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College Classic Rewind: LSU Defeats ‘Bama in Inaugural “Saban Bowl”

Posted on November 01, 2011 by A.J. Foss

This Saturday, #1 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa to face off with #2 Alabama in the latest “Game of the Century”.

This showdown between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide is the latest chapter in a SEC rivalry where the intensity has risen since Nick Saban became the head coach at Alabama.

From 2000-2004, Saban was the head coach at LSU where he compiled a 48-16 record, won two SEC Championships, and the 2003 BCS National Championship in his five seasons at Baton Rouge.

Saban left LSU following the 2004 season to become the head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins while Les Miles moved from Oklahoma State to become the LSU head coach.

During the next two years, Miles would lead LSU to back-to-back 11-win seasons while Saban would struggle in Miami as he compiled a 15-17 record during that same time.

Almost immediately after the 2006 NFL season ended, Saban left Miami to become the Tide’s head coach, which in the minds of LSU fans was seen as an act of betrayal since ‘Bama played in the same division as LSU, the SEC West.

So when ‘Bama hosted LSU on the first Saturday in November 2007, it was an emotionally-charged game for the Tigers as the fan base demanded a victory over Saban and the Tide.

Alabama entered the game as the #17 team with a 6-2 record, and were 4-1 in the SEC, tying them with #3 LSU who were 7-1 but also had a 4-1 SEC record.

While he was putting LSU in the national title hunt, Miles was receiving criticism from the LSU fan base for some of his unconventional play-calling, especially in a triple overtime loss to Kentucky a few weeks back.

A win over Saban could go a long way in to exorcising some demons for Miles.

Alabama got the ball to start the game and drove down for a 36-yard field goal by Leigh Tiffin to put the Tide up 3-0, only to have the Tigers answer with a field goal of their own to end their opening drive, a 43-yarder by Colt David to tie the game at 3-3.

Then on the second play of Alabama’s next drive, quarterback John Parker Wilson was picked off by cornerback Chevis Jackson, who returned it 18 yards to the Tide’s 12-yard-line, setting up a 10-yard touchdown pass from Flynn to Early Doucet to put LSU on top 10-3 with 4:30 left in the first quarter.

‘Bama went three-and-out on its next possession, and punted the ball back to LSU, who took over at their own 46.

That is where “The Mad Hatter” struck as Flynn took the snap and handed it off to running back Jacob Hester, who then handed it off to Doucet on an end-around, who fired a pass for Flynn.

Flynn made the catch for a 35-yard gain to the Alabama 19-yard-line and five plays later, Hester punched it in from the 1 on the first play of the second quarter to increase the Tigers’ lead to 17-3.

Alabama's D.J. Hall celebrates his long touchdown catch in the 1st half of the Tide's showdown with LSU.

Both teams punted on their next possessions and it appeared Alabama would punt for the second straight possession when Wilson threw an incomplete pass on a 3rd down, but got a break when defensive end Tyson Jackson was called for roughing-the-passer giving the Tide a 1st down.

On the very next play, Wilson fired a deep pass for D.J. Hall, who made the catch and ran it in for a 67-yard touchdown to cut the LSU lead to 17-10.

Following the long touchdown, Flynn went into a downward spiral as he was intercepted on LSU’s next three possessions, which the Tide converted into 10 points to take a 20-17 lead.

The first interception was made by Rashad Johnson but Alabama was unable to convert the turnover into points and punted the ball back to LSU, who took over at their own 5-yard-line.

Then on 2nd-and-10, Flynn was picked off by linebacker Ezekiel Knight to give ‘Bama the ball at the LSU 10, only to have the Tigers’ defense hold and force a field goal, which Tiffin made from 21 yards out to cut the deficit to 17-13.

It appeared Flynn was back on track on LSU’s next series as he led the Tigers from their own 17 to the Tide’s 23-yard-line, only to be intercepted by Kareem Jackson, who returned the interception 51 yards to the LSU 35-yard-line and had 15 yards added to the return after a personal foul was called on Hester.

