It was 3rd-and-15 from the LSU 40 yard line. No. 1 ranked Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) had scored the game’s first — and only — touchdown on the fourth play of the fourth quarter, and on the Tigers’ next drive, Minkah Fitzpatrick was able to track down a tipped ball for an interception.
Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide could smell blood in the water, and as the team has so often this season, Alabama leaned on true freshman Jalen Hurts to provide the big body punches that took No. 13 LSU (5-3, 3-2 SEC) down.
Hurts ran the football seven times on Alabama’s second-to-last possession. It was a 15 play drive that took 9:51 off the clock and ended in a field goal that effectively put the game out of reach for LSU. Hurts was the only player who was able to punch it into the end zone on Saturday night in Baton Rouge, La., but it was a play he made on Alabama’s second to last possession that stood out the most.
Facing a 3rd-and-15 on the LSU 40 with 7:40 to go in the game, Hurts took what looked to be a simple quarterback draw and turned it into a 23-yard gain.
Perhaps no offensive play in the game was more symbolic of Alabama’s win over its rival. At one point, it looked like LSU had a chance to stuff the play, but Hurts found a seam in the tough Tiger defense and took off, aiming for the sticks. He got a first down and more, even tiptoeing for a few extra yards on the sideline while a LSU defender called it quits — assuming the play was over.
That moment may not get the coverage it deserves, but it was the story of the game. Alabama kept pushing until LSU finally cracked and gave up, and once the Tigers did, there was no stopping the Crimson Tide from rolling to the team’s 21st-straight win dating back to last season, a streak that includes a College Football Playoff berth and a national title.
Alabama currently owns the longest winning streak in FBS football and the Crimson Tide are outscoring opponents by 472 points and 22.5 points per game.
As was expected against LSU, though, it wasn’t that type of contest.
Credit Ed Orgeron’s team and Dave Aranda’s defense, because the Tigers kept the Crimson Tide off the board until the fourth quarter. It was all downhill from there and you don’t get prizes for playing three quarters of good football , but LSU was extremely tough and gave Saban’s crew a fight for much of the game.
Hurts and the Alabama rushing attack proved to be too much when all was said and done, though.
The freshman from Channelview, Texas was pretty quiet through the air, completing 10-of-19 passes for only 107 yards, no touchdowns and an interception (he also fumbled once). He was exceptional with his feet, though, which is become a very Heisman-esque trend.
Hurts rushed 20 times against LSU, picking up 5.7 yards per carry en route to 114 yards and the game-changing score. LSU couldn’t figure out how to stop him in the read-option game late in the contest and he proved to be Alabama’s X-factor on the night.
“He has great poise. I don’t think the stage is too big for him at all,” Saban said about his quarterback after the game, per the AP on ESPN. “He expects a lot of himself and we expect a lot of him because he’s in a role that has tremendous responsibility. He has handled that very, very well.”
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 6, 2016
While Hurts was the difference-maker for Alabama, as always, it was Saban’s defense that gave the Crimson Tide the best chance to win the game. Alabama was absolutely stout on defense, which is always expected, but the numbers were honestly staggering.
LSU was able to muster up only 125 total yards as a team.
The Crimson Tide held LSU to a 4-of-15 conversion rate on third down and the Tigers were 0-2 against Alabama’s defense on fourth downs. LSU quarterback Danny Etling was under constant barrage — he was sacked five times — and the great Leonard Fournette was held to only 35 yards on 17 attempts. He never found the end zone, and as a testament to how good Alabama’s defense is, Fournette averaged a measly 2.1 yards per carry.
“We played our butt off on defense but we lose as a team,” Orgeron said. “We just couldn’t get anything going on offense.”
It was an all-out domination by the Crimson Tide, a team that boasts a potential Heisman candidate in Hurts and arguably the best defense in college football. That’s not even mentioning a head coach quality offensive coordinator in Lane Kiffin and perhaps the greatest of all time donning the main headset in Saban.
Alabama rightfully deserves the top spot in college football and is the favorite to win it all for the second-straight season.