TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The first time Jordan Jefferson entered a game this season, LSU fans booed.
Fifth-year senior Jarrett Lee had stepped in behind center after Jefferson, with 27 career starts, was suspended for four games for his alleged involvement in an off-campus bar fight. Lee had led the Tigers to a perfect 4-0 start and a No. 1 national ranking by the time Jefferson was reinstated for the Kentucky game on Oct. 1.
But the return of Jefferson prompted LSU coach Les Miles to use a two-quarterback system, Lee always the starter but Jefferson gradually working into a more prominent role.
Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Miles showed everyone why.
Jefferson relieved an ineffective Lee early in top-ranked LSU’s scintillating 9-6 overtime victory, giving the Tigers just enough offense to take down No. 2 Alabama and its suffocating defense.
“Jordan can help us move the ball laterally,” LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell said. “That’s something we wanted to change up from our power running attack.”
Miles turned to Jefferson first after Lee, intercepted only once in the first eight games, was picked off by Alabama safety Robert Lester to end LSU’s second offensive possession. He went to him again after Lee threw another interception early in the third quarter, this one corralled by Mark Barron to set up an Alabama field goal.
All told, Jefferson played eight of LSU’s final nine possessions, including the one overtime possession.
“Just felt like in this game a couple of scrambles made differences,” Miles said. “Just moving the chains in this game made it an advantage and gave us a little something there.”
Lee, who finished 3 of 7 for 24 yards with the two interceptions, took only one snap beyond the first quarter.
Jefferson had modest numbers - going 6 of 10 for 67 yards through the air and rushing 11 times for 43 yards - but he allowed the Tigers to attack the Crimson Tide’s top-ranked rush defense with speed on the perimeter.
Instead of using a power running game spearheaded by leading rusher Spencer Ware, LSU went more with the combination of Jefferson and No. 2 back Michael Ford as the game wore on.
Stretch option plays involving the Jefferson-Ford tandem were most effective.
“Whatever the game plan calls for, we’re going to go out and do it,” said Ford, who led all LSU rushers with 72 yards on 11 carries, said. “Coaches have us prepared for games like this.”
Miles had been preparing Jefferson for a while - often to the dismay of LSU fans.
But when LSU needed an offensive spark with championship implications at stakes, Miles turned to Jefferson and got the results the Tigers needed.
“Jarrett’s been through tougher stuff than throwing two picks in the Alabama game,” Blackwell said. “We’ll pick him back up and he’ll be back next week.”
Neither LSU quarterback was made available to the media after the game.