Tigers and Tide turned on several focal points

Associated Press photo by BILL HABERAlabama quarterback AJ McCarron is congratulated by fans after the Crimson Tide defeated LSU, 21-17, on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.
Associated Press photo by BILL HABERAlabama quarterback AJ McCarron is congratulated by fans after the Crimson Tide defeated LSU, 21-17, on Saturday in Tiger Stadium.

BY PERRYN KEYS

Assistant sports editor

What else did you expect?

Saturday night, as Tiger Stadium came to life in the second half, LSU and Alabama met in another epic showdown between two of the decade’s most successful teams. It was in doubt until the very end. It was a thriller. It was worth a closer look. Here are some of the focal points:

ALABAMA’S STRONG STARTS

Coming into Saturday’s game, the Crimson Tide had been dominant in the first and second quarters, outscoring opponents 208-31.

But LSU did more than hold its own in the opening 15 minutes, holding Alabama scoreless for the first time this season. The Tigers took a 3-0 lead into the second period, thanks to a strong drive that led to Drew Alleman’s 38-yard field goal.

The Crimson Tide responded, however, scoring two touchdowns in the final nine minutes before halftime — the first on Eddie Lacy’s hard-charging 7-yard run at the 8:17 mark, the second on AJ McCarron’s 9-yard scramble up the middle with 11 seconds to go. The two scoring drives covered 155 yards.

KICKING TALES

Alabama kickers missed four field goals during last year’s showdown at Bryant-Denny Stadium, a 9-6 LSU win.

Through three quarters, all Jeremy Shelley had to do was convert two extra points, which he did.

On the other hand, LSU struggled. Alleman connected on his 38-yarder, but the Tigers botched a fake field goal on a fourth-and-12 (the attempt would’ve been from 47 yards). Alleman was later short on a 54-yard try.

And Alleman was wide left on a 45-yard attempt with 1:34 remaining.

RED-ZONE SUCCESS

LSU sometimes bogged down before it reached Alabama’s 20-yard line — but when the Tigers did, they succeeded, going 2-for-2.

Alabama was 2-for-3. The Crimson Tide’s only failure came in the third quarter, when T.J. Yeldon dropped a handoff at the 10-yard line.

LSU’S RECEIVERS

The Tigers receivers dropped three passes in the first half, when quarterback Zach Mettenberger completed 10 of 18 passes.

But the wideouts bounced back in a big way during the frenetic second half. They caught three third-down passes on LSU’s first touchdown drive.

Later, in the fourth quarter, they trumped themselves. Jarvis Landy made an acrobatic 14-yard touchdown grab, over the extended right hand of Alabama’s Deion Belue.

Odell Beckham Jr. also had a stellar 22-yard catch on the sideline with less than three minutes remaining.

The longest pass play, however, went to fullback J.C. Copeland, who broke two tackles and raced down the sideline for a 42-yard gain.

Beckham and Landry combined for 149 yards.

TOUCHDOWNS, ANYONE?

You remember the story: In two meetings last season, LSU and Alabama combined for one touchdown. Their third meeting in less than a year provided much more. LSU came alive with two in the second half. Bama countered with two TDs in the first half, plus T.J. Yeldon’s reception with 51 seconds left.

NO MIDFIELD CRISIS

In the Jan. 9 BCS title game, LSU didn’t get across midfield until the fourth quarter. This time, the Tigers crossed the 50-yard line on their first two possessions.

In fact, LSU had more first downs in the first quarter (eight) than they had in the BCS title game.

PUNTERS NO PROBLEM

LSU punter Brad Wing didn’t unleash a 73-yarder like he did last November at Alabama, but he pinned two punts inside the 20 and finished with a 45.5-yard average.

Perryn Keys