If this is the new wave of college football, Alabama would prefer to have the old model back.
In a game filled with excitement on offense and marquee performances by both quarterbacks, No. 2 LSU scored touchdowns on two fourth-quarter drives and held off No. 3 Alabama 46-41 at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) trailed by 20 points, 33-13, at halftime with the first half ranging from a shaky start — a Tua Tagovailoa fumble in the red zone scuttled Alabama’s first drive — to a far more disastrous ending which saw LSU (9-0, 5-0) score two touchdowns in the final 26 seconds to push its 19-13 lead out to 20 points.
“We seemed to be a little out of sorts in the first half,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m responsible for the mindset of the team, so obviously we didn’t get that done with them.”
In the second half, Alabama responded with a strong offensive effort powered by Tagovailoa and running back Najee Harris. Tagovailoa, playing less than three weeks after a surgical procedure for an ankle sprain, threw three touchdown passes in the half including one to Harris, who also rushed for a 15-yard score. Harris also had a 1-yard touchdown run and Tagovailoa added scoring passes of five yards to Jerry Jeudy and 85 yards to DeVonta Smith.
Three times in the fourth quarter, Alabama cut the LSU lead to less than seven points. But the Crimson Tide never got the defensive stop it needed to attempt a go-ahead drive.
Instead, LSU, fueled by its quarterback-running back combination of Joe Burrow and Clyde Edwards-Hilaire, responded with two touchdown drives and, after recovering Alabama’s last desperate onside kick with 1:21 remaining, ending the game in victory formation.
Burrow completed 30 of 39 passes for 393 yards and also rushed for critical third-down conversions on each of LSU’s late touchdown drives. Edwards-Hilaire rushed for 103 yards and had three rushing touchdowns and one receiving touchdown.
Harris led all rushers with 146 yards on 19 carries.
The loss snapped an eight-game LSU losing streak against Alabama.
“I knew we were the better team,” LSU coach Ed Oregeron said. “I think we’re right there where we need to be. It’s been a long time coming. We finally had the tools we needed, the players we needed and the coaching staff we needed.”
The 46 points scored by LSU were the most allowed by Alabama in a regulation-time game since a 48-23 loss to Ole Miss in 1970.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt