The LSU Tigers now have an iron grip on the Southeastern Conference Western Division and control of their own SEC Championship destiny.

The No. 5 Tigers ended No. 4 Alabama's undefeated season and national championship hopes in a stunning 16-13 overtime victory on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

"This season, [the win] is a predictable circumstance for our team, considering how it started and how the players handled it," LSU coach Les Miles said. "We felt going into overtime that we would win this game because of the kind of football team we are."

The Tigers won the overtime coin flip and elected to defend first. Alabama kicker Jamie Christensen hit a 34-yard field goal on the Tide's possession to begin overtime, giving Bama a 13-10 lead.

LSU took its possession and drove the ball to the 12-yard line. Facing a third down with 6 yards to go, quarterback JaMarcus Russell threw the game-winning touchdown pass into the arms of wideout Dwayne Bowe, just out of the reach of Bama safety Charlie Peprah.

"It breaks your heart," Alabama coach Mike Shula said. "My heart aches for our football team. We left everything out there on the field, but we didn't play well enough to win."

LSU had to rally to tie the game after a dismal first half in which it was shut out 10-0 by the Crimson Tide. LSU's offense struggled, gaining only 77 offensive yards in the half. The Tigers gained only five first downs in the half to Alabama's 16.

Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle connected on 12 of 26 passes in the first half for 115 yards, and tailback Ken Darby rushed for 74 yards in the half.

"[The locker room at halftime] was quiet because guys knew [Alabama] had caught us off-step in the first half," LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. "We had a job and we had to go out and execute it."

LSU opened the second half with a nine-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard run by running back Justin Vincent for the score. Kicker Chris Jackson tied the game at 10-10 with a 42-yard field goal in LSU's next drive.

"We weren't tight enough on our coverages," Bama linebacker DeMeco Ryans said. "We sat back there too long, and they picked us apart."

The Tiger defense also rebounded, pressuring Croyle the entire half. He was sacked four times after the break, three times by tackle Kyle Williams and once by safety LaRon Landry.

"I think in the third quarter, we only got one pass off," Croyle said. "They played better than we did."

Alabama almost won the game on the last play of regulation. With two seconds remaining, Croyle dumped a sideline pass to tailback Glen Coffee who ran 40 yards before being stopped at the LSU 9-yard line after time expired.

Russell took charge in overtime, connecting with Vincent on a 10-yard pass before hitting Bowe for the game-winning touchdown.

"I think we all did a great job of keeping our head in it, going out there and getting a win," Russell said.

LSU now owns the SEC West tiebreaker over Alabama and can clinch the division championship and a berth in the SEC championship game in Atlanta with conference wins against Ole Miss and Arkansas in the final two games of the season.

 

Contact Parker Wishik at pwishik@lsureveille.com

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