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Alabama’s Rashad Johnson (49) brings down LSU receiver Richard Dickson after a catch in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. LSU scored two late touchdowns to defeat Alabama 41-34.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Alabama’s Rashad Johnson (49) brings down LSU receiver Richard Dickson after a catch in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. LSU scored two late touchdowns to defeat Alabama 41-34.

Late mistake dooms Tide
Alabama surrenders 14 points to LSU in final 3 minutes

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Nick Saban walked around the playing surface of Bryant-Denny Stadium, shaking hands, exchanging pleasantries.

One by one, LSU players approached the Alabama coach. Matt Flynn, Glenn Dorsey, Early Doucet lined up behind several others. Some gave him a hug.

All week, according to Saban, “the game was about the players.” As the clock struck zero on a 41-34 LSU victory, and the throngs of photographers and reporters sprinted onto the field to catch the postgame meeting between Saban and LSU coach Les Miles, it was obvious — the game was about the coaches.

But the players made the plays, and LSU made a few more to squeeze out a late victory.

“I know their families. I know their mommas,” Saban said. “It was a little bit like my initial feeling was like you’re playing against somebody who is in your family.”

As the dust settled on Saban-LSU Bowl I, several factors became clearer on the rest of the season as the 17th ranked Tide (6-3, 4-2 SEC) faces an uphill battle to the SEC championship in Atlanta.

A top-flight bowl trip might be harder to come by, and all the good tidings and feelings from the blowout victory over Tennessee two weeks ago are a little less vivid. The third-ranked Tigers (8-1, 5-1) now have an inside track on the SEC Western Division championship.

“The big message is the 24-hour rule around here,” Saban said. “We need to not be hung over about this game. We need to learn from this game, improve and play better in the future. That’s what we need to do. That’s what we need to focus on and go from there.”

Dejected Alabama fan Eli Mays, right, of Winchester, Tenn., can’t bear to watch as an ecstatic LSU fan, Donald Mills of Lafayette, La., calls for high fives from LSU players minutes after LSU sank Alabama 41-34 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Dejected Alabama fan Eli Mays, right, of Winchester, Tenn., can’t bear to watch as an ecstatic LSU fan, Donald Mills of Lafayette, La., calls for high fives from LSU players minutes after LSU sank Alabama 41-34 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.
If the fight-card said, “Saban versus Miles,” Saban played with mistake-free jabs, while Miles kept going for the haymaker, sometimes hitting, often missing but nailing the other when it counted.

“I don’t know if we have played this poorly,” Miles said. “But if we are going to play this poorly, it’s good to win.”

With Alabama up 34-27, and the clock moving toward the three-minute mark of the fourth quarter, for the first time in the game, Miles went for it on fourth down.

On the Alabama 32-yard line, Matt Flynn found Early Doucet cutting through the middle. Doucet cut in, slipped by safety Marcus Carter and bolted toward the end zone to tie the score at 34 after the extra point.

Alabama got the ball back with time running out and a chance to win the game. Only this time — unlike in an early-season win over Arkansas — the Crimson Tide blundered.

Starting on its own 32-yard line, John Parker Wilson threw an incomplete pass on first down, then was sacked on second down.

On third-and-12, Wilson dropped back to pass and faced a blitzing Chad Jones. Jones tossed Wilson to the ground, and Wilson lost the football. LSU safety Curtis Taylor fell on the ball at the Alabama 3-yard line. Three plays later, LSU running back Jacob Hester leaped across the goal line to give LSU a 41-34 lead after the extra point.

“I just didn’t wrap it up,” a distraught Wilson said. “They blitzed, and I should have just taken a sack and not tried to fight for extra yards. He knocked it out when he tackled me.”

As a result, a fumble by Alabama turned out to be the most important play in a game defined by LSU mistakes.

The Tigers grabbed a quick 17-3 lead by the 14:56 mark of the second quarter.

But from that point on, the Tigers were plagued by turnovers. Flynn tossed three straight interceptions, which led to 10 Alabama points.

Flynn’s most costly interception occurred at the end of the half when he was picked off by Kareem Jackson, which set up a 29-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Keith Brown. That put Alabama ahead 20-17 heading into halftime.

Though Alabama scored 14 points in the second half, the Crimson Tide offense couldn’t muster much against the Tigers’ defense.

Wilson finished 14-of-40 passing for 234 yards, but was facing constant pressure all night from LSU’s defensive linemen and blitzing defensive backs.

The Crimson Tide had 254 yards, including only 20 on the ground. Return-man Jonathan Lowe, seeing his first time as a running back since 2005, led Alabama with 31 yards, and Terry Grant had 23. But Wilson was sacked seven times, which led to the total.

“They were just bringing extra guys,” Tide left guard Justin Britt said. “We were able to check out of it a few times. I haven’t seen the film yet. Mentally we made a couple of mistakes.”

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