Some rematch: ’Bama rolls

January 10, 2012


— The Rematch of the Century, it wasn’t. For Alabama, it was good enough for No. 1, if not a lot of style points.

The Crimson Tide romped to another BCS championship against top-ranked LSU with a smothering defensive performance Monday night, a numbing barrage of field goals and even a long-overdue trip to the end zone.

Final score: 21-0.

No. 2 Alabama posted the first shutout in the 14-year history of the BCS, relying on Jeremy Shelley’s right leg for most of the points — he made a bowl-record-tying five field goals — and letting its defense do the rest. It was the Tide’s second BCS title in three years.

“That was the message before the game: to finish,” coach Nick Saban said. “In fact, it was how bad do you want to finish? We certainly didn’t play a perfect game, we got a field goal blocked, we couldn’t find the end zone for a long time, but we just kept playing.”

While only crimson-clad fans will remember this as a thing of beauty, Alabama (12-1) erased any doubts that it deserved to be in the title game over another one-loss team like Oklahoma State or Stanford.

Then again, one of those teams might have actually scored a touchdown before Alabama finally did, with 4:36 left in the game, long after fans may have flipped to something more entertaining than a one-sided kicking contest. Amazingly, these Southeastern Conference powerhouses played twice in a span of about two months, and never came that close to one of those things that’s worth six points — you know, touchdowns — until Trent Richardson broke off a 34-yard run with 4:36 remaining.

It only took 115 minutes, 34 seconds, plus an overtime period in their first meeting.

LSU (13-1) had beaten eight ranked teams — including Alabama in early November — to establish itself as the clear No. 1 going into the bowls, but the Tigers crossed midfield only once in the sequel to the Game of the Century in Tuscaloosa. Instead of putting up a “Godfather II,” this one was more akin to “Speed 2.”

The Tigers were outgained 384-92 in total yards, managed a puny five first downs and didn’t cross the 50 until there were just 8 minutes left. From there, they went back, back, back — the last gasp ending appropriately with beleaguered quarterback Jordan Jefferson getting the ball knocked from his hand before he could even get off a fourth-and-forever pass.

The BCS title belongs to Saban, who is carving out quite a legacy of his own at the school that still worships Bear Bryant as if he just retired yesterday. The Associated Press likely will follow suit by bestowing the title on the Tide when its poll comes out early Tuesday, given the dominance of Alabama’s performance.

“We didn’t do a lot different,” Saban said. “We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box. Our special teams did a great job.”

He has won a pair of BCS titles at Alabama, plus another at LSU in 2003. He’s the first coach to win three BCS titles, denying LSU’s Les Miles his second championship. The Tigers will have to settle for the SEC title, but that’s not likely to ease the sting of this ugly performance.

Back on Nov. 5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama held the top spot in the first matchup between the 1-2 teams. The Tigers pulled off a 9-6 victory in overtime, kicking three field goals while the Crimson Tide missed four of its six attempts.

OK, so maybe that wasn’t a classic. But it was downright thrilling compared to the rematch, the first time in the BCS that teams played for the title after meeting during the regular season.

Credit the Alabama defense for that.

Led by dominating linebackers Courtney Hightower and Dont’a Hightower, LSU simply couldn’t do anything — running or passing. Kenny Hilliard led the Tigers with 16 yards rushing, while Jefferson was 11 of 17 passing for 53 yards, usually hurrying away passes before he was sent tumbling to the Superdome turf. He was sacked four times and threw a mystifying interception when he attempted to flip away a desperation pass, only to have it picked off because his intended receiver had already turned upfield looking to block.

A.J. McCarron was the offensive MVP, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards. Richardson added 96 yards on 20 carries. But an even bigger cheer went up when the defensive award was presented to Upshaw, who had seven tackles, including a sack, and spent a good part of his night in the LSU backfield.

“This defense is built on stopping them, and that’s what we did,” Upshaw said. “We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game. We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that’s what we did.”

With the way his defense was playing, McCarron simply had to avoid mistakes and guide the offense into field-goal range. He did that to perfection.

“When you have a great offensive line like I have, and great players around you, it makes your job easy as quarterback,” McCarron said. “I’ve got to give all the credit to them. I wish I could have the whole team up here.”

Miles said the rematch would be another display of “big-boy” football, and that was apparent on the opening kickoff and first play from scrimmage. Morris Claiborne was clotheslined by Alabama’s Trey Depriest on the return, then Michael Ford was sent flying by Damion Square and Jesse Williams on a 2-yard run that immediately set the tone.

