BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Jalen Hurts broke loose for a 21-yard touchdown run to break a scoreless tie early in the fourth quarter, and No. 1 Alabama’s defense thoroughly stifled Leonard Fournette and LSU in a 10-0 victory over the 15th-ranked Tigers on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 1 CFP) won for the sixth straight time against LSU (5-3, 3-2, No. 13 CFP), and remained alone in first place in the SEC West – a game ahead of Auburn.
Hurts, a freshman who has exceeded expectations by establishing himself as one of the most dynamic, explosive players in college football, was the game’s leading rusher with 114 yards on 20 carries. He also completed 10 of 19 passes for 107 yards.
LSU had had its share of big plays – but all on defense, forcing Hurts into an early interception and late fumble. But LSU’s offense could not capitalize against menacing defensive end Jonathan Allen and the rest of Alabama’s suffocating defense.
The Tigers finished with just 125 total yards. Fournette, whose 2015 Heisman Trophy hopes faded when he was held to 31 yards on 19 carries in Tuscaloosa last year, had 35 yards on 17 carries. One game after touchdown runs of 78, 76 and 59 yards against Mississippi, Fournette’s longest run against the Crimson Tide was 9 yards.
LSU’s Danny Etling completed 11 of 24 passes for 92 yards and also was intercepted once in the fourth quarter, leading to a late Alabama field goal. Alabama had five sacks, one more than LSU’s offense had allowed in any other game this season. Allen, linebackers Rashaan Evans and Ryan Anderson; and end Dalvin Tomlinson each sacked Etling, while Rueben Foster and Tim Williams combined on a sack.
Both teams entered the game with highly respected, play-making defenses and those units dictated the play most of the game, which was scoreless through three quarters.
LSU intercepted Hurts’ pass on the game’s opening possession, but could not move the ball and had to settle for a field goal try, which was partially blocked by Alabama’s Ronnie Harrison.
Alabama did not drive into field goal range until about 6 minutes remained in the second quarter, but Adam Griffith’s kick hooked wide left.
At the end of the first half, a defensive stand by LSU deep in Alabama territory got the Tigers the ball back at the Crimson Tide 47, but Alabama’s defense did not allow LSU to approach field goal range.
The Tide appeared to be on the brink of the game’s first points after Hurts lofted a pin-point, play-action pass deep down the middle of the field to ArDarius Stewart for a 52-yard gain to the LSU 8, but four plays later, LSU linebacker Duke Riley and end Arden Key dropped Hurts for a 5-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
The Tigers’ defense came up big yet again when end Frank Heron sacked and stripped Hurts, and Key recovered on the Alabama 42. But the LSU offense only went backward, hurt by a delay-of-game and intentional grounding penalties.
Alabama: LSU coach Ed Orgeron said earlier this week that Alabama might have the best defense in college football history, and he might be right.
LSU: As much as LSU has tried open up its offense by changing formations and passing more, Etling didn’t have the poise, or the blocking to succeed against Alabama. LSU’s running game suffered because of the Tigers’ inability to throw.
Alabama: Alabama continues to strengthen its case as the best team in the nation.
LSU: The Tigers might not tumble out of the Top 25 because of how close it played the nation’s top team, but it will fall.
Alabama: The Tide hosts Mississippi State next Saturday.
LSU: The Tigers travel to meet Arkansas next weekend.