Tide moves into title game with 24-15 win over LSU
By JOHN ZENOR, AP
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- No. 3 Alabama picked up another dramatic win and a second straight trip to the SEC championship game.
Julio Jones caught a 73-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and Leigh Tiffin booted a 40-yard field goal with 3:04 left to seal a 24-15 victory for the Crimson Tide against No. 9 LSU on Saturday.
The Tide (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) earned a rematch with No. 1 Florida for the league championship in a physical game that left the Tigers (7-2, 4-2) without quarterback Jordan Jefferson and running back Charles Scott for most of the second half.
The win touched off another big celebration for Alabama, which survived a 12-10 win over Tennessee two weeks ago with Terrence Cody's two blocked field goal attempts in the fourth quarter. Tiffin came up big in that one, too, with four field goals.
LSU would have taken control of the West and remained in position for a possible national title shot with a victory. The Tigers, whose only other loss came to the Gators, took a 15-10 lead into the fourth. They had won four straight games at Bryant-Denny Stadium but now have lost two in a row to Alabama and their former coach, Nick Saban.
Saban & Co. moved a step closer to their second straight perfect regular season. The Tide outgained LSU 452-253, and narrowed the number SEC national championship contenders to two.
Alabama is 9-0 for a second consecutive season, which hasn't happened 1973-74 under Bear Bryant.
Greg McElroy completed 19 of 34 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns and an interception as the Tide aired it out 25 times in the first half against a defense that was putting extra defenders near the line.
The second half was more typical of the Tide's style. Mark Ingram gained 106 of his 144 yards after the half to continue to mount a strong campaign for Heisman Trophy consideration.
Jones had his best game of the season, with four catches for 102 yards.
And the Tide defense -- as it has all season -- came through in the end.
Needing two scores, backup quarterback Jarrett Lee and LSU couldn't get it to midfield in the final minutes.
Alabama hadn't left them much time, anyway, milking more than six minutes off the clock in setting up Tiffin's final kick. He also had a 20-yarder on a drive that took nearly as long early in the fourth.
LSU had failed on a 2-point try late in the third quarter trying to push its lead to seven points. Trent Richardson's 2-point run after Jones' touchdown made it a two-score game at the end.
Alabama gave fans two things they covet in the fourth quarter: The lead and big plays from Jones, who had been quiet all season after a fantastic freshman year. He caught a short pass from McElroy, juked a defender and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown. Then Richardson made it 21-15 Alabama.
Alabama forced the short-handed LSU offense into a three-and-out and then pushed the ball across midfield.
After Patrick Peterson nearly picked off McElroy's pass -- he was ruled out of bounds -- Jones' catch converted a third-and-7 to help move the Tide into field goal position.
Jefferson and Scott were thriving before going to the sidelines. Their status was not immediately known.
Scott ran for 83 yards and his 34-yarder was the longest run play given up by Alabama this season. Jefferson passed for 114 yards and also had some success running the option.
Lee was 4 of 10 for 44 yards with an interception on a fourth-down play at the end.
But the Tigers were held to 95 yards rushing, the 20th opponent to produce fewer than 100 yards in Alabama's last 23 games.
LSU's defense held its own through three quarters. Drake Nevis sacked McElroy in the end zone in the third quarter for a safety, cutting Alabama's lead to 10-9.
Fullback Stevan Ridley bounced off 354-pound nose guard Terrance Cody for an 8-yard touchdown run and the 15-10 lead. Scott's big run set up the TD, but the pass for 2 did not connect.
LSU managed just 9 yards in the fourth.