TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – It was the first half LSU fans dreamed of and a second half that trended toward a nightmare, but the No. 2 Tigers (9-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) held on to beat No. 3 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) 46-41 in the “Game of the Century II.”
Junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, standing at 5-foot-8, 209 pounds, was the one to slay the giant that has haunted LSU for the last decade. The Baton Rouge native carried the ball 20 times for 103 yards and three touchdowns and added nine receptions for 77 yards and another touchdown.
An explosive first half saw LSU score 33 points, which is the most LSU has scored against Alabama since 2007, and senior quarterback Joe Burrow throw for 252 yards and three touchdowns on 18-of-20 passing.
LSU’s offense was boosted by key plays early on defense and special teams. On the game’s opening possession, Alabama Tua Tagovailoa fumbled near the goal line, and LSU junior outside linebacker Ray Thornton recovered.
Burrow quickly led the LSU offense down the field and struck first on the scoreboard with a 33-yard touchdown to sophomore wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase. Then a miscue on a punt led to LSU starting its second drive on Alabama’s 40-yard line. LSU settled for a field goal, and the 10 points scored in the first 10 minutes of the game matched the 10 points LSU scored in its three previous games against the Tide.
The quick start turned into a furious finish to the first half for LSU. Edwards-Helaire scored his first touchdown of the game with 26 seconds left in the half, then on the next play from scrimmage junior linebacker Patrick Queen intercepted Tagovailoa to set up another touchdown for Edwards-Helaire.
“We felt all week we were the better football team,” said LSU coach Ed Orgeron. “We said it to our team on Monday, ‘we’re the better football team, but we’re going to have go there and prove it.’ We proved it today.”
But the Tide rallied in the third quarter.
Led by running back Najee Harris, Alabama cut the LSU lead to six. Alabama drove 95 yards in 10 plays. Harris carried the ball four times for 50 yards and caught a screen pass for a gain of 23 to move Alabama inside the red zone.
Then Harris made fantastic catch in one-on-one coverage for a 15-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa.
After a stop by Alabama’s defense, the Tide offense once again had to march the length of the field to score. Alabama went right back to Harris who rushed six times for 26 yards on the drive. Harris capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown, cutting LSU’s lead to 33-27.
But LSU’s offense led by Burrow and Edwards-Helaire punched back with a 12-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown to push LSU’s lead back to 39-27. On the drive, Burrow was five-for-seven for 38 yards and converted three third downs. Edwards-Helaire carried the ball four times for 22 yards and his final carry was a 5-yard touchdown.
However, Alabama didn’t go down easy. The Tide went 75 yards on 14 plays, converting a third-and-19 and two fourth down attempts. On fourth-and-goal from the 5, Tagovailoa connect with Jerry Jeudy for a touchdown, trimming the lead to 39-34.
But once again, Burrow, Edwards-Helaire and the LSU offense responded. Burrow was three-for-three on the drive for 50 yards and an 18-yard run on third-and-two that set up a 7-yard touchdown for Edwards-Helaire.
Alabama struck back quickly with an 85-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa to DeVonta Smith, but LSU recovered the onside kick with one minute, 20 seconds left and Alabama only had two timeouts remaining.
On the first play of the final possession, it was Edwards-Helaire who powered for a 12-yard gain and a first down to end the game.
Burrow finished 31-of-39 for 393 yards and three touchdowns and 14 carries for 64 yards. Defensively, sophomore outside linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson led LSU with 10 tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss.
The win ended an eight-game win streak for Alabama over LSU. The Tigers travel to Oxford, Mississippi, next week where they will play Ole Miss.
“This was such a great win for us, but one thing that I want to make sure we know is this wasn’t our goals,” Burrow said. “We’ve got more goals ahead of us. We didn’t go into the season saying we’re going to go beat Alabama. We’ve got more things ahead of us.”