Your final score: Nick Saban 7, Les Miles 3
That’s the tally of the 10 meetings between Saban’s Alabama teams and Miles’ LSU teams in what became known as the “Saban Bowl,” pitting the former LSU coach with the man who replaced him.
The Saban Bowl lives on this week, but with a little bit of the storyline gone with the firing of Miles earlier this year.
Here are the best moments of the 10 Saban-Miles “Saban Bowl” matchups:
1. Passing the trophy (Alabama 21, LSU 0, 2011 BCS National Championship Game): LSU managed three field goals in eight quarters, plus overtime, in the 2011 season against Alabama, and nothing illustrated the offensive frustrations more than when Jordan Jefferson made the silliest of plays in the third quarter of the national championship game.
With the Tigers trailing 12-0 and the offense stuck in the mud, Jefferson dropped back and, feeling pressure, panicked and threw a shovel pass right to linebacker C.J. Mosley after Jefferson’s intended receiver turned to block.
The anemic LSU offense managed just five first downs in the game, and the play symbolized what the series became for the rest of the Miles era: One where Alabama’s defense would dominate, and LSU’s anemic offenses would wilt under the pressure.
2. Rashad Johnson, meet Jarrett Lee (Alabama 41, LSU 34, OT, 2008): In Saban’s first game back in Baton Rouge, safety Rashad Johnson made it a happy return.
His school record-tying third interception of LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee, this one in overtime, set up the Crimson Tide for victory. On Alabama’s possession, John Parker Wilson hit Julio Jones for 23 yards, setting up Wilson’s 1-yard quarterback sneak for the win.
It was the first of three close wins, two in overtime, for Saban in Baton Rouge in the series.
3. Stealing it back (LSU 9, Alabama 6, OT, 2011): In the regular-season meeting in 2011, neither team made it to the end zone, but Alabama came close before LSU’s defense stole it away.
Facing 1st-and-10 at the LSU 28 with the game tied at 6-6 and about 11:30 left, Crimson Tide receiver Marquis Maze took a Wildcat snap and fired a pass to tight end Michael Williams, who momentarily appeared to catch it at the LSU 1. But as he came down with the ball, LSU safety Eric Reid wrestled it away from him for an interception.
It stopped the drive, preserved the tie and LSU eventually won in overtime without the benefit of a touchdown.
4. Finally, a touchdown (Alabama 21, LSU 0, 2011 BCS National Championship Game): Alabama and LSU played seven-plus quarters (plus overtime) without scoring a touchdown against each other in the 2011 game (won by LSU, 9-6 in overtime) and the BCS National Championship Game.
But with Alabama’s defense completely embarrassing the LSU offense, the Crimson Tide led 15-0 in the fourth quarter on five Jeremy Shelley field goals. The only thing missing was a touchdown on the vaunted Tigers defense that included Reid, Tyrann Mathieu and several other future pro stars.
That finally came when, with 4:36 left, Trent Richardson ran left, then cut up the sideline for a 34-yard touchdown for the last score of the game.
5. Grass-chewing trickery (LSU 24, Alabama 21, 2010): If the 2011 BCS game defined Miles’ tendency to have offenses go into neutral, the 2010 win over Alabama defined his quirkiness.
At a tense fourth quarter moment, CBS cameras caught Miles picking up grass from the Tiger Stadium turf and putting it in his mouth, a quirk he came to be known for. And, as the game unfolded, another Miles trait came out.
Facing a 4th-and-1, Miles dialed up a double-reverse tight end end-around for 23 yards and a first down. That set up Stevan Ridley’s game-winning, 1-yard touchdown run for the win.
6. T.J. for TD (Alabama 21, LSU 17, 2012): LSU had a 17-14 lead, and Alabama was out of timeouts when the Tide got the ball at its own 28-yard line with just 1:27 left.
Who needs 1:27?
Instead, AJ McCarron threw three passes to Kevin Norwood for 44 yards, then after an incomplete pass, hit tailback T.J. Yeldon on a screen pass and Yeldon made three Tigers miss on his way to a 28-yard touchdown with 51 seconds left.
The late heroics ruined a splendid second-half performance by LSU’s Zach Mettenberger, who completed 24-of-35 passes for 298 yards. His 14-yard touchdown pass to Jarvis Landry with 12:58 left had given LSU, which trailed 14-3 at halftime, a 17-14 lead.
7. The pick that wasn’t (Alabama 24, LSU 15, 2009): Patrick Peterson made a huge play that should have set LSU up for a potential game-winning drive with just under six minutes left.
Everybody seemed to see it that way but the people that matter most, the officials.
With Alabama leading 21-15 with 6:02 left, Crimson Tide quarterback Greg McElroy threw a pass to the right sideline that Peterson appeared to intercept while keeping not one, but maybe both feet inbounds, giving the Tigers the ball at their own 32 with time to mount a potential game-winning drive.
But the play was called incomplete not only on the field, but inexplicably after review, and Alabama went on to kick a field goal to put the game away.
8. The wall (Alabama 30, LSU 16, 2015): Alabama didn’t have a single moment in its last win over the Tigers, but the Crimson Tide defense had several highlight moments while shutting down LSU Heisman Trophy frontrunner Leonard Fournette.
Alabama held the seemingly unstoppable Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries, and the Crimson Tide knocked LSU out of the ranks of the unbeaten. Fournette and LSU never recovered. Fournette didn’t even get invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony after a late slump. And the Tigers lost three straight before beating Texas A&M in the finale.
As for Alabama? The Tide went on to another national championship.
9. Miles strikes first with a strip (LSU 41, Alabama 34, 2007): Les Miles won his only national championship in Saban’s first year at Alabama, but Miles’ Tigers had to rally to beat Saban and the Tide.
Down 34-27 in the fourth quarter, LSU’s Matt Flynn hit Early Doucet for a 32-yard touchdown pass to tie the game. Less than a minute later, LSU safety Chad Jones stripped John Parker Wilson of the ball, and teammate Curtis Taylor recovered at the Alabama 3.
Two plays later, the Tigers’ Jacob Hester scored on a 1-yard run with 1:26 left and LSU’s national championship dream continued.
10. Unsportsmanlike collapse (Alabama 20, LSU 13, 2014): LSU seemed to have victory in its grasp but let it get away because of mental error.
With the game tied at 10-10 and LSU facing a 1st-and-goal at the Alabama 6, offensive tackle Vadal Alexander got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after he pushed away Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson when Robinson grabbed his leg in the pile.
That led to the Tigers settling for a field goal. Alabama tied it, then won it in overtime on DeAndrew White’s 6-yard touchdown reception from Blake Sims.