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LSU's big plays subdue Alabama 24-21, keep title hopes alive

Published: Saturday, November 06, 2010, 10:24 PM     Updated: Saturday, November 06, 2010, 10:24 PM

BATON ROUGE -- Left out of the Bowl Championship Series conversation all week, the LSU Tigers got a little irritated and elbowed their way back in Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

Les Miles LSU vs. Alabama Enlarge RUSTY COSTANZA / THE TIMES-PICAYUNE LSU coach Les Miles, congratulates LSU Tigers running back Spencer Ware (16) after beating Alabama 24-21 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge on Saturday, November 6, 2010. LSU vs. Alabama Nov. 6, 2010 gallery (39 photos)
In the process, the No. 12 Tigers gained a large measure of redemption.

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LSU used big plays to energize its moribund offense and knock off reigning national champion and No. 5 Alabama, 24-21 before an announced crowd of 92,969.

In snapping a two-game losing streak to Alabama, LSU (8-1, 5-1 SEC) ended the Crimson Tide's hopes of repeating as BCS champion. But the Tigers also kept alive their own chances of winning the SEC West and staying in the national championship hunt, whether the rest of the nation likes it or not.

"We were beaten on in the media, saying we didn't have a national championship-caliber team," said LSU linebacker Ryan Baker, who led the team with 10 tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks. "But we wanted to make a statement: We are still hungry. We are still alive. I think we have a pretty good team. We can make a championship run."

Actually, it's up to Auburn, which can clinch the SEC West title and a trip to the SEC championship game with a victory against Georgia on Saturday. If that happens, the best LSU can do is tie Auburn, which also plays Alabama the day after Thanksgiving, for the division title. In that case, Auburn would go to the championship game by virtue of its victory against LSU two weeks ago.

Even if LSU doesn't win the division, the Tigers have re-asserted themselves as a player in the conference against one of their main nemesis.

"It's good to get back to the way things used to be around here," said senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who had seven tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. "We had a lot of alumni around this week, and it was good to put a smile on all their faces.

"LSU is back. The last couple of years, Alabama beat us, these other teams beat us. We had a five-loss season, a four-loss season. It was time to get back to the old LSU. I'm not saying we're completely back, because we still have a lot of key games to finish out the season."

But the Tigers are going to savor this one for redemptive purposes.

Ruben Randle and Deangelo Peterson, each of whom dropped passes earlier in the game, came up with huge plays. Randle caught a 75-yard scoring pass from Jordan Jefferson to spark the Tigers into the lead just after halftime, and Peterson's 22-yard run on a fourth-and-1 reverse set up the touchdown that put LSU ahead for good.

Embattled Jefferson had one of his best outings, and Jarrett Lee, the quarterback with whom Jefferson has been sharing the job, came in long enough to contribute another huge play at the end.

And then there was Coach Les Miles, ridiculed for poor clock management and other gaffes, going into Mad Hatter mode with two fourth-down gambles that worked. Afterward, Miles was humbled by receiving the game ball from his players.

"College football was celebrated today," said Miles, who is 2-2 against his predecessor at LSU. "That was two quality football teams slugging it out, start to finish, hard-nosed, clean, violent, competitive football, and how wonderful was it?

"Tiger Stadium was never any better than it was today. Hats off to the 92,500 that sounded like 392,000."

The Tigers took control of the game with a 77-yard, 11-play drive, spurred by big runs by Stevan Ridley, who finished with 88 yards on 24 carries. But the 22-yard run by Peterson was the key play.

LSU called timeout on fourth-and-1 at the Alabama 26. Peterson took a pitch from Ridley, who had received a toss from Jefferson, and went the other way with a clear field in front of him, before being run out of bounds at the 3-yard line. Ridley scored from the 1-yard line three plays later.

"Green -- and the end zone," was Peterson's response when asked what he saw when he got the pitch. "I knew my number would be called again. I was surprised. Usually they'll call it on the goal line for a touchdown play."

"We had a guy that's coming off the edge who's supposed to be ahead of the play," Saban said of the Peterson run. "But that goes back to the same old thing: If everybody executes and does what they're supposed to do -- eye control and discipline, which is important in this game -- it wouldn't have been an issue."

LSU also had a 29-yard run by Josh Jasper on a fake punt in the third quarter.

The touchdown and two-point conversion pass from Jefferson to Randle gave the Tigers a 21-14 lead with 8:31 left.

Two scrimmage plays later, the LSU defense came up with a big play of its own. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy fumbled when sacked by Tigers defensive tackle Drake Nevis, and Sheppard recovered at the Tide 28.

Miles played it safe with three runs to milk the clock, and Jasper came on to kick his third field goal, a 39-yarder.

Alabama, showing a sense of urgency, cruised downfield, making the Tigers sweat. McElroy capped the drive with a 9-yard scoring pass to Julio Jones with 3:23. Moments later, LSU found itself with third-and-13 from the Alabama 20, but Lee avoided pressure by stepping up in the pocket and delivering a pass to wide-open Randle, who turned it into a 47-yard play.

That allowed LSU to burn more clock, and Alabama got the ball back at its 10 with only 18 seconds remaining. They didn't get close to a chance at a tying field goal.

