Monday, November 10, 2008
Sports NewsMayfield's Mutterings: A 'Wicked' weekend

No. 1 'Bama nicks LSU in OT, wins Saban Bowl 27-21

Send a link to a friend

[November 10, 2008]  BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- With a heavy police escort, Nick Saban returned to Tiger Stadium wearing crimson. He barely got out of town with top-ranked Alabama still unbeaten. After the Crimson Tide missed a chip-shot field goal on the final play of regulation, John Parker Wilson scored on a 1-yard sneak in overtime to give Alabama a 27-21 victory over No. 15 LSU on Saturday, clinching a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

HardwareThe Tide (10-0, 6-0 SEC) has its eyes on a bigger prize, of course, and stayed on course for its first national title in 16 years. This was its toughest test yet, coming at a school Saban led to a share of the national championship in 2003.

The coach is now reviled by many of the Tigers faithful, who consider him a traitor for turning up at rival Alabama just two years after he traded LSU for the NFL. He was booed loudly when he came on the field, surrounded by a larger-than-usual contingent of state troopers that grew to a dozen by the time the game finally ended.

"I know that there are some people that may have a negative attitude, but I can honestly say that I really appreciate the people who spoke to me, thanked me and welcomed me back here," Saban said. "We have special memories of this place. We always will, and no one will ever tarnish those no matter what they do."

Saban walked toward the LSU end of the stadium afterward, hugging several of the Tigers he brought to Baton Rouge. Then he took off toward the Alabama locker room -- with all those troopers struggling to keep up -- and pointed toward the Alabama contingent before disappearing into the tunnel.

There were no hard feelings about those fans who held up signs such as "Miles Over $aban" -- a reference to his LSU successor, Les Miles, and the $4 million-a-year deal that lured him back to the college ranks at Alabama.


"It's really not sweeter clinching the (SEC) West in Tiger Stadium," Saban said, his voice rising. "It really isn't. My emotions for this place are positive, not negative. I didn't leave LSU to go to Alabama. I left LSU to go to Miami. Myself and my family learned that we didn't like professional football as much as we liked college. So we had the best opportunity to return to college football at the University of Alabama. There is nothing personal in that for me."

After Charles Scott tied it for LSU on a 1-yard touchdown run with just over 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Alabama drove into position to win it. From the 12, and Saban called his final timeout with 3 seconds remaining.

Leigh Tiffin lined up for a 29-yard field goal, but his kick was low and Ricky-Jean Francois swiped it away with his big right hand.

LSU got the ball first in overtime, only to give away even a shot at the field goal when Jarrett Lee threw his fourth interception -- the third pick of the game by Alabama's Rashad Johnson. The Tide didn't even bother with another field goal try.

Wilson hit Julio Jones along the sideline, and the freshman dragged his defender to the 1 for a 24-yard gain. LSU stuffed the Tide on first down, but Wilson powered across on the next play to win it.

LSU (6-3, 3-3), the defending national champion, was eliminated from the conference race and, in all likelihood, any consideration for a spot in the BCS.

"This one is bitter. It's painful," Miles said. "But as a competitor, when you play your tail off, there's a comfort in that."

Glen Coffee rushed for 126 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown that put Alabama ahead 21-14 in the third quarter. Wilson was 15 of 31 passing for 215 yards.

Last year, LSU won "Saban Bowl I" with two touchdowns in the final three minutes, pulling out a 41-34 victory in Tuscaloosa and going on to finish No. 1. But this was his first game at Tiger Stadium as the Alabama coach, and a crowd of 93,039 -- the biggest in LSU history -- turned out to give a rude reception to the coach they once celebrated.

[to top of second column]


At the end of the third quarter, the public-address announcer tried to fire up the crowd by noting that nightfall had descended on a stadium known for its raucous evening games.

"The sun has found its home in the western sky," he said. "It's now Saturday night in Death Valley!"

LSU responded, turning the game into a thriller in the final period. The embattled Lee, who heard boos from the home crowd as the errant passes piled up, guided a 14-play, 72-yard drive. The redshirt freshman completed four passes for 58 yards, including a 24-yarder to Brandon LaFell.

The bruising Scott took it in from the 1 for a 21-21 tie. He finished with 92 yards and a pair of TDs. Lee was 13-for-34 for 181 yards, and his last interception was a killer.

"There are a lot of mistakes that you just can't make at this level of ball," Lee said. "It's something that for sure I need to work on."

Early on, Alabama found itself in an unusual position: behind. Having trailed for only 1 minute, 15 seconds in its first nine games, the Tide went down 14-7 when Scott broke off a 30-yard touchdown run for the Tigers with just under 6 minutes left in the first quarter.

LSU scored two touchdowns in less than a minute, capitalizing on one of three Alabama turnovers in the first half.

After Lee threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Demetrius Bird, Javier Arenas had the ball knocked away on the ensuing kickoff return. Kicker Josh Jasper fell on the loose ball along the Alabama sideline, not far from Saban.

Scott got a huge block from left guard Herman Johnson and broke threw a gaping hole to score the touchdown that gave LSU its first lead.

Alabama trailed until Lee made a familiar mistake. The young quarterback badly overthrew Terrance Tolliver and Johnson picked it off and went 54 yards for a touchdown -- the sixth time this year Lee threw an interception that was returned for a TD.

Johnson's first interception gave Alabama the ball at the LSU 15 and Crimson Tide turned it into points when Wilson shoved it in from the 1 for the first of his two TDs.

Alabama, which had outscored its first nine opponents 198-26 in the opening half, had to settle for a 14-all tie at the break.

"That was as lethargic a half of football as we have played all year," Saban moaned. "We just didn't look the same out there. We looked a bunch of guys who were tired."

They were all jumping around at the end.

[Associated Press; By PAUL NEWBERRY]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Auto Sales

< Sports index

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Teen Scene
Calendar | Letters to the Editor