No. 16 Alabama 10, LSU 3
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) _ With a defense that lived up to lofty expectations and an offense that barely exceeded diminished ones, No. 16 Alabama beat LSU 10-3 Saturday by finally converting a turnover into a touchdown.
The big play came on an interception by Deshea Townsend that gave the Crimson Tide (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference) the ball at the LSU 22 with 13:05 to play. After both teams failed numerous times to score from deep in the opponent’s territory, Alabama finally found the end zone as Dennis Riddle sauntered in from the 2 on an option play. Once Alabama went ahead, the Crimson Tide did not give LSU (4-4-1, 2-3-1) a chance as they had the ball for 10:19 in the fourth quarter.
Riddle finished with 174 yards and became the Crimson Tide’s first 100-yard rusher this season, breaking the plateau on the 11th play of the third quarter of Alabama’s ninth game.
That was one encouraging sign for Alabama. The other was the play of the defense, a unit burdened with expectations of great Alabama teams of the past.
After suffering through several games of confusion, the defense turned in a near flawless effort.
``I feel like the defense was the best we’ve played,″ Alabama coach Gene Stallings said.
The game was a fierce test of defensive clout that left both offenses stymied. Alabama had four of the game’s seven turnovers. Time and again, the coveted territory inside the 10 belonged to the team that was defending it.
``Momentum is a funny thing,″ LSU coach Gerry DiNardo said. ``Today it was based on whose defense was playing well.″
Alabama held Kevin Faulk to 75 yards on 23 carries.
``The defense?″ asked Freddie Kitchens, who replaced starting quarterback Brian Burgdorf for the third time in four games. ``What can I say? It looked like the old Alabama defense. They kept coming up big when the offense did nothing.″
Kitchens, who was 6-for-16 for 93 yards, noticed a difference in the Crimson Tide.
``This was the first time all year that we played as a team,″ he said.
LSU’s Jamie Howard, who missed the last two games with an injury, was 10-for-23 for 127 yards and two interceptions. He was knocked out of the game twice, but returned.
``After I came back in the game, I didn’t have the same zip on the ball,″ Howard said.
Sheddrick Wilson caught six passes for 81 yards.
The tone was set early. After Burgdorf’s pass was intercepted by Clarence Lenton at the start of the second quarter, LSU drove from its 36 to the Alabama 3. The Tide stopped the Tigers on first-and goal from the 4 and second-and-goal from the 1, forcing Andre Lafleur to kick a 20-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
Then LSU put together some defensive stops of its own. After an interception by Kevin Jackson, Riddle carried Alabama from its 10 to the LSU 3. But the Tide could not break through, and Kevin Proctor tied the game with a 20-yard field goal.
With Riddle still dominating in the third quarter, Alabama drove from its 6 to the LSU 20. The Tide’s drive was ruined by a holding penalty, and Proctor missed a 37-yard field goal.
Proctor also missed a 38-yarder after LSU stopped the Tide following a 48-yard fumble return by Dwayne Rudd.
Alabama dominated on defense even though its leaders, Shannon Brown and John Walters, played sparingly due to injuries. The Tide stopped LSU on fourth-and-inches at the Tide 37 at the start of the fourth quarter, but Alabama couldn’t capitalize and went three plays and out.
That set the stage for the play of the game. As LSU took over at its own 29, Howard drifted back and tried to find Wilson along the sideline. But Townsend stepped in front and picked it off. Riddle scored moments later.
LSU wide receiver Chris Hill was hurt when his leg was bent back as he was being tackled on a pass reception. Hill was carried off on a stretcher. His status was not immediately known.
It was Alabama’s first home victory over LSU since 1990, and only the third time in 16 years that the home team won in this series.