No. 4 Crimson Tide rides big efforts by Henry, defense to propel it past No. 2 LSU (via Crimson Magazine)
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine
By Stan J. Griffin: November 8, 2015
Although Saturday's much-hyped Southeastern Conference showdown between No. 2 LSU and No. 4 Alabama was competitive for a half in terms of the scoreboard, there was never any doubt about which team was the dominating force for this evening.
The Crimson Tide used a methodical offensive attack led by junior tailback Derrick Henry to dominate time of possession, pile up yardage and eventually break the game open against a weary Tiger defense. Alabama also rode a smothering defensive effort that held the Tigers' talented sophomore tailback Leonard Fournette to 31 yards while generally stifling the LSU offensive effort overall.
The result was a convincing 30-16 win for the Crimson Tide in front of a capacity crowd of 101,821 in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The win, Alabama's sixth in a row since a home loss to Ole Miss, and fifth in a row over LSU, improved the Crimson Tide to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in SEC play. LSU, with its first defeat of the season, fell to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in league play.
Most importantly, the big win allowed the Crimson Tide to regain control of its destiny in the SEC West thanks to the 53-52 victory by Arkansas at Ole Miss Saturday.
Now Alabama must just win its final two league games against Mississippi State next week and then against Auburn Nov. 28 to claim the SEC West title and return to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 5.
"I was really proud of our team - the way they competed in the game today, they really did everything we ask them to do," said Saban. "We ask guys to go out and dominate their box, win the one-on-one battles and matchups. [We tell them] go do your job, be disciplined and execute and do what you need to do. We didn’t play perfectly, but I thought it was really important that we could control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. We did a really good job with that in terms of being able to run it and keep the ball away from their offense because they have some very explosive players. We did a good job up front on defense in stopping their running game. They did hit a few big play passes on us. In the first half, they quick snapped us a couple times. They were kind of messing with the substitutions and we were getting in late and not getting lined up and they hit a couple big plays on us. Other than that, it was really a well-played game by our team. It was a great atmosphere out there. Our fans were fantastic in this game, and I think they really helped our players and affected the game to some degree and it was a huge advantage for us. [I ] can’t say enough about Derrick Henry. Nobody feels worse about the fumble at the end [than he does]. They were really ripping at the ball. That gave them a score. It was a great drive to take the clock at the end of the game when we got the ball at around the eight-yard line, and went down the field and even overcame a holding penalty. I thought our offense did a fantastic job of running the football and throwing it just enough to keep them off balance. Jake [Coker] did a good job and I was really pleased with the offensive line. It was really a great team win. Special teams were really good today too as the field position on some of the kickoff coverages was really good. I think when you play an offensive team like that, it really affects them. They have a really good team, they have some really good players, and they’re really well coached. I’m just really proud of our team for what they were able to accomplish out there on the field today."
While the win was a solid team effort for the Crimson Tide, the star of the show was Henry, who carried the ball a career-high 38 times (the third-most carries in UA history) for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
He averaged nearly six yards per carry and perhaps placed himself prominently in the Heisman Trophy conversation, leading his team to a win in a pivotal contest brimming with SEC and national implications.
The opposing defenses controlled the early stages of the contest and neither offense was able to put any points on the board during the first 15 minutes.
Early in the second period, though, Alabama was able to scratch for the game's first points, as Adam Griffith hit a 22-yard field goal at the 11:08 mark to put the Tide up 3-0. The successful kick capped a 15-play, 87-yard march.
A few minutes later, Henry made the score 10-0 as he capped a 3-play, 57-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run.
With just over six minutes left in the half, LSU got on the scoreboard as Brandon Harris hit Travin Dural on a 40-yard TD pass to cut the Alabama advantage to 10-7. This capped a 6-play, 75-yard Bengal Tiger march.
The Tigers tied the score at 10-10 as Trent Domingue nailed a 39-yard field goal at the 2:22 mark.
With just 14 seconds remaining before halftime, though, Griffith put Alabama back in the lead with a 55-yard field goal, the second-longest field goal in Crimson Tide history, to make the score 13-10 at the half.
The third quarter began with LSU in possession of the ball, and on the Tigers' first play, Harris was intercepted by Tide linebacker Dillon Lee, who returned the pigskin to the LSU 28.
Shortly afterward, Alabama capitalized on the LSU turnover as Henry scored on a 1-yard run at the 13-minute mark to stretch the Tide lead to 20-10.
As the Tide defense continued to frustrate Fournette and his offensive mates, Alabama continued to make clutch plays of its own offensively.
Late in the period, the Crimson Tide put together an 11-play, 73-yard drive.
That series ended with a 7-yard run by Henry at the 2:47 mark. Entering the final quarter, the Tide had a comfortable 27-10 advantage.
After a poor punt by LSU, the Tide regained possession of the ball at the Tiger 39.
Early in the final quarter, Alabama capitalized on that field position by building its lead to 30-10 on a 29-yard field goal by Griffith.
A bit later, LSU recovered a fumble by Henry and was able to set up shop at the Alabama 22.
Five plays into this possession, Fournette scored on a 1-yard run at the 9:18 mark to pull LSU within 30-16, with the Tide's A'Shawn Robinson blocking the Tiger extra point.
Alabama began its ensuing possession at the Crimson Tide 4, and was able to run out the clock with a crucial 14-play, 78-yard drive in which Henry carried the ball 12 times.
The Tide totaled 434 yards and 28 first downs offensively in the victory while holding the Tigers to 182 total yards and just 12 first downs The Tide also held onto the ball for 39.27 of game time while LSU's possession time was only 20:33.
Kenyan Drake added 68 yards rushing on 10 carries while also catching 3 passes for 40 yards.
Jake Coker again played efficiently and turnover-free as he completed 18 of 24 passes for 184 yards.
Calvin Ridley was the leading pass catcher on the night as he snared 7 passes for 51 yards.
Besides Griffith hitting all three of his field goal tries, punter JK Scott had three kicks for an average of 45 yards, including a long of 50 yards.
Defensively, Geno Matias-Smith led UA with 6 tackles, with Jarran Reed adding 5 and Dalvin Tomlison 4. Robinson had 2 tackles for loss while Lee contributed an interception and a sack.
The Alabama defense created seven plays of negative yardage by the LSU offense in the game, including seven tackles for loss and two quarterback sacks.
“Congratulations to Alabama. They played very well and worked very hard. We couldn’t get on track offensively," said LSU coach Les Miles. "The first half defense, I thought they played pretty hard. We go to 10-10 and they come back and get a field goal just before half. At that point, we want to take the second half kickoff and go down and score. This is a kind of game we don’t expect. Again, the opening of the second half and the turnover on the opening play. If [sophomore quarterback] Brandon Harris would have just ran the edge, that’s a different play. I think that’s some growth there that needs to take place on offense. Defensively, in the back half, I think the opponent had the ball 10 more minutes than we did, about twice the number of plays. Our defense was on the field for the whole second half virtually. We have to improve. We can’t take those kinds of events. This football team is much better than they showed tonight.”
Alabama continues its season next Saturday at Mississippi State (7-2 overall; 3-2 in the SEC).
Kickoff time for that game has been set for 2:30 p.m. CT and will be televised by CBS.
Courtesy of Crimson Magazine