Tide title hopes take hit after Tigers slow Richardson
by Michael Casagrande
mcasagrande@annistonstar.com
Nov 06, 2011 | 1999 views |  0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA — A strange silence settled over once-frenzied Tuscaloosa late Saturday night.

All but a few thousand shuffled out of Bryant-Denny Stadium glassy eyed and without words.

In a game worthy of the hype, No.1 LSU put the Crimson Tide national title hopes on ice with a 9-6 overtime win in a rare regular season game between top-ranked teams.

A field goal won it on a night Alabama missed four on top of a few other ready-made opportunities. Drinks and other projectiles flew from the Alabama student section just as Drew Alleman’s 25-yarder split the posts.

With it went the inside track to the January BCS National Championship Game.

Though Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) missed the four long field goals, Tide coach Nick Saban said the blame can’t fall squarely on the kickers.

“We had field position, we had the ball inside the 30 how many times and we didn’t get but six points?” Saban said. “That’s the difference in the game. … One of their field goals they had to tie the game was after a turnover.”

One of the best opportunities came midway through the fourth quarter at the LSU 28.

Using the same wide receiver pass that scored a touchdown against Florida a year ago, Marquis Maze’s throw to Michael Williams initially appeared to be a catch at the LSU 2-yard line.

But Tiger Eric Reid wrestled the ball away for an interception confirmed by video replay.

“We were behind the defense and we made a good throw,” Saban said. “… The guy did a good job of recovering and certainly did a better job competing for the ball.”

Maze said pressure up the middle forced him to hurry the pass.

The senior receiver was also at the center of another odd play four snaps later.

After holding the Tigers without a first down following the interception, Maze was deep to field the punt.

About to make the catch, Maze said the ball struck the wire controlling the aerial camera suspended above the field. The ball took a major LSU bounce before coming to a rest 73 yards from where it was kicked.

“It kinda messed me up, but it was better for us to get it back there than to try to field it and muff it,” Maze said.

Both teams traded punts after that before going to overtime.

Alabama’s offense went backward in three plays. Incomplete passes to Trent Richardson, followed by a sack of AJ McCarron forced Cade Foster to attempt a 53-yard field goal. It fell short and LSU needed one first down before kicking the third-down field goal that won it.

Richardson ran for 89 yards on 23 carries, but also caught a team-high five passes for 80 yards. McCarron completed 16 of 28 passes for 199 yards with Mazes’ six catches and 61 yards leading the way.

The LSU offense had its most success when running the option with Jordan Jefferson at quarterback and Michael Ford taking the pitch. Jefferson came off the bench to run 11 times for 43 yards followed by Ford’s 72 on 11 tries

“We just felt like — in this game — that the couple of scrambles Jefferson had made the difference and moved the chains,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “That gave us a huge advantage.”

The Tigers struggled when Jarrett Lee threw passes.

Alabama safeties Robert Lester and Mark Barron each read deep passes for the second and third interceptions of Lee’s season. The starter finished 3-for-7 for 24 yards.

A block in the back on Barron’s second-half interception was the difference between starting inside the 10 and outside the 30. A 46-yard field goal from Cade Foster gave the Tide a 6-3 lead, but McCarron’s interception on the next drive set up Alleman’s 30-yarder that tied the game with 14:13 left.

Richardson nearly outgained LSU on his own in the first half, but stalled drives kept the Tide from scoring more than a Jeremy Shelley field goal. Richardson’s 114 all-purpose yards fell just short of the Tigers’ 124 by combining 53 rushing yards and 61 receiving.

Alabama as a team outgained the Tigers 114-38 in the first quarter, but Tide drives went south before entering the red zone. Penalties and negative plays forced third-and-longs Alabama couldn’t convert.

All three of its three chances, long field goals landed outside the uprights. Cade Foster missed from 44 and 50 yards before Jeremy Shelley’s 49 yarder was blocked early in the second quarter.

Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @UARollTIde_Star.
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