08 November 2008
In a game jam-packed with unwelcome recent connotations for Crimson Tide fans, Alabama survived a sloppy first half and some late-game heroics from Jarrett Lee only to assert itself on John Parker Wilson's game-winning quarterback sneak in the Tide's first possession of overtime. The Tide's victory ended a five-game winning streak in the series by LSU.
Lee's sloppy passing under pressure allowed Alabama to win the turnover battle for the game despite giving the ball away three times in the games first 15:07, and when the final whistle sounded, Alabama had withstood its first really serious challenge of the year. But it was the sheer number of recent bugaboos that Alabama overcame in this game that Bama fans should really take away from this evening in Baton Rouge.
As has already been mentioned, Bama had lost to LSU five straight times coming into the game. Despite the strength it has shown this year, the Crimson Tide was still laboring under a schneid
- of losing virtually every close game - that was nearly as old as the new millenium. And Alabama had only won one of its last ten contests in the month of November of any year.
The losing streak to LSU is gone, fini, finito, kaput. The schneid was a schneid. Alabama has a two-game November winning streak.
And then there were the turnarounds from a couple of more specific - and bad - Crimson Tide memories. Remember September 23, 2006? On that date, Leigh Tiffin missed a short late-game field goal against Arkansas and the game went to overtime. Arkansas had the ball first, and was stopped on a Lionel Mitchell interception. Tonight, Leigh Tiffin missed a short late-game field goal against LSU and the game went to overtime. LSU had the ball first, and was stopped on a Rashad Johnson interception.
There the similarities ceased. Instead of burrowing into the center of the field for a 40-yard field goal attempt, as happened against Arkansas - it missed, of course, and Arkansas won - the Tide struck aggressively downfield with a first-down pass. It was rewarded by a great Julio Jones catch that set up John Parker Wilson's game-winning quarterback sneak two plays later.
Or how about November 12, 2005? In that LSU-Bama matchup, a physically superior visiting squad withstood a gritty, overachieving performance from a driven home team only to end the game suddenly with an overtime touchdown. In an even more-pleasing reversal, this time its visiting Alabama that is physically superior, Alabama that sticks around to hold off a home team that would never say die, and Alabama who jams the ball into the end zone to stop affairs abruptly.
Rashad Johnson led the way with a memorable three-interception performance, including one pick that was turned into a spectacular, weaving 54-yard TD return. Just as crucial was his diving, one-foot-inbounds overtime interception that kept LSU at 21 and set Bama up for the short winning drive.
Julio Jones was battered the game long, but caught seven balls for a career-high 128 yards, exhibiting at times a definite man-among-boys look against the Tiger secondary. John Parker Wilson threw for 215 yards, only one pick, and was not sacked. Wilson also scored on a pair of quarterback sneaks and had wiped out by an extraneous penalty what would have been a 32-yard touchdown run to put the Tide ahead with about three minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Glen Coffee led all ball-carriers with 126 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries, but LSU was the first team this year to convincingly turn around a rushing advantage Alabama has enjoyed in almost every contest. LSU outgained Bama 201-138 on the ground, but on this evening the difference in the game was the difference between John Parker Wilson and Jarrett Lee.
Lee threw with amazing accuracy on the fourth-quarter drive that tied the game, but for most of the game was just a mess under pressure. Wilson managed the Tide's offense, kept it moving methodically and, after the first 15:07, without mistakes, and that was enough to win.
The result was Alabama's eleventh straight win over two seasons. The win clinched a visit to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game for the Tide, and kept Bama on the high road to a possible BCS Championship Game berth.