TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Matt Mauck, Chad Lavalais and LSU did
more than enough things right in a dominating win over Alabama. Yet
no matter how overpowering the Tigers look on the field, they still
need help off it.
Mauck threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and No. 3 LSU held
the Crimson Tide scoreless until the fourth quarter in a 27-3
victory Saturday night.
"We just have to go out and win and play our game," Lavalais
said. "You never know what's going to happen the next couple of
weeks. Hopefully, we'll win out and that will take care of
With representatives from the Sugar Bowl watching, the Tigers
(9-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) moved within a game of
Mississippi in the SEC West heading into next week's showdown in
Oxford and kept pace with Southern California and Ohio State in the
But LSU will have a hard time moving up from fourth to second in
the standings that determine who plays for the national
championship in the Sugar Bowl unless Ohio State and USC lose. The
Tigers have played the weakest schedule of those three teams, a key
component in the BCS standings.
LSU finishes with a tough stretch. After the game at Ole Miss,
the Tigers host Arkansas and then could play in the SEC title game.
"It is like the playoffs," LSU offensive lineman Rodney Reed
said. "If we lose any game from here on out, we could be out of
The way the Tigers have played of late, they've showed they can
compete with just about anybody. Since a 19-7 loss to Florida last
month, LSU has outscored its last four opponents 140-27.
Lavalais anchors a dominating defense that allows only 6.7
points per game, best in the nation, and Mauck has been extremely
efficient since struggling against the Gators. The Tigers have
their highest ranking in the AP poll in 42 years.
Mauck took advantage of soft coverage by Alabama (4-7, 2-5) to
connect 12 times with Michael Clayton for 130 yards, including a
23-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Mauck finished 24-for-36.
"We had a great team effort tonight," Mauck said.
"Offensively, we left a few things out there. But when we needed a
big play, we made it."
The loss assured Alabama of its third losing season in the past
seven years after having just one in the previous 40 years. Mike
Shula finished 2-5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in his first year as
Crimson Tide coach.
The Tide couldn't generate anything on offense, finally getting
on the scoreboard on Brian Bostick's 27-yard field goal with 6:38
to play. Alabama finished with 219 yards and 10 first downs.
Alabama struggled to score even when it had great field
position. Charlie Peprah forced and recovered a fumble by Clayton
on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. The Tide took
over at the LSU 29 but managed only 1 yard in three plays before
Bostick missed a 45-yard field goal.
"We didn't get points out of that and that was a big key in the
game," Alabama linebacker Roman Harper said. "We lost a lot of
momentum on that one and it came back to haunt us."
LSU responded with a 72-yard drive, capped by Alley Broussard's
3-yard run to make it 24-0.
Alabama drove to the LSU 6 on the final play of the third
quarter but still couldn't score. A penalty, a sack and three
incomplete passes thwarted the drive.
The Tide were held to one first down in the first 29 minutes
against the nation's stingiest defense. Alabama got two first downs
on its final drive of the half, but an interception by Lavalais
ended the threat.
"We have to make first downs, whether we throw three passes in
a row or run two runs," Shula said. "We just have to execute
better. They do a nice job. They get a lot of guys up inside to
take the run away."
LSU scored on its first two possessions, getting a 20-yard field
goal by Chris Jackson and Mauck's pass to Clayton.
His 18th career TD catch -- one shy of the school record -- came
one play after Skyler Green's 34-yard punt return set up the Tigers
at the 23.
"They were kind of lax in the secondary," Clayton said. "We
kept them off balance by going to different receivers. You have to
respect us because we have such great speed."
Mauck added a 3-yard touchdown pass to Eric Edwards late in the
second quarter to make it 17-0. LSU has outscored opponents 217-19
in the first half this season.