Around the SEC Column: Nov. 9, 2019 — The Night the Tide died ... for LSU

Glenn Guilbeau
The Daily Advertiser

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After one of the greatest opening guitar riffs in rock history, Lynyrd Skynrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zant says, "Turn it up" moments before kickoff at University of Alabama home football games, and the crowd goes wild in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Then Van Zant sings the "Sweet Home Alabama" opening line:

Big wheels keep on turning.

But on Nov. 9, 2019, LSU stopped the wheel, sticking a dagger in the spokes of an eight-game winning streak by the Crimson Tide over the Tigers that started with a 21-0 win on Jan. 9, 2012, for the national championship, and ran over LSU seasons that could have been national championship bound in 2012, 2015 and 2018.

Not this time. LSU never trailed, led by 20 at the half, and held on for a 46-41 win over Alabama in front of 101,821 at a place LSU basically turned into its own Denny's.

Before LSU moves on with the rest of its life and you with yours after this monumental Alabama win, which was one of the greatest regular season wins in school history, here are 16 moments you may never forget and some you may already have forgotten from "The Night the Tide Died ... for LSU."

1. RASHARD LAWRENCE BATS IT AWAY: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa showed no signs of tightrope ankle surgery just three weeks prior as he completed a 20-yard pass to wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on the first play of the game before tailback Najee Harris gained 31 around right end. Then on second-and-goal from the LSU 8-yard line, Tagovailoa rolled left and had Harris open inside the 5. But defensive end Rashard Lawrence knocked it down. With a completion there for a touchdown or for a short-yardage third down, the next play may never have happened as it did.

Alabama Crimson Tide running back Josh Jacobs (8) gets wrapped up by LSU Tigers defensive end Rashard Lawrence (90) on a carry during the first quarter at Tiger Stadium.

2. PHANTOM FUMBLE: On third-and-goal at the LSU 8-yard line, Tagovailoa rolled right and suddenly could not decide to run or throw. Maybe with a good ankle, he could have tried to push his way by safety Grant Delpit for the touchdown. Then, untouched, he just dropped the ball.

Let's credit the forced fumble to former LSU coach Les Miles. Who knows?

Linebacker Ray Thornton, who was playing for suspended starting linebacker Michael Divinity Jr., recovered at the 8-yard line. Alabama coach Nick Saban was caught shaking his head in disgust on the sidelines for the first of many times. And Alabama never the same, as it never snapped the ball again with a chance to take the lead.

It wasn't all luck, though. LSU's defensive game plan was not to contain Tagovailoa in the pocket — rather force him out for scrambles on his bad ankle. As the game wore on, he could not run as well as he could when the game opened.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks away after meeting with victorious LSU head coach Ed Orgeron.

3. CLYDE EDWARDS-HELAIRE DOES IT ALL: The LSU tailback rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries, caught a career-high nine passes for 77 with his first career touchdown reception of 13 yards for the 33-13 halftime lead, and returned a kickoff 19 yards in which he was not actually brought to the ground.

But Edwards-Helaire also set a pick for Alabama cornerback Patrick Surtain II, who was an LSU commitment until the 11th hour before signing day in 2018, enabling wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase to get open. Quarterback Joe Burrow hit Chase for 23 yards to the LSU 49-yard line and was 1-for-1 on the day. Two plays later, Burrow found Chase for a 33-yard touchdown and 7-0 lead with 9:15 to play in the first quarter. LSU led the rest of the way. And Burrow — 3-for-3 for 74 yards — and his Heisman train was on their way to a 31-of-39 passing game for 393 yards and three touchdowns.

4. PHANTOM SNAP: Alabama deep snapper Thomas Fletcher snapped it perfectly to punter Ty Perine on fourth-and-6 from the LSU 41, but Perine just dropped it, like Tua. He recovered, but lost 19 yards. LSU took over on Alabama's 40. Burrow threw an interception on first down, though, to cornerback Trevon Diggs at the 20. But defensive end Raekwon Davis was whistled for being the 12th man on the field, and the interception was nullified by, yes, Saban sideline mismanagement. Like Perine, Davis wears No. 99. It was only halfway through the first quarter, and Alabama already had made three critical mistakes. Moments later, Cade York kicked a 40-yard field for a 10-0 LSU lead with 4:54 to go in the first quarter.

