Alabama’s Playoff Hopes Dim with 32-31 OT Loss to LSU
Alabama, which was favored by nearly two touchdowns, lost in overtime to LSU 32-31 in Tiger Stadium Saturday night. It was the Crimson Tide’s first loss in Death Valley since 2010.
LSU’s first-year coach Brian Kelly, who as Notre Dame’s coach lost to Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide twice in college football’s postseason, became the coach to break that streak in the first year of his 10-year contract worth nearly $100 million.
Jayden Daniels ran for 25-yard touchdown in overtime and then found Mason Taylor for a do-or-die 2-point conversion, giving the 15th-ranked LSU an upset victory over No. 6 Alabama.
The loss drops Alabama to 7-2 and 4-2 in the SEC, virtually ending the Crimson Tide’s hopes of reaching the College Football Playoffs.
It would also be difficult for Alabama to make it to the SEC Championship Game. LSU is now 5-1 in the SEC and would represent the SEC West at the game in Atlanta as long as it beats Arkansas and Texas A&M. For Alabama to reach the game, LSU would have to lose both games and Alabama would have to beat Ole Miss and Auburn.
The surprising LSU victory included six second-half lead changes.
Alabama began overtime with the ball and took a 31-24 lead on Roydell Williams’ second touchdown of the game.
But Daniels needed just one play in overtime to score and force a decision by Kelly to try to tie it with a kick or let Daniels try to win it.
“I just love the way our guys competed. I didn’t want to keep going in overtime,” Kelly said as jubilant fans stormed onto the field. “It just felt like it was the right time to try to win the game.”
Daniels passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 95 yards and a score.
Alabama’s Bryce Young passed for 328 yards and one touchdown, and also was intercepted.
There were three lead changes in the final 4:44, starting when Young narrowly escaped a sack, rolled right and found Ja’Corey Brooks for a 41-yard touchdown.
LSU went back in front 24-21 with 1:47 left in regulation when Daniels hit Taylor in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score.
But Young drove Alabama to the LSU 28 and Will Reichard’s 46-yard field goal with 21 seconds left tied it.
LSU then chose to run out the clock.
Alabama took its first of two fourth-quarter leads with the help of face mask and defensive holding penalties by LSU that negated what would have been a third-down sack at the Tigers 36.
After Jahmyr Gibbs’ 14-yard run to the 2, Williams barreled in to make it 15-14 after a failed 2-point conversion with 12:37 to go.
LSU responded by driving inside the Alabama 15, but the Tide snuffed out Daniels’ third-down keeper, limiting the Tigers to Damian Ramos’ 32-yard field goal with 6:52 to go.
Alabama took its first lead on Will Reichard’s third field goal of the game, concluding a third-quarter drive on which Alabama twice converted on fourth-and-short on runs by Williams.
A crowd of about 102,000 turned Death Valley into “Deaf Valley” with ear-splitting roars that seemed to send vibrations coursing through the nearly century-old stadium.
The Tigers wound up scoring first when John Emery Jr. turned a short Daniels pass into a 30-yard touchdown, high-stepping toward the goal line as former LSU basketball great Shaquille O’Neal pointed at him approvingly from the near sideline.
For Alabama, pass protection has been an issue periodically this season. Young was sacked twice and routinely threw under pressure. He came in completing 66% of his passes for the season but connected on 49% (25 for 51) in Tiger Stadium. Touchdowns also have been scarce lately. Alabama went more than five quarters without one, going back to the second quarter of its victory over Mississippi State on Oct. 22.
Alabama next plays at No. 11 Ole Miss, which had this weekend off.
(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)