But this time, the special teams went Alabama’s way. Marquis Maze dealt the first big blow for the Crimson Tide with a 49-yard punt return midway through the opening quarter, and he might’ve gone all the way to the end zone if not for a leg injury that forced him to pull up. Punter Brad Wing was the only defender left to beat, but Maze had to hobble out of bounds.

McCarron completed a 16-yard pass to Darius Hanks at the LSU 10, setting up Shelley’s 23-yard chip shot field goal. If nothing else, Alabama had accomplished one of its goals coming into the game: to at least get close enough to the end zone for its embattled kickers to have a better chance of converting.

In the first meeting, Shelley and Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals — all of them from at least 44 yards.

In the do-over, Foster stayed on the sideline while Shelley also connected from 34, 41, 35 and 44 yards. Not that it was a flawless kicking performance. Shelley had another kick blocked and pushed another wide right, attempting a bowl-record seven field goals overall.

In addition, he missed the extra point after Richardson’s touchdown.

It didn’t matter.

The Alabama defense made sure of that.

“The whole defense is the MVP,” Upshaw said. “The whole defense. Roll Tide baby. Roll Tide!”

LSU’s best weapon was Wing, who averaged nearly 46 yards on nine punts. That was about the only highlight for the purple and gold, which failed to match its BCS title game victories in 2003 and 2007, the last two times the game was played in New Orleans, about 80 miles from its Baton Rouge campus.

“We couldn’t sustain any consistency,” Miles said. “The calls became much more difficult.”

Miles never considered switching to backup quarterback Jarrett Lee, who started the first eight games for the Tigers — four of those while Jefferson was serving a suspension for his involvement in a bar fight.

“We felt like with Jefferson’s feet and the ability to get out of the rush, that it was fair that he finished,” Miles said. “He certainly had a tremendously strong year in any regard. Boy, we wanted to finish this one. It’s hard to finish a season that was so successful this way.”


cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

It's a sad state of affairs when football fans have become so mesmerized by teams with offensive circuses that they can't appreciate great defensive football. The notion that Oklahoma State would have scored multiple times against Alabama's defense is ludicrous. O-State's offensive line is nowhere as good as LSU's, and Weeden would have been on his butt most of the game.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 6 years, 5 months ago

If there was ever an axample of how disconnected this alleged "national championship" has become, it was last night. A total blowout by the best team playing a second rate over rated member of the same conference..

Cato, there are about 5 or 6 teams that could have put up a better game than LSU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Ohio State, several others.

If ever there was a reason to junk this ignorant BCS crap and institute a legitimate playoff series that is used in every other NCAA sport, this game was it. LSU should have been at home watching this one. To quote one old adage, "To err is human, to really foul things up requires a computer".

cato_the_elder 6 years, 5 months ago

LSU would have annihilated any of the teams you mentioned. You're obviously obsessed with the ongoing playoff/no playoff war, and wouldn't have viewed this game favorably regardless of the outcome.

In any event, I was simply pointing out that people who actually know something about football enjoy watching good defense.

kujayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Just like we would have annihailated VCU, Bucknell, Bradley, etc. in basketball. The perception is LSU would beat these teams, but who knows if they actually play the game. The BCS is such a fraud, why even play the games?

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Gotta agree with cato, yeoman. The only team you list that stood a ghost of a chance would have been Okie State, and I highly doubt they could have done much. Your inclusion of Ohio State is just plain laughable. And that "second rate over rated" team was undefeated and had beaten 8 ranked teams this year. In no scenario could anyone possibly exclude LSU from last night's game.

All that said, I'd love a playoff.

soapisurfriend 6 years, 5 months ago

The only team that should not have been there last night was Bama. I would not argue that they are not one of the two best teams in the country if not the best, but they still should not have been there, in my humble opinion. They already had their shot at LSU at home and didn't get it done. So what they won last night? So the two teams finished 1-1 on the season and that is supposed to prove that one is clearly better. Last night, sure. Several weeks back, no.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Who could you possibly advocate being there above 'Bama?

soapisurfriend 6 years, 5 months ago

OSU----Sure, they had a bad loss to ISU. Without making too many excuses, that was immediately proceeding the death of their women's basketball coach. But it doesn't matter. To me, anyone but Bama. They had their shot. There is such an overbearing infatuation with the SEC in this country. All we hear about is how the SEC has however many championships in a row, yet they pin two SEC teams in the "title" game, therefore securing that it will remain in the conference at least one more year. It is a joke.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Sorry, but OSU's loss to ISU was very bad and much worse than 'Bama losing to the team that was ranked first all season. Stanford and OU both lost at home to unranked teams.

