In a season where victories have usually come comfortably, No. 1 Alabama finally had to fight its way until the end.
The Crimson Tide prevailed 24-10 over No. 19 LSU on Saturday night, but not without being pushed into the fourth quarter. LSU (6-3) outgained the Crimson Tide, 306 yards to 299, and while the Tigers never came within a single possession after two Crimson Tide touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of play, they did push Alabama into the fourth quarter and weren’t finally extinguished until Alabama freshman Dylan Moses sacked LSU backup quarterback Myles Brennan on the last Tiger drive with 2:17 to play.
The victory also came at a high cost to Alabama. Shaun Dion Hamilton and Mack Wilson, two stalwarts who had stepped up on an already-depleted linebacker corps, were injured — Hamilton with a knee injury and Wilson with a foot injury — and, according to UA head coach Nick Saban, are “probably out,” presumably for the long term. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick also had to leave the game twice in the first half and while he returned for spot duty, he will have an MRI on his hamstring on Sunday.
“A costly win,” Saban said.
Alabama scored the only touchdown of the first quarter on a 4-yard pass from Jalen Hurts to Irv Smith. A Ronnie Harrison interception late in the quarter set up a second touchdown on a 9-yard Bo Scarborough run. But for much of the game, Alabama had difficulty moving the ball.
“It wasn’t good,” Saban said. “They played an 8-man front most of the time. They played man-to-man coverage and we need to beat man-to-man.”
Hurts ended up as Alabama’s leading rusher despite being sacked four times. The sophomore gained 44 yards on 14 carries. The Crimson Tide’s top two running backs, Damien Harris and Scarborough, each finished with less than 40 yards.
Still, Alabama was able to push its lead to 21-3 on a Hurts touchdown run with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter. LSU answered with its lone touchdown run, as Darrel Williams took a direct snap and ran. 54 yards to the Crimson Tide 2. He scored two plays later.
The Alabama defense kept LSU’s passing game in check, however. Danny Etling completed 12 of 26 passes for just 137 yards and was sacked four times before giving way to Brennan in the fourth quarter.
The LSU offense was further frustrated by the punting of Alabama’s JK Scott, who averaged 51.6 yards on eight kicks and pinned LSU inside its 20-yard line with six of those punts.
The win pushed Alabama to 9-0 and 6-0 in the SEC. The Crimson Tide will face No. 16 Mississippi State in Starkville next Saturday at home.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.