LSU coach Ed Orgeron ran off the Bryant-Denny Stadium field in triumph, holding up two “L” hand signs for LSU with index fingers and thumbs high, even though his Tigers lost to No. 2 Alabama, 20-14, in front of 100,077 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Saturday night.
The Tigers, missing nine injured players on defense who had started games, and their lame duck coach were 28-point underdogs. But they had a chance for the upset of the year – or several years.
LSU found itself on Alabama’s 30-yard line with five seconds to play, but quarterback Max Johnson’s Hail Mary pass was batted away in the end zone as time expired. LSU was called for a facemask penalty behind the line anyway, which Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) declined, and the game ended.
The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) also had the ball on Alabama’s 42-yard line with 3:25 to play and down 20-14 after a sack and strip by LSU safety Cam Lewis of quarterback Bryce Young. Defensive tackle Jaquelin Roy recovered the fumble. But LSU was unable to move more than one yard on the next three plays, went for it on fourth down for the seventh time, it failed, and Alabama took over.
And LSU drove 74 yards in 10 plays to a first down at the Alabama 8-yard line with 8:05 to play in the game and down 20-14 after a 37-yard burst up the middle on fourth-and-one by tailback Tyrion Davis-Price. After a gain of a yard by price, Johnson threw incomplete. He apparently fumbled on the next play, but LSU got a call as it was ruled an incomplete pass on review. Replays showed that it could have been called a fumble.
The Tigers got another play on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line, but Johnson threw incomplete to wide receiver Trey Palmer in the end zone after a heavy rush by linebacker Will Anderson Jr.
Had Orgeron gone for the field goal instead for a 20-17 score with 6:46 to play, he conceivaby could have taken a 23-20 lead with subsequent possessions in Bama territory.
“We going for it,” Orgeron said defiantly after the game. “When we walked into the stadium, we were going for it.”
LSU converted five of seven fourth downs, including a fake punt in the first quarter in its touchdown drive for a 7-0 lead.
“The whole time – we were going for the win,” Orgeron said.
“They played a really good game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Offensively, we didn’t move the ball at all.”
LSU’s defense of backups and first-time starters held Alabama to six net yards rushing on 26 carries – its lowest output since also netting six yards on 30 carries in a 9-0 loss to Penn State on Oct. 27, 1990.
The Tigers also limited the Tide to its lowest point output since the loss to Clemson, 44-16, in the national championship game on Jan. 7, 2019. It was Alabama’s lowest point total in a regular season game since falling to Auburn, 26-14, on Nov. 25, 2017.
Young completed 24 of 37 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns around four sacks and the fumble.
“I think they (the Tigers) responded well, but a win’s a win,” Saban said. “We ended up winning the game. The score’s the score. It only matters when it’s over, and it’s in our favor.”
LSU drew within 20-14 with 2:27 to go in the third quarter when Johnson threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jack Bech.
The Tigers opened the game on fire and took a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to wide receiver Brian Thomas Jr. LSU’s score was set up by a fourth-and-four fake punt from the Tigers’ 48-yard line. Punter Avery Atkins took the snap as usual, but rushed to the line, then threw a jump pass to tight end Jack Mashburn for at 26-yard gain.
Alabama tied it 7-7 with 2:53 to go in the second quarter on a 4-yard touchdown run by Brian Robinson, who finished with a mere 18 yards on 13 carries. Young then hit wide receiver John Metchie III on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 48 seconds to go before halftime for a 14-7 lead. Alabama went up 20-7 early in the third quarter on a 58-yard bomb from Young to wide receiver Jameson Williams before Will Reichard missed the extra point.
Davis-Price led LSU with 104 yards on 23 carries. Johnson completed 16 of 32 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
“We came to play. We came to win,” Orgeron said.
“I was proud of the way the team fought,” said LSU linebacker Damone Clark, who had eight tackles and a sack. “People have been counting us out.”