Top 25 Football: Alabama 27, LSU 21, OT
BATON ROUGE, La. ó With a heavy police escort, Nick Saban returned to Tiger Stadium wearing crimson. He barely got out of town with top-ranked Alabama still unbeaten.
After the Crimson Tide missed a chip-shot field goal on the final play of regulation, John Parker Wilson scored on a 1-yard sneak in overtime to give Alabama a 27-21 victory over No. 15 LSU on Saturday, clinching a spot in the SEC championship game.
The Tide (10-0, 6-0 SEC) has its eyes on a bigger prize, of course, and stayed on course for its first national title in 16 years. This was its toughest test yet, coming at a school Saban led to a share of the national championship in 2003.
The coach is now reviled by many of the Tigers faithful, who consider him a traitor for turning up at rival Alabama just two years after he traded LSU for the NFL. He was booed loudly when he came on the field, surrounded by a larger-than-usual contingent of state troopers that grew to a dozen by the time the game finally ended.
“I know that there are some people that may have a negative attitude, but I can honestly say that I really appreciate the people who spoke to me, thanked me and welcomed me back here,” Saban said. “We have special memories of this place. We always will, and no one will ever tarnish those no matter what they do.”
Saban walked toward the LSU end of the stadium afterward, hugging several of the Tigers he brought to Baton Rouge. Then he took off toward the Alabama locker room ó with all those troopers struggling to keep up ó and pointed toward the Alabama contingent before disappearing into the tunnel.
There were no hard feelings about those fans who held up signs such as “Miles Over $aban” ó a reference to his LSU successor, Les Miles, and the $4 million-a-year deal that lured him back to the college ranks at Alabama.
“It’s really not sweeter clinching the (SEC) West in Tiger Stadium,” Saban said, his voice rising. “It really isn’t. My emotions for this place are positive, not negative. I didn’t leave LSU to go to Alabama. I left LSU to go to Miami. Myself and my family learned that we didn’t like professional football as much as we liked college. So we had the best opportunity to return to college football at the University of Alabama. There is nothing personal in that for me.”
After Charles Scott tied it for LSU on a 1-yard touchdown run with just over 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Alabama drove into position to win it. From the 12, and Saban called his final timeout with 3 seconds remaining.
Leigh Tiffin lined up for a 29-yard field goal, but his kick was low and Ricky-Jean Francois swiped it away with his big right hand.
LSU got the ball first in overtime, only to give away even a shot at the field goal when Jarrett Lee threw his fourth interception ó the third pick of the game by Alabama’s Rashad Johnson. The Tide didn’t even bother with another field goal try.
Wilson hit Julio Jones along the sideline, and the freshman dragged his defender to the 1 for a 24-yard gain. LSU stuffed the Tide on first down, but Wilson powered across on the next play to win it.