5. WADDLE SHOULD HAVE FALLEN DOWN: The Tigers let Alabama get back in the game at 10-7 on 77-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jaylen Waddle with 1:14 left in the first quarter. LSU's Racey McMath had a clear shot at him just as he caught the punt, but McMath went in too high and grabbed Waddle's face mask. Then he let it go, trying not to get the penalty. He should have just continued on with the face mask tackle as he had already committed it. It would have been a 15-yard penalty — not a touchdown. It was the first touchdown on a punt return allowed by LSU since Javier Arenas ran one back 61 yards to give the Tide a 34-27 lead with 7:33 to go in the fourth quarter in 2007 at Bryant-Denny. The Tigers won that one, too, 41-34.

6. "EMBARRASSING" ALABAMA DEFENSE: Many LSU fans love to complain about the television commentary of their Tigers, but there was nothing to whine about in this one. When LSU took a 16-7 lead on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Burrow to wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. with 13:03 to go in the second quarter, both play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler and color man Gary Danielson let Alabama have it. 

And they should have. Three LSU receivers were open on the play — Marshall and tight end Thaddeus Moss in the middle of the secondary and Edwards-Helaire in an empty right flat. Moss could have also scored a touchdown on the play, and Edwards-Helaire likely would have had a long gain.

"Marshall had time to put up his left hand and say, 'Joe, I'm right here. Throw it to me,'" Nessler said.

"Holy Cow! You see busts on one once in a while, but two like that! Embarrassing for the Alabama defense," Danielson said, missing the open Edwards-Helaire.

"The first word that comes to mind for Alabama is mistakes," Danielson continued.

"And sloppy," Nessler said.

7. SWEET AND QUIET ALABAMA: With LSU in command at 16-7 and with more points than in its three previous games against Alabama combined (10), Bryant-Denny fell into shock and awe as CBS panned the audience.

"Saw that shot of the crowd. Everybody's stunned in here," a salty Nessler said. "The biggest eruption was the applause for the president and the playing of 'Sweet Home Alabama.' Only thing to cheer about is the punt return so far."

8. CADE YORK DELIVERS: One of the biggest concerns from LSU fans and Coach Ed Orgeron going into the Alabama game was freshman LSU kicker Cade York. He delivered with a second field goal — a 45-yard booth for a 19-13 lead with 4:20 to play in the first half.

9. THADDEUS MOSS' TWO-STEP: LSU tight end Thaddeus Moss is not a Cajun, but he performed the best two-step Orgeron, who is clearly Cajun, may have ever seen for a spectacular catch. Moss was out of bounds as a pass from Burrow was in flight to him, and he got back in just in time and just in bounds for a 16-yard catch at the Alabama 1-yard line.

"That's Randy-esque," Danielson said in reference to Hall of Fame NFL wide receiver Randy Moss, who is Thaddeus' father.

More:LSU football features NFL connections, from Randy Moss' son to Derek Stingley Jr.

The play was reviewed, and it was determined that cornerback Trevon Diggs pushed Moss out, so it was legal for Moss to re-establish himself in bounds. But this call was made in Tuscaloosa — 57 miles from the SEC office in Birmingham that LSU fans incorrectly feel is biased toward Alabama.

Crimson Conspiracy? LSU even got the calls in this one

"About time," Orgeron smiled at his press conference Monday. "Hey, when we got that call, I said, 'It's our day.' And I want to say, that was the best officiated game that I've ever been a part of. I thought those guys did a tremendous job officiating the game, and I called Steve and told him that. When we got that catch, when that catch was not overturned, I wasn't complaining about anything else, man."

Three plays later, Edwards-Helaire scored on a 1-yard run for a 26-13 LSU lead with 26 seconds to go before halftime.

10. GONE IN 20 SECONDS: Tagovailoa's second turnover of the half clinched the game for LSU, though there were some nervous moments in the second half as Alabama kept coming back. But it never tied LSU or took the lead, thanks to two touchdowns by LSU over the final 26 seconds of the first half. After LSU went up 26-13, linebacker Patrick Queen intercepted Tua and returned it 13 yards to the Alabama 26-yard line with 11 seconds to go in the half.