Wilson was sacked on 1st down for a nine-yard loss, but on 2nd down he found Keith Brown in the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown to put Alabama in the lead for the first time at 20-17 with 46 seconds left in the first half.

Flynn would complete four passes for 39 yards to give LSU a chance to tie the game with a field goal before the end of the half.

But Colt David’s 46-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Kareem Jackson as time expired, with the Tide going into the halftime break with a 20-17 lead.

The defenses controlled most of the third quarter as neither team could mount a scoring drive until late in the quarter when the Tide went 80 yards in eight plays, which culminated with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Brown to increase ‘Bama’s lead to 27-17 with 1:19 left in the third quarter.

It only took two plays for LSU to cut the lead back to three points as Flynn connected with Demetrius Byrd on a 61-yard touchdown to make it a 27-24 game with 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

The Tigers’ defense forced a ‘Bama punt on their next possession to get the ball back on their own 27-yard-line when Flynn and Byrd connected on another deep pass, this time for 35 yards, which lead to Colt David’s game-tying 49-yard field goal with 11:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.

John Parker Wilson is sacked by Chad Jones and fumbles the ball which sets up LSU's game-winning touchdown.

Alabama was forced to punt again on their next series, but their defense forced to LSU to punt the ball on their next possession when sophomore punt returner Javier Arenas made his presence felt.

Arenas took the punt at his 39-yard-line, and ran up the middle untouched for a 61-yard touchdown to give the Tide the lead again at 34-27 midway through the final quarter.

Both teams went three-and-out on their next possessions, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 16-yard-line with 4:53 to play in regulation.

Flynn completed five passes to lead LSU to the Bama 32-yard-line where they faced with a 4th-and-4 with just under three minutes to play.

Despite having two timeouts in his pocket, Miles decided to go for the 1st down.

Miles got more than the 1st down as Flynn found Doucet over the middle, who made the catch and ran in untouched for a 32-yard touchdown that along with Colt David’s extra point, tied the game at 34 with 2:49 left in regulation.

‘Bama took over at their own 32-yard-line and all three timeouts remaining but an incomplete pass and a quarterback sack led them to a 3rd-and-12.

That is when defensive end Chad Jones burst through the middle to not only sack Wilson, but knocked the ball loose which bounced to the Tide’s 3-yard-line where safety Curtis Taylor made the recovery to give LSU a chance for the go-ahead touchdown.

Hester gained two yards on 1st-and-goal, then scored on 2nd down to put the Tigers on top 41-34 with 1:26 to play.

The Tide’s last ditch drive to send the game into overtime starting from their own 28-yard-line with Wilson running for 21 yards on the first play of the drive.

But Wilson would throw four straight incomplete passes to turn the ball over on downs, and allowing for LSU to take a knee and run out the clock and come away with a 41-34 victory.

The win jumped LSU to #2 in the rankings and helped them clinch the SEC Western Division title and a berth in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

But it seemed the Tigers’ national title hopes came to an end in their regular season finale when they upset by the Arkansas Razorbacks 50-48 in triple overtime.

Les Miles and Nick Saban shake hands following LSU's victory over Alabama.

However, after a series of upsets of other teams and a 21-14 SEC Championship Game victory against Tennessee, the Tigers landed a spot in the BCS Championship Game where they defeated Ohio State 38-24 for their second national championship in five years.

As for Alabama, the loss to LSU sent them into a tailspin as they lost their last three games of the regular season, including a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, which landed them a spot in the Independence Bowl where they defeated the Colorado Buffaloes 30-24 to finish the season with a 7-6 record.

However, the Tide would rise back to national prominence the following two seasons as they went undefeated through the 2008 regular season and then went 14-0 in 2009 to win the national title making Saban only the second coach to win national championships at two different schools.

Last season, LSU defeated Alabama 24-21 to even the series at 2-2 since Saban’s arrival at Tuscaloosa in 2007.


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