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
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
A reverse to Xavier Carter went for 4 yards, forcing a
"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
"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
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
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.