It was rarely pretty, but it was a victory, and No. 5 Alabama's still on track for a spot in the College Football Playoff after a struggle-filled 20-13 overtime win at No. 16 LSU.
After a punt-filled second half, LSU appeared to gain the upper hand in the last minute; T.J. Yeldon fumbled inside the Alabama 10 in a tie game, and Colby Delahoussaye banged home a 39-yard field goal with 50 seconds left to make it 13-10 Tigers. Delahoussaye squibbed the ensuing kick out of bounds, though, and Alabama was able to capitalize on the friendly field position and drive for a game-tying field goal with three seconds left.
Alabama QB Blake Sims found DeAndrew White on a gorgeous fade route to give Alabama the lead in OT, and LSU wasn't able to put anything together in its half of the overtime (though there'll be talking for years in Baton Rouge about the no-call for interference on what ended up being the game's final play).
Watching these two teams go head-to-head—the players, the schemes, the head coaches calling the shots—is not dissimilar to watching a major tournament in golf, one of those affairs where the playing conditions are so difficult that it takes superhuman precision to just not have a calamity. That's how difficult each team made it for each other Saturday night. And sure enough, each team had some truly great moments—the game demanded it.
Here's the level of play it took to score a touchdown in regulation:
You can't help but marvel at that level of execution. You can also wish it happened more often, of course—points are fun, we're not robots, we understand this—but these were great plays on the big stage.
Three things we learned
1. Blake Sims is not great... but he's good. Blake was woeful throwing the ball for most of the game, and 45 attempts to get 209 yards is not a good habit to get into. But when his team needed him the most, Sims came up with two clutch drives, guiding the Tide to victory. His nine-play, 55-yard drive in the last minute of regulation was as strong as you can ask from a QB in that situation, and he threw a beautiful fade on what would end up being the game's winning score. And hey: no picks.
2. Les Miles' mojo finally runs out. Despite having an offense that sputtered nearly as badly as Alabama's did, Les Miles looked like he'd pick up yet another victory under the lights of Tiger Stadium after the Yeldon injury and fumble. That would not be the case this night, as the breaks fell uniformly for Bama after that. A personal foul call after the recovery pushed LSU back 15 yards and into a decidedly longer (and less automatic) field goal. The ensuing squib went out of bounds. Alabama had a crucial long reception on the last drive that wasn't reviewed. LSU players couldn't make the catch in OT. On and on it went. It was rather strange to see for one of the most charmed programs (and coaches) in college football today, but so it goes.
3. Alabama stays living on the edge. The SEC West got a serious jolt on Saturday when Auburn suffered its second loss of the season at the hands of Texas A&M, seemingly eliminating the Tigers from playoff contention and chopping the list of likely playoff contenders in the SEC to two: Bama and top-ranked, unbeaten Mississippi State. Oh, wouldn't you know it: those two teams square off next Saturday. Alabama almost certainly can't afford to lose that game if it wants any hope of making the playoff, but this is how controlling your own destiny works.