The Tigers got 13 more yards (half the distance to the goal) for an unnecessary roughness call against center Landon Dickerson after the interception. Dickerson nailed LSU safety Kary Vincent Jr. after the play from behind.

"That's about as cheap a shot as I've seen in a while," Danielson said.

On the next play, Burrow hit Edwards-Helaire for a 13-yard touchdown and 33-13 lead with six seconds left in the half.

"I don't believe I'm saying this — LSU by 20," Nessler said and got saltier still. "Alabama's behind the 8 ball and all the other balls in the rack."

11. THE WAVE: Burrow performed the opposite of the mocking, delicate Queen's wave he displayed late in the win at Texas this season when he and other Tigers did the "Bring It" wave — four fingers toward yourself — as they ran into the locker room at the half. Other LSU players ran off with their hands to their ears as if to say to the Bama fans, "Can't hear you."

12. COULD'VE BEEN EASIER: LSU could have put the game away much earlier than it did as it received the third quarter kickoff with a 20-point lead and promptly drove to the Alabama 36-yard line the old-fashioned way. Edwards-Helaire gained 6, 7 and 18 along the way. LSU was looking at a 36-13 lead at worse, or 40-13. And that could've been 40-6 if McMath finishes tackling Waddle's face mask on the punt return.

Instead, Burrow fumbled it to to Terrell Lewis after a sack by Xavier McKinney. And Alabama got back in the game and shook up the LSU Nation. Alabama also converted three fourth downs on its two back-to-back touchdown drives to get within 39-34 in the fourth quarter.  

13. THE CLYDE DRIVE: When LSU took over on its 25-yard line with 14:33 to play in the game, Alabama had the momentum, a suddenly aroused home crowd, and it had LSU worried after back-to-back touchdowns drives cut LSU's lead to 33-27.

On second-and-3, Edwards-Helaire gained 12 over left guard, shedding and bulling over tacklers in his wake. The next play was just a 6-yard completion from Burrow to Chase, but it exemplified once more why Edwards-Helaire is still LSU's starting tailback, and one of the highly recruited freshmen is not yet.

Safety Shyheim Carter blitzed Burrow on first down and had a clear path, but Edwards-Helaire went low on him and tripped him as Burrow had enough time for the completion.

Four plays later, LSU faced a critical third-and-10 from Alabama's 36-yard line. Alabama edge rusher Anfernee Jennings got to Burrow, but as Burrow was falling down, he got it to Edwards-Helaire, who had to reach way down to get it. It looked like he would come up five or six yards short of the first down, but he just ran over and through Diggs and safety Jared Mayden to just get the first down.

"We had a chance to stop them on third-and-10 once," Saban grimaced. "Got to give (Edwards-Helaire) a lot of credit. He ran through a guy for four or five more yards to get a first down."

Edwards-Helaire kept churning for a 6-yard gain, then scored the touchdown for LSU's 39-27 lead with 10:07 to go on a 5-yard run after breaking a tackle by McKinney behind the line and spinning left. 

Alabama will not soon forget No. 22.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire:4 things to know on the LSU football running back

14. KEVIN FAULK'S FACE: After LSU went up 39-27, CBS showed Burrow on the bench on the phone to the pressbox. In front of Burrow was former LSU tailback and present director of player development Kevin Faulk. He couldn't have been smiling wider as he twirled a victory towel while jumping up and down. Faulk was 1-3 against Alabama as a player.

15. HELL'S BELLS FOR BAMA, NOT LSU: LSU rewrote another song during this game. Alabama plays the foreboding opening of AC/DC's "Hells Bells" when an opponent faces a third down. LSU is familiar with the tune. It was 3-of-11 on third down when it totaled 182 yards in a 30-16 loss in Tuscaloosa in 2015 as the No. 2 team in the nation.

On this day, LSU was 8-of-15 on third down, including 4-for-4 to end the game. There were three third-down conversions on "Clyde's Drive" for the 39-27 lead in the fourth quarter — a 13-yard catch over the middle by wide receiver Justin Jefferson on third-and-3, Edwards-Helaire's 11-yard catch on third-and-10, and a 15-yard quarterback draw by Burrow to the 5-yard line that caught Alabama completely off guard.