Yes, there is an infatuation with the SEC, and rightfully so. It's far and away the best football conference and it ain't close. 'Bama and LSU weren't pitted against one another due to some SEC lovin' conspiracy, that's ridiculous. They were the top two in the BCS rankings. Period. I'd much rather have a playoff, but the two best teams in the country played last night. Game stunk because the defenses are so dominant, but hindsight doesn't make it the wrong matchup.

bad_dog 6 years, 5 months ago

Part of the reason Alabama was in the top two was because Mizzery's head coach "DUI" Pinkel voted them ahead of OSU. He was the only Big XII coach to do so. You can't get to the BCS title game if you aren't in the top two.

Despite the fact 4 of the 6 BCS computers put OSU at #2, Pinkel ranked them at #4, behind Stanford. You'll recall OSU beat Stanford in their bowl game.

I guess we know where Mizzery's loyalties lie-with the SEC.

bad_dog 6 years, 5 months ago

In the event one argues a single coaches vote doesn't matter, 'Bama edged out OSU by .0086 in the final tally.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Didn't know that about Pinkel. Muck Fizzou. But I shudder at the thought of the shellacking OSU would have taken against LSU. I don't believe it would have been any more entertaining for anyone that isn't an LSU fan.
I did hear that 'Bama's schedule was particularly weak and that made me question their worthiness, but I still thought they were a better team than OSU.

Give us a playoff. 8 teams. Man, it would be awesome!

soapisurfriend 6 years, 5 months ago

You need a cold shower before you make a mess, partner. You saying that the SEC teams would beat any other team, or LSU would kill any other team they played is what is ridiculous. We will never know because they will never play. OSU is a very talented offensive football team. LSU is overrated offensively, if that is even possible. Vice versa defensively. But to me, the B12 and even the PAC match-up decently to the SEC's top 3 teams. I'm not saying the SEC is not the best football conference because profoundly it is. But Southern Cal was way underrated and a very talented football team that did not have much to play for and I don't think them beating Oregan was a big surprise. Oregan's only other loss was of course to LSU. But that was long ago. Conversely though, KSU did no justice as the 3rd best B12 team when facing the 3rd best SEC school, as I try to compare conferences.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

"You saying that the SEC teams would beat any other team, or LSU would kill any other team they played is what is ridiculous"

All evidence to the contrary. LSU crushed everyone they played except 'Bama. 'Bama had the best loss of the single loss bunch, and that ain't even close.
The PAC 12 matches up??? LSU 40 - Oregon 24, and that was with two late garbage TD's for the Ducks. USC wasn't eligible, so that argument's moot. Stanford was the equivalent of KU under Reesing and would be a wet spot on the field against Bama or LSU. They're a collection of 3 star players with the exception of Luck, and he can't throw when he's on his back.
LSU's offense is overrated??? They scored more than 40 in 9 games. Okie State was the ONLY other team that could have been reasonably considered, but with the size, speed, and animosity displayed last night by both teams D's, they too would have been embarrassed.

jayhawkinsf 6 years, 5 months ago

Didn't UConn finish fifth in the Big East last season? Yet they won the NCAA tournament. They were the best team that night. Was Butler really the second best team? Both systems will produce questionable champions. That said, I'd prefer a playoff.

riverdrifter 6 years, 5 months ago

  1. Alabama
  2. OSU
  3. Stanford (see A. Luck)
  4. Arkansas, Oregon, So.Cal in some order.
  5. LSU

When you manage 92 total yards, 5 first downs and are the first team ever shut out in the BCS championship game, well, it kinda damages the ol' credibilty thing, knowwhattuhmean?

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

Number one all year. Beat #2 Bama and 7 other ranked teams. Sorry, but unless you're clairvoyant there's no way you could have predicted how 'Bama's D was going to shut them down. Any of those other teams you list would have gotten pummeled, including Arkansas AND Oregon whom LSU already routed this year. But you're gonna rank them and 3 other teams who lost to unranked teams ahead of LSU? What a joke.

jaywalker 6 years, 5 months ago

I know the game last night stunk. Doesn't mean jack. LSU was a lock for the game, the only thing that could have changed would be a team other than 'Bama be swapped in. And the Tigers would have steam rolled them just like they did everyone other than 'Bama.
Sorry, your rankings are still ridiculous.

riverdrifter 6 years, 5 months ago

"I know the game last night stunk." At least you can smell.

lunacydetector 6 years, 5 months ago

the most boring game i have ever seen. no razzle dazzle plays to change the momentum, just two sec teams playing each other. those teams were horrible. a high school football game would've been more exciting and the plays better executed.

Terry Sexton 6 years, 5 months ago

Bama is the best team in the country. They were the best before last night & they still are. Roll Tide!

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