TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - No. 3 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) used a dominant fourth quarter in which they outscored No. 9 LSU (7-2, 4-2 SEC) 14-0 to come from behind and beat the Tigers, 24-15, to clinch the Crimson Tide's second consecutive SEC Western Division title.
After a first half that saw the Tigers take a 7-3 lead into the break, both teams came out firing in a wild second half that featured three lead changes.
Alabama came out scorching on the opening drive of the second half with an eight-play, 81-yard touchdown drive. Wide receiver Darius Hanks caught the final strike, a 21-yard pass from Greg McElroy to put the Tide on top, 10-7. Alabama running back Mark Ingram asserted himself on the drive, accounting for 58 of the 81 yards.
Alabama's next drive started at its own one-yard line after a precise punt from LSU's Derek Helton, and on third-and-nine, McElroy was called for intentional grounding in the end zone to give the Tigers a safety and cut the lead to 10-9.
With a short field on the ensuing drive, LSU pounded the ball with its running game and moved 59 yards for the go-ahead score on an eight-yard Stevan Ridley run. The Tigers ran the ball on five of the six plays in the drive with the big blow coming on a 34-yard rumble by Charles Scott. LSU went for two and failed, leaving the score at 15-10.
Needing to regain momentum, Alabama turned to Ingram, who shouldered the load on the Crimson Tide's next drive. The sophomore carried the ball on eight of Alabama's 11 plays and gained 53 yards to set up Tiffin for a 20-yard field goal that made the score 15-13 with just more than 12 minutes left in the game.
The Alabama defense forced a three-and-out on the Tigers' next possession, and when the Tide got the ball back, it took just one play to reclaim the lead. McElroy hooked up with Julio Jones on a wide receiver screen and Jones handled the rest, streaking down the sideline for a 73-yard touchdown. Running back Trent Richardson ran in the two-point conversion to give the Tide a 21-15 lead.
Tiffin tacked on a 40-yard field goal with 3:04 left to make it a two-possession game at 24-15 after Alabama had milked several minutes off the clock with its running game. LSU used its final timeout with 11:29 left in the fourth and was unable to stop the clock down the stretch.
A crucial play came midway through the fourth quarter when LSU was called for a running into the kicker penalty that put Alabama in a position to convert a fourth-and-inches play on an Ingram run. That play gave the Tide a chance to grind more important time off the clock. The Alabama defense dominated the fourth quarter, not allowing LSU a first down. Alabama held the ball for nearly 11 minutes in the final quarter, and the Tigers mustered only nine total yards.
Ingram posted big numbers on the ground, carrying 22 times for 144 yards. He also added five catches for 30 yards. Jones eclipsed the 100-yard receiving plateau with four catches for 102 yards. McElroy completed 19-of-34 passes for 276 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
Jefferson completed 10-of-17 passes for 114 yards and a score and ran for 33 yards on seven carries before leaving the game in the second half with an injury. Scott was also hurt in the second half but managed 83 yards on 14 carries before being sidelined.
The defenses set the tone early as the Tide forced two three-and-outs to start the game, while LSU gave up yards but held when it counted to keep Alabama off the board. The Tigers managed just one first down in the first quarter, while the Crimson Tide moved into LSU territory three times but were unable to come away with any points.
LSU found a rhythm offensively at the beginning of the second quarter, moving the ball 91 yards on 13 plays capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Jefferson to Deangelo Peterson, the first time this season that the Tide didn't score first. Jefferson kept the drive alive with a 15-yard scramble on third down and eight, and three plays later, the Tigers had a 7-0 lead. Five of LSU's seven first half first downs came on the drive.
Alabama responded quickly after a big return from Javier Arenas gave the Tide good field position. Trent Richardson had consecutive carries for 15 yards, then McElroy found Maze on a crossing route for 12 yards to move Alabama into the red zone. The Tide settled for a 28-yard field goal from Leigh Tiffin to make the score 7-3.
Alabama had one more opportunity to score as the first half wound down when McElroy completed five straight passes in the two-minute drill to put the Tide in scoring range. However, an interception by Kelvin Sheppard at the seven-yard line with 0:29 left ended the threat, and LSU entered the locker room with a 7-3 lead. Wide receiver Marquis Maze was the Crimson Tide's best offensive weapon in the first half, hauling in six catches for 88 yards before the break.
For the game, Alabama gained 452 yards of total offense and made 24 first downs compared to 253 total yards and 13 first downs for LSU.
Linebacker Rolando McClain led Alabama with nine tackles, and defensive end Marcel Dareus came up with two of the Tide's three sacks. Robby Green intercepted a Jarrett Lee pass on LSU's final drive for Alabama's only forced turnover of the game.
Alabama goes on the road to face another SEC West foe in Mississippi State next Saturday, Nov. 14. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central Time with coverage on ESPN or ESPN2.