3:30 PM ET, November 12, 2005
Bryant-Denny Stadium, TUSCALOOSA, AL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- With an immovable defense and one big play by JaMarcus Russell and Dwayne Bowe, No. 5 LSU bounced Alabama from the national title picture and asserted itself as a dark horse contender.
The Tigers ended the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide's hopes for a perfect season with a 16-13 overtime victory on Saturday, culminating a gutsy comeback with Russell's ad-libbed 11-yard touchdown pass to Bowe.
"It definitely turned out to be the SEC showdown everyone thought it would be," LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "They're a great team going at you. It's a tough loss for them but a great win for us."
LSU (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) seized control of the tightly packed SEC West with the win, their fourth in five attempts over ranked teams.
The Tigers would clinch it with victories over Mississippi and Arkansas. They were ranked seventh in the Bowl Championship Series standings entering the game, and still can dream about a spot in the national title game.
Alabama (9-1, 6-1) saw hopes of contending for anything beyond the SEC title dashed. While LSU players swarmed into the end zone, Tide fans mostly sat stunned by the sudden end to their unexpected bid for perfection.
"We came in to win the SEC and win the national championship," said Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, who was sacked five times playing behind a new center. "That's what everybody signs at Alabama to do. The fact that we're not going be able to do either one unless something crazy happens and we had it right in front of us, it's a tough pill to swallow."
In the end, an Alabama native dealt the final blow. Russell, who's from Mobile, hit Justin Vincent on a swing pass for 10 yards to open the overtime possession after Alabama had to settle for a field goal. Then the LSU quarterback was stopped for no gain when he couldn't find an open receiver against the nation's top scoring defense.
A reverse to Xavier Carter went for 4 yards, forcing a third-and-6.
"We were thinking the game might be over," Croyle said. "Their kicker had been shaky all day."
LSU won it without having to turn to kicker Chris Jackson, who had already missed three of his four long field goal attempts.
Russell rolled right and threw a strike over the middle to Bowe to punctuate an up-and-down day mostly dominated by the defenses.
"We tried to run the post, but things weren't looking the way they needed to," Russell said. "(Bowe) was my first read. I kept an eye open for him.
"I eyeballed the safety to get him to bite on the tight end. That's what (Bowe's) supposed to do, come back over the middle, and I knew it."
Thanks to a stifling defense, the Tide had won its last three SEC games scoring just one offensive touchdown. This time Alabama couldn't overcome its failure to produce any points in the second half, managing only four first downs.
Alabama opened overtime with a drive that went the way most of the team's second-half possessions did: nowhere.
The Tide opened with a 5-yard penalty on first down and then failed to convert on third-and-2. Croyle rolled right under pressure and couldn't complete it to tailback Kenneth Darby.
Alabama had to settle for Jamie Christensen's 35-yard field goal.
"It's a tough one to swallow," Tide coach Mike Shula said. "My heart aches for our football team, especially our seniors. We left everything out there on the field, but we didn't play well enough to win."
LSU has won five of the past six meetings with Alabama, which had already beaten two ranked teams at home this season and was hoping to take an unbeaten record into next week's Iron Bowl at Auburn.
This was the first time the Tigers had played in a regular-season game featuring two top-five teams since 1959. It was the first top-five matchup ever at Bryant-Denny Stadium since Alabama had played many of its biggest games over the years in Birmingham.
The Tigers had their chances in the fourth quarter against the Tide's stingy defense, forcing Alabama to punt from its end zone on consecutive drives. But Jackson narrowly missed wide left on a 47-yard field goal and then pushed a 49-yarder right of the goal post with 54 seconds left.
He had also missed a 43-yarder in the first half.
Alabama couldn't connect downfield on its final possession of regulation, but came fairly close on the final play. Croyle hit freshman tailback Glen Coffee in the flat and he raced down the sideline before several LSU defenders brought him down just inside the 10 with time expired.
Before that, the Tide had gone three consecutive possessions without a first down and managed only 6 yards in the second half after gaining 207 in building a 10-0 halftime lead.
The Alabama defense had pushed its streak without allowing a touchdown to 17 quarters before Vincent's 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-1 in the third. LSU's own streak ended at nine quarters on Croyle's 8-yard third-down pass to DJ Hall early in the second.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... LSU QB JaMarcus Russell hit Dwayne Bowe with an 11-yard touchdown pass in overtime, ending Alabama's perfect season.
Gameball goes to... Russell. Against an elite defense, he managed the game by completing 16 of 30 passes for 229 yards, one TD and no picks.
Stat of the game... 17: Alabama hadn't allowed a TD in its last 17 quarters, until LSU's Justin Vincent scored in the third.
The Fan Pick
46.3% of College Pick'em players picked LSU to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||5-15||5-17|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-1|
|FG||5:15||JAMIE CHRISTENSEN 28 YD FG|
Drive info: 10 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||10:59||D.J. HALL 8 YD PASS FROM BRODIE CROYLE (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 84 yards.
|TD||9:53||JUSTIN VINCENT 1 YD RUN (COLT DAVID KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||5:46||CHRIS JACKSON 42 YD FG|
Drive info: 5 plays, 20 yards.
|FG||0:00||JAMIE CHRISTENSEN 34 YD FG|
Drive info: 4 plays, 8 yards.
|TD||0:00||DWAYNE BOWE 11 YD PASS FROM JAMARCUS RUSSELL|
Drive info: 4 plays, 25 yards.