Randle midway through the third quarter started the momentum, as LSU twice rallied from behind for victory with a variety of offensive weapons and defensive stops.
Trailing 14-10, LSU scored 13 unanswered points including a field goal off a forced fumble that gave the Tigers a 24-14 lead.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson started and continued to share series with Jarrett Lee. Jefferson finished 10-of-13 for 141 yards with a touchdown, while Lee was 4-of-7 passing for 67 yards. Jefferson also ran for 27 yards on seven carries and wasn't sacked.
Randle had a career-best 125 yards receiving on three catches, while wide receiver Terrence Toliver added 42 yards on three catches.
Defensively, linebacker Ryan Baker had a team-high 10 tackles including 1.5 sacks. Safety Karnell Hatcher added nine tackles, while Patrick Peterson had eight tackles and three pass breakups while facing Julio Jones for most of the game.
Sheppard and Nevis each had seven tackles. Nevis had a sack and a quarterback hurry.
"The defense, start to finish, played knock-down, drag-out ball," Miles said
For Alabama, quarterback Greg McElroy was 21-of-34 passing for 223 yards with two touchdowns. However, his interception and fumble came in Alabama territory and led to LSU's first and last scores -- both field goals.
Alabama's Heisman Trophy running back Mark Ingram had a game-high 97 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown. His longest run was 13 yards. He received the bulk of the load after his backup, Trent Richardson, was used sparingly after catching a 1-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter and coming up with a limp when tackled by Patrick Peterson. Richardson had 28 yards on six carries.
Jones led Alabama with 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown, but wasn't able to shake Peterson and the LSU secondary for a big play as he did in 2009 in Tuscaloosa. His longest reception was 19 yards.
LSU outgained Alabama, 433-325. The Tigers ran 45 times for 225 yards.
LSU won the coin toss and deferred its decision until the second half. The Tigers elected to defend the north endzone, and Alabama took the opening kickoff from LSU placekicker Josh Jasper who was kicking with the wind.
Each team went three-and-out on its first possession, though LSU was able to change field position when Alabama's punt went only 28 yards before Patrick Peterson's 9-yard return to the Alabama 43.
On Alabama's second drive, the Tigers earned the game's first turnover when LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu tipped a pass intended for tight end Preston Dial. Sheppard corralled the ball at the Alabama 35.
The Tigers came up two yards short of a first down on a short pass to running back Richard Murphy and settled for a 45-yard field goal by Jasper to lead 3-0 with 9:34 left in the opening quarter.
LSU's defense came up big on the next possession, forcing a backward fumble by Richardson out of bounds on what would have been a first-down run. Then, after losing starting safety Brandon Taylor to a foot injury, freshman Eric Reid busted Alabama's bubble screen on third-and-9 for a 2-yard loss.
With Lee under center for the first time, Ridley ran for a first down, but a third-and-8 pass to Murphy was nearly intercepted in Alabama territory.
Derek Helton's punt landed out of bounds at the 19, where the Tide began an 11-play, 81-yard scoring drive. Alabama scored on the only third down of the drive, a 1-yard pass from McElroy to Richardson that was subject to video review before being upheld. Alabama led 7-3 with 12:55 left in the half.
The Tigers earned a first down on a 12-yard pass from Jefferson to Toliver at the Alabama 44, but the Tide brought pressure on the LSU quarterback and the Tigers punted from the 42.
Helton pinned Alabama at its 15, where Peterson made a spectacular tackle of Jones on third-and-4 to force a punt.
A 12-yard sack of Lee on first down doomed LSU's opportunity, but a 16-yard catch by tight end Deangelo Peterson and a 46-yard punt by Helton kept Alabama's offense with a long field in front.
On the Tide's last drive of the half, a holding penalty on Ingram negated a 24-yard catch and run by Darius Hanks to midfield. Alabama overcame the first-and-20 with a 13-yard run by Ingram and an 18-yard catch by Hanks on third-and-6. After crossing midfield, McElroy was sacked by Sheppard and Baker at the LSU 47. Another LSU blitz forced McElroy to dump the ball, as the Tigers declined a holding penalty and Alabama punted over Peterson's head to the LSU 3 with less than two minutes to play in the half.
Looking to get another possession before the half, the Tide used timeouts after LSU's first and second-down runs. However, running back Michael Ford gained nine yards on a option pitch from Jefferson. Rather than running out the clock, Jefferson threw passes to Shepard, Deangelo Peterson and Toliver to creep into Alabama territory as the half ended.
Alabama led 7-3 at the half.
To open the second half, Jefferson scrambled for a first down at the LSU 31 but came up a yard short of another first down at the 40. Jasper entered to punt, but instead took the deep snap and ran 29 yards to the Alabama 31.
Prior to the next play, a delay of game penalty was called against LSU with much protest from the Tigers coaching staff. The penalty proved costly, as Jasper missed a 45-yard attempt on fourth-and-7.
With Taylor lost earlier in the game and missing cornerback Morris Claiborne, LSU's young secondary came up with solid play inside its territory. Freshman Tharold Simon broke up a pass intended for the All-American Jones. The Tide punted to the LSU 6.
A 19-yard pass from Jefferson to Toliver on first down gave LSU the breathing room it needed to make a big play. Jefferson tossed the longest touchdown of his career, a 75-yard catch and run by Randle to bring the Tiger Stadium crowd alive.
Alabama was able to silence the crowd with a 10-play, 73-yard drive that took 5:39 and ended with a 5-yard touchdown run by Ingram. The Tide regained the lead, 14-10, with 2:30 left in the third quarter.
Though falling behind for the second time, LSU came right back. On third-and-4, a 41-yard end-around run by Shepard to the Alabama 24 brought the crowd to its feet again. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jefferson's third-down run came up short and Jasper again entered to boot a 35-yard field goal that pulled LSU within a point, 14-13, with 14:16 left to play.
With the stadium getting louder, McElroy was sacked by Baker on second-and-10, forcing the Tide to punt.
LSU needed a special drive to get back into the game, and they made it happen. Runs of 18 and 19 yards by Ridley put the Tigers at the Alabama 35 -- field goal range for Jasper. Three runs later, LSU was faced with fourth-and-1 from the Tide 30. After taking a timeout, Miles called a two-toss reverse which was first pitched to Ridley and then to Deangelo Peterson who took off to the left. With Jefferson blocking ahead, the 23-yard run to the 3-yard line stunned the Tide and led to a 1-yard Ridley touchdown on third down.
A two-point conversion pass from Jefferson hit Randle in the numbers and LSU led 21-14 with 8:13 left to play.
The Tigers weren't done. This time the defense entered for its huge play. An 11-yard sack and forced fumble by Nevis was recovered by Sheppard at the Alabama 28.
Looking to make it a two-score game, LSU relied on its placekicker once again. Jasper hit the "good hands" of the north endzone AllState net from 39 yards for a 24-14 lead with 5:34 to play.
In 2:04, Alabama marched 74 yards and finished the drive with a terrific 9-yard touchdown catch by Jones with 3:23 left.
It wasn't enough to catch the Tigers, as a 47-yard catch by Randle from Lee put LSU in position to bring the clock inside 20 seconds before punting.
Alabama's heaves on first and second down fell incomplete before an attempt at lateral passes lasted only one toss.
A crowd of 92,969 was the fourth-largest in Tiger Stadium history.