LSU outgained Alabama 433 to 325, thanks to the big plays. The 75-yard touchdown pass to Randle got them started.

Held to 95 yards in the first half, the Tigers nearly matched that on their second possession of the second half. Backed up to their 6, Jefferson passed to Terrence Toliver for 19 yards and then found Randle cutting across the middle from left to right. Randle, who had dropped a beautiful throw for a long gainer in the first quarter, caught the ball in stride and went to the sideline, outrunning safety Mark Barron to the end zone.

"It was eating me alive the whole halftime," Randle said of the drop. "In the third quarter, I wanted to make a play off the edge, and I told Coach, 'let me have the opportunity.'

"The safety cheated over, and I bent in front of him. I could see it opening up in front of me. My legs kind of gave out, but I pushed forward to get into the end zone."

After Alabama answered with a 73-yard drive capped by a 5-yard run by Mark Ingram, LSU got another big play. Receiver Russell Shepard took a handoff on a jet sweep and cut between two defenders for a 41-yard run. That set up a 35-yard field goal by Jasper to cut the lead to 14-13 with 14:16 left.

Jim Kleinpeter can be reached at jkleinpeter@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3405.

Related topics: lsu football, lsu vs. alabama

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freegumbo November 06, 2010 at 10:59PM

Great job gentlemen!!! You played your hearts out and all true fans not only appreciate your effort today but through the season as well. Congratulations to all of you!

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rantin November 06, 2010 at 11:19PM

These players have a ton of heart. They are fun to watch on defense

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saintzfan55 November 07, 2010 at 12:15AM

Great game! GEAUX TIGERS!!!!!!!

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jaywhyyy November 07, 2010 at 12:15AM

"We had a guy that's coming off the edge who's supposed to be ahead of the play," Saban said of the Peterson run. "But that goes back to the same old thing: If everybody executes and does what they're supposed to do -- eye control and discipline, which is important in this game -- it wouldn't have been an issue."

Coulda, woulda, shoulda Nick. Those don't count. Looking forward to the Iron Bow. Go War Eagles!

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daBlade44 November 07, 2010 at 10:33AM

After watching the post game press conference yesterday I realized what a pissant Saban is. He took, virtually, no responsibility for losing the game. After he blamed the Bama fans for having high expectations as the reason for Bama losing, he then throws his player's under the bus as mentioned above. What a crybaby! Say what you will about Miles, you will never hear or see him directly critize a player. Is there a better reason for his player's to play hard for him, and themselves. Just a little respect goes a long way.

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im4lsu November 07, 2010 at 5:34AM

We're 8-1 now! Geaux Tigers!!!

Where are all the Miles haters now? All those fools who want to get rid of him, are very quite this morning. I've questioned some of our OC calls all year, but I've always stood behind Les. In Crowton's defense, I think he called a good game yesterday.

Love beating Bama! Next week, EVERY Tiger fan is going to be a HUGE Georga Bulldog Fan.

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dubshakk November 07, 2010 at 6:50AM

This is a great morning to be a LSU fan, a loyal positive fan I might add. Boy, did we need this win. Coach Miles needed it, our players, and our fanbase. Gutsy calls by the Mad Hatter as usual. The 4th down reverse to D. Peterson was money. And a fake punt, I don't know why we are even surprised anymore, that's how Miles rolls. Jefferson had a great game, good for him to get some confidence. Lee made a big throw to Randle on that 3rd down late in the game. What can I say? Let's enjoy this one. Geaux Tigers!

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stope November 07, 2010 at 7:00AM

Biggest win for Miles and Tigers since National Championship game. Let's all enjoy it for today and then, starting tomorrow, get ready for the next opponent. Can't let up this season. Have real good shot at being special team so can't let up and lose another game.

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cornflowersky November 07, 2010 at 7:01AM

Truly a great game to watch. Down to the wire. Still reeling.

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macjoe53 November 07, 2010 at 7:18AM

You hear the quiet? That's all the Miles haters having to close their mouths again because they have been proven to be idiots. Congratulations to the players and the coach for a good win. Then again, anytime LSU beats Bama it's a great win!

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clcrayton November 07, 2010 at 7:49AM

It's so good to get the SANE people on the boards today. The idiots are still trying to figure out something negative to say about Coach. Don't forget about them being quiet about JJ too. They've been killing that kid all year. Now they have to shut up for a week. Lee mad a couple of great throws but he still nearly threw two picks. Maybe you arm chair coaches out there should trust the REAL coaches about personnel decisions. Go Tigers

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day420 November 07, 2010 at 7:23AM

Gotta give credit when credit is due. Jefferson looked like a good quarterback yesterday.

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armyman November 07, 2010 at 10:22AM

I didn't have a problem when people offered constructive criticism of JJ, it's the name calling and attacking him personally that really offended me. No matter what mistakes JJ would make though, he gave 100% and took a beating out there. Did you see his block on Peterson's reverse? He's a good kid with a lot of heart. You people who verbally abuse him need to get a life. Really!

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route40 November 07, 2010 at 11:09AM

This idiot is being quiet this week. Good job guys, especially JJ and Les Miles.

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righton272 November 07, 2010 at 11:52PM

GREAT JOB ARMY MAN. ROLL TIDE ROLLLLLL

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