Title game stale leftovers, but Tide played like champs
New Orleans ? Like an old nightmare, the Alabama Crimson Tide defense just kept coming and coming after No. 1-ranked LSU.
And speaking of old nightmares, Tigers, how’s about that Jordan Jefferson?
Cheered and scorned — sometimes on the same night — by LSU fans throughout his four seasons, quarterback Jefferson found himself Monday in the crosshairs of Alabama’s ferocious defensive attack.
He froze in his tracks. And with him, rigor mortis consumed the LSU offense.
Five field goals by the Crimson Tide’s Jeremy Shelley proved to be more than enough.
Alabama’s 21-0 victory over the Tigers gave the Tide its second Bowl Championship Series title in the past three seasons. It also avenged a 9-6 overtime loss to LSU during the regular season.
This was more like stale leftovers.
For the first 55 minutes Monday at the Superdome, the two best teams in college football again failed to score a touchdown.
But the differences this time were significant. With more than six weeks to prepare for the revenge match, Alabama coach Nick Saban deftly put together a game plan that stifled LSU in every way.
Jefferson’s running ability? Saban had someone in crimson waiting at every turn.
The Tigers’ option game, said to have blossomed in the second half of the season? Saban had it covered, sideline to sideline, like a glove.
The ‘Bama offense, which sputtered in the game at Tuscaloosa? By simply giving sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron more protection, the Tide was able to throw for 234 yards and move the first-down chains all night long.
The LSU defense didn’t play poorly. But with Jefferson and the offense providing nothing, it failed to get a turnover or force the Tide to punt more than twice.
Why LSU coach Les Miles didn’t go to his bench and change quarterbacks is a mystery. While Jefferson was sitting out the first four games of the season with legal troubles, senior Jarrett Lee became the LSU starter and led the Tigers to significant victories — beating Rose Bowl champ Oregon and Orange Bowl victor West Virginia in September.
But when Lee, known as the better passer, threw two ill-advised interceptions in the November game at Alabama, Miles lifted him in favor of Jefferson.
Lee, for some reason, was seldom seen on the field again.
If he was ever going to return to the huddle, Monday was the night. At halftime, Jefferson had only 26 passing yards and LSU had but one first down.
More than that, though, the Crimson Tide defense was draped across the line of scrimmage, daring Jefferson to try to beat it with his passing.
While Jefferson looked like the proverbial deer caught in the BCS headlights, McCarron was coolly either handing the ball to Trent Richardson or Eddie Lacy or finding his tight end, Brad Smelley.
McCarron, who hails from Mobile, Ala., had played “scared” in the November game, according to some. But there were times Monday when he seemed the most confident player on the field.
He finished with 234 yards passing, completing 23 of 34 with no interceptions. And though LSU would stiffen and force Alabama to settle for field goals, the score kept mounting.
McCarron was selected the game’s most outstanding offensive player.
It was the sixth time that Miles and Saban had matched wits on the football field. Miles had won the previous two, but the series is now tied at three apiece.
Whatever shortcomings Alabama was alleged to have — its inferior outside speed, its field goal kicking, McCarron, et al — Saban silenced them in the Tide’s preparation.
LSU’s Darth Vader feelings about Saban will continue. He coached the Tigers to the 2003 BCS title, before leaving for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and — traitorously, LSU fans say — returning to coach at a bitter rival.
Like a lot of sequels, Monday’s failed to inspire.
But the Tide rolled like a convincing champion.