No one could have predicted this.
LSU gave everything it had and then some, but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers fell to the second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, 20-14 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Max Johnson’s pass to the end zone on the final play of the game was batted down, providing an unsatisfying ending for the Purple & Gold faithful watching across the country.
The Tigers had multiple chances to take the lead in the fourth quarter, but untimely sacks and turnovers cost them their chance at possibly the biggest upset in the history of the series.
Instead, LSU falls to the Tide for the 10th time in its last 11 tries. The Tigers have dropped four of their last five overall.
LSU’s last/best chance to win the game came with 12:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Taking over on their own 19 yard line, the Tigers were 81 yards from tying the game.
After a penalty set the offense back five yards, Max Johnson hit Jaray Jenkins to get LSU out of the shadows of its goalpost.
From there, Ty Davis-Price, who finished with 104 yards on 23 carries, did the heavy lifting.
His 37-yard carry on 4th & 1 put LSU on the Alabama eight yard line. Following a one yard plunge to get the ball to the seven, LSU had three shots at the end zone.
Bama brought the pressure and it overwhelmed Johnson, who threw three straight incompletions.
The Tide would give it back to LSU on a fumble by quarterback Bryce Young. Cameron Lewis knocked the ball loose, and Jaquelin Roy was there to fall on it.
Once again, Ed Orgeron would look to Johnson to make a play, but he could not. Three more incompletions gave the ball back to Alabama, effectively shutting down the upset bid.
Still, it was an impressive effort for a team that was written off as a near 30-point underdog.
Missing most of its secondary, its best receiver, and sliding towards the end of a second straight disappointing season, LSU put together its strongest 60 minutes of defensive football against its most bitter rival.
Orgeron went for broke early on, knowing that his team had to start fast.
On the Tigers opening possession, Coach O took a cue from his predecessor Les Miles and dialed up a fake punt on 4th & 4 from the LSU 48.
Avery Atkins found tight end Jack Mashburn on a jump pass for a 26 yard gain.
Four plays later, Johnson connected with Brian Thomas Jr. out of the backfield, who walked into the end zone for an eight yard score.
Unfortunately, Johnson could never really find a rhythm, finishing the game with just 16 completions in 32 attempts for 160 yards, two touchdowns, and a very costly interception that would lead to Alabama’s go-ahead touchdown just before the end of the first half.
LSU dominated the line of scrimmage defensively, pressuring Young all evening and eliminating the Crimson Tide’s ground attack. The Tigers held Alabama to 308 total yards, including only six on the ground and collected four sacks.
The only thing LSU couldn’t do was take away the big play.
When Young did have the time to throw, he was able to find John Metchie III and Jameson Williams in single coverage against the depleted Tigers defense.
The Tide scored all three of its touchdowns within a six minute stretch over the final three minutes of the first half and the first three of the second.
Alabama tied the game after a long march that was capped by a Brian Robinson Jr. two yard run.
After finding Metchie for an eight-yard TD pass following Johnson’s pick, Young connected with Williams on a 58 yard bomb on Alabama’s first possession of the second half. A missed extra point would leave the score at 20-7.
LSU would close to within six when Jack Bech scored on an eight-yard pass from Johnson, setting up the frantic final quarter.
The Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) return home to Death Valley for the “Battle for the Boot” next Saturday versus the Arkansas Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3).
But thoughts will linger for a day or two over what could have been for the team with supposedly, “nothing to play for.”
“I felt like we had something to lose, because we had the game to lose and that’s important to us,” Orgeron said down on the field after this stinging defeat.
“We should have won the game,” he added. “Our guys played their hearts out.”