After Alabama cut it to 39-34 with 5:32 to play, Burrow pulled the quarterback draw again on third-and-2 from the Alabama 25 for 18 yards as Saban just threw up his hands. Burrow could've thrown up a Heisman pose on that run as he finished with 64 rushing yards on 14 carries and 457 overall. Edwards-Helaire scored on a 7-yard run on the next play for a 46-34 lead with 1:37 left. 

It wasn't a third down conversion, but LSU needed one more first down to finally put Alabama to bed after the Tide drew within 46-41 with 1:21 left on an 85-yard Tagovailoa bomb to Devonta Smith against Derek Stingley Jr. with LSU inexplicably not in a prevent defense. And Edwards-Helaire bulled over more would-be Bama tacklers for 12 yards on first down, and it was over.

Nov 9, 2019; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; LSU Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron celebrates midfield with his players following the Tigers 46-41win over the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

16. SWEET HOME LOUISIANA: "This is amazing," Edwards-Helaire said on CBS after the game. "Can't wait to get back home."

Little did he and the rest of the Tigers know what was waiting for them at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport — hundreds of LSU fans meeting the team like they were the Beatles.

"Louisiana, I love you," Burrow, the Athens, Ohio, native tweeted upon his last touchdown — the one in Baton Rouge.

"I didn't really realize how much this meant to Louisiana," Burrow said Monday of the airport greeting. "It was pretty special. I was very surprised to see it, and I wanted to do anything I could to embrace those people who came out. That was awesome. I was excited to see all those people. I'm starting to realize how much that game meant to people. It's just been an onslaught from a bunch of people. Everyone had their eyes on that game."

Yes, 16.6 million people watched the LSU-Bama game, which was not even a prime time game. It was the most watched college football game on any network, CBS reported, since No. 1 LSU beat No. 2 Alabama, 9-6, in overtime on Nov. 5, 2011 — the last time LSU beat Alabama. That game in prime time drew 20.11 million.

When Orgeron returned home, there were signs in his front yard. This usually happens when a coach is about to get fired. But these said, "We love you, Coach O."

Then he and his wife Kelly did what many LSU fans did Saturday night — watched the highlights on ESPN.

"Went home Saturday night, me and Kelly, had a ham sandwich and some chips, and watched SportsCenter," Orgeron said. "I mean, it was a great night." 

LSU head coach Ed Orgeron reacts after LSU defeated Alabama at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday November 9, 2019.

SEC Rankings

1. LSU (9-0, 5-0 SEC). 2. Alabama (8-1, 5-1). 3. Georgia (8-1, 5-1). 4. Florida (8-2, 5-2). 5. Auburn (7-2, 4-2). 6. Texas A&M (6-3, 3-2). 7. Tennessee (5-5, 3-3). 8. Mississippi State (4-5, 2-4). 9. South Carolina (4-6, 3-4). 10. Kentucky (4-5, 2-5). 11. Ole Miss (4-6, 2-4). 12. Vanderbilt (2-7, 1-5). 13. Missouri (5-4, 2-3). 14. Arkansas (2-9, 0-6).

This Saturday's Games

No. 11 Florida at Missouri, 11 a.m., CBS; No. 4 Alabama at Mississippi State, 11 a.m., ESPN; No. 5 Georgia at No. 13 Auburn, 2:30 p.m., CBS; Kentucky at Vanderbilt, 2:30 p.m., SEC Network; No. 1 LSU at Ole Miss, 6 p.m., ESPN; South Carolina at Texas A&M, 6:30 p.m., SEC Network.

Last Saturday's Games

No. 10 Florida 56, Vanderbilt 0; Western Kentucky 45, Arkansas 19; No. 1 LSU 46, No. 2 Alabama 41; Ole Miss 41, New Mexico State, 3; No. 6 Georgia 27, Missouri 0; Appalachian State 20, South Carolina 15; Tennessee 17, Kentucky 13.

Stat of the Week

LSU is 1-0 against Alabama.

Quote of the Century

"We're gonna beat their (expletive) in recruiting. We're going to beat their (expletive) every time they see us. You understand that? Roll Tide what? (Expletive) you." — LSU coach Ed Orgeron in what he thought was a private moment with his team in the locker room after LSU's 46-41 win at Alabama, but it was recorded and streamed by a player on his phone.