Alabama-LSU Football History

 

 

 

Courtesy Gamezero05

Courtesy Gamezero05

When one thinks of University of Alabama Crimson Tide  and Louisiana State University Tigers football, his thoughts must certainly conjure up images of big, fast teams with strong defenses, power running games, and lots of future professional players (LSU has had 101 players drafted by National Football League teams since 2000 and Alabama has had 96). These two programs have arguably been the most powerful in the nation since the turn of the century. Alabama has won three Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles and three national championships since 2009 while LSU has four SEC titles and two national championships since 2001. Generally, the winner of the Alabama-LSU game positions itself for the SEC championship and the national crown on an annual basis, so the importance of the game has been well documented among the regional and national media. However, that has not always been the case. Alabama dominated the rivalry through the Paul “Bear’ Bryant era.  Although the Tigers won the first game in 1895, 12-6, Alabama leads the overall series, 51-25-5.

The games have been played over the years in Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Birmingham, Mobile, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. The schools began playing on an annual basis in 1964, alternating between Legion Field in Birmingham and Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. Alabama shifted its home games to Tuscaloosa in 1988.

The visiting team has won an inordinate amount of the games in the series. The Tide is 26-9-2 in Louisiana, while keeping the Tigers winless in Baton Rouge from 1971-1998. LSU has won 11 of 16 games in the state of Alabama since 1982. Four overtime games have been played with the road team winning each one. College Football Hall of Fame coach Bryant lost to the Tigers only three times from 1964-1982. After Bryant retired, the series became a true rivalry. Since then Alabama has won 20, including the 2011 national championship game, lost 14, and tied one. Future Hall of Fame coach Nick Saban has played a prodigious role in the recent series. Saban coached LSU from 2000-2004 and beat Alabama four out of five tries. Since taking over the Tide in 2007, he is 8-3 against the Tigers. As one would imagine, the rivalry has produced some memorable stories and games.

Bear Bryant seemed to own the Tigers and was not the least bit intimidated by Tiger Stadium.  He had a pre-game ritual that would enrage Tiger fans and calm his players. Bryant would slowly walk towards the northwest corner of the field where the LSU students sat. His players dressed in suits and ties would then walk around the field while Bryant ambled on over to the left hash mark around the 10-yard line. The Bear, completely composed, would have a nonchalant conversation with a security guard or a member of his staff while the LSU fans were screaming and yelling all sorts of things at him. After about 10 minutes, Bryant would wave to the LSU students, which prompted further abusive language and a chorus of loud boos. When leaving the field amidst the yelling and screaming, Bryant would walk right by Mike’s cage, the live tiger mascot. The purpose of this ritual was to show the team that playing at Tiger Stadium in front of 80,000 plus screaming, rabid fans was really not an issue. Bryant’s record against LSU in Baton Rouge proves the point.

When former LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban battled, their teams played to their respective strengths–aggressive, physical, smash mouth football. So it was unusual that a trick play helped to decide one of these games. Such was the case in 2010 when Number 6 Alabama met Number 10 LSU in Baton Rouge. With Alabama leading 14-13 with 9:26 left in the game, LSU had fourth and one at the Tide 26. Instead of trying a 43-yard field goal to take the lead,  Miles reached into his bag of tricks. He called for an inside reverse to a tight end who had never had a rushing attempt in his college career. DeAngelo Peterson took the hand off and ran all the way to the Alabama 3-yard line. The Tigers took the lead for good moments later and eventually upset the Tide 24-21.

The regular season game in 2011 in Tuscaloosa is a classic example of the smash mouth football so typical when the two teams get together. LSU came in undefeated and ranked Number 1 while Alabama was undefeated and ranked Number 2. This marked the first time in SEC history that two undefeated teams were meeting in the regular season ranked one and two in the country.  Before 101,821 rabid fans, LSU won the game 9-6 in overtime. LSU kicker Drew Alleman made all three of his attempts, including a 30-yarder with 1:53 to go in regulation. His 25 yard field goal won the game in overtime. Alabama’s kickers made only two of six of their attempts, but the real story were the defenses. Alabama gained only 295 yards while LSU gained a paltry 239. Alabama would exact a large measure of revenge and claim the national title with a 21-0 victory over the Tigers in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January, 9, 2012.

Alabama garnered the rematch with LSU but not without controversy. Many writers and fans believed Oklahoma State, the number two team in the computer rankings, deserved a shot at undefeated LSU since the Tide and Tigers had already met. However, the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) decision makers believed a one-loss Alabama team a better foe than anyone else in the nation. The game marked the first and only time in the BCS era that two teams from the same conference met for the national title.

The defenses once again dominated the game. Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley made three of four field goals to give the Tide a 9-0 lead at the half. LSU could muster only one first down and never crossed the 50-yard line in the first half. The second half was much the same. LSU compiled four first downs and crossed the 50 only once. Shelley kicked two more field goals and running back Trent Richardson added a 34-yard touchdown run with only 1:39 left to account for the final score. While LSU won the SEC championship, Alabama won the national title.

The Alabama-LSU rivalry ranks as one of the Deep South’s best. Conference and national title aspirations normally accompany the battle. Two southern behemoths line up facing the other with muscles flexed, helmets strapped on tight, and a collective iron-sharpened will and determination to vanquish its foe. This is Alabama-LSU football. This is college football at its best!

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