BATON ROUGE, La. – With Alabama’s hopes of a second straight national title slipping away, A.J. McCarron shook off a dismal second half and guided the Crimson Tide right down the field.
Talk about a Saturday night stunner in Death Valley.
McCarron read an LSU blitz and flipped a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, who did the rest on a 28-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining that gave the top-ranked Crimson Tide a 21-17 victory over No. 5 LSU.
Alabama (9-0 overall, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) now has a clear path to the league title game in Atlanta, and remains solidly on course to defend its national title in Miami.
But this one was a struggle. Led by embattled quarterback Zach Mettenberger, LSU (7-2, 3-2) fought back from a 14-3 halftime deficit.
Jeremy Hill scored on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter, LSU’s first TD against Alabama since 2010 — a span of nearly three full games. Then Mettenberger threw perhaps the best pass of his LSU career, hooking up with Jarvis Landry on a 14-yard touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 17-14 with just under 13 minutes remaining.
LSU was on the verge of putting the game away, driving into Alabama territory and forcing coach Nick Saban to call his remaining timeouts. But Drew Alleman missed a 38-yard field goal, and McCarron took over from there.
He completed three straight passes to Kevin Norwood to put Alabama in scoring position. Then, when LSU brought a corner blitz, he got the ball away quickly to Yeldon. The freshman running back broke one tackle and faked out another defender, racing to the end zone for the winning score.
“I’m really, really pleased with that last drive,” Saban said. “That’s something I’ll never forget.”
Before the final drive, McCarron was 1-for-7 for zero yards in the second half. All was forgiven when he guided the Crimson Tide on a lightning-quick 72-yard drive.
LSU also was forced to overcome some dubious calls by coach Les Miles, who kept reaching into his bag of tricks — and kept getting burned. A fake field goal was stuffed. An onside kick didn’t work. And going for it on fourth down in Alabama territory didn’t work out either.
“I wish I had a couple of my calls back,” Miles said.