Rapid Reaction: No. 1 Alabama wins West, sends very loud message in historic thrashing of LSU
No. 1 Alabama clinched the SEC West championship.
It strongly avenged its home loss to LSU last season.
It sent a message that there’s really nothing that Arkansas next week or even Florida a week later in the SEC Championship Game can do to keep it out of the CFP.
In fact the Crimson Tide (9-0) did anything it wanted to do in a historic 55-17 thrashing of badly outmanned LSU (3-5) on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. The Tide scored the most points by either team in series history.
Mac Jones saw Kyle Trask’s performance earlier in the day and raised him in the Heisman Trophy competition that likely will be decided in the SEC Championship Game. Jones threw for 385 yards and 4 TDs before handing off to Bryce Young.
DeVonta Smith sent a message that maybe that whole Heisman thing shouldn’t exclude wide receivers as he periodically went head-to-head with the Tigers star cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. and put up video-game numbers himself. Smith finished with 8 catches for 231 yards and 3 TDs. Smith now has 15 TD receptions, suddenly within range of Ja’Marr Chase’s SEC record of 20 set last year.
Alabama coach Nick Saban returned from a 1-game absence for testing positive for COVID-19 and watched his team roll to a 45-14 halftime lead.
LSU hit the Tide with a couple of big touchdown plays to toy with keeping the game interesting, but it could never slow down Jones, Smith or Najee Harris, who rushed for his team’s first 2 touchdowns. He finished with 145 yards and 3 scores.
Alabama received the opening kickoff and set the tone for the game by driving 75 yards, the final 7 of which came on Harris’ touchdown run.
LSU responded with a nice drive, mostly through the air as TJ Finley completed 5-of-7 for 48 yards as it reached the Tide 15. But Tyrion Davis-Price was stopped for no gain on both 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and 1.
Moments later, Harris’ 28-yard run helped set up his 1-yard touchdown run for a 14-0 lead.
Jones’ 24-yard touchdown pass to uncovered Jahleel Billingsley pushed the lead to 21-0 at the end of the 1st quarter.
Alabama was threatening to cover the 4-touchdown spread as the 2nd quarter began, but LSU struck with a 95-yard touchdown drive. The score appeared to come when Finley connected with Kayshon Boutte for a 44-yard catch-and-run, though television replays clearly showed that Boutte let the ball drop before it crossed the goal line. Tigers receiver Jontre Kirklin hustled over and picked up the loose ball in the end zone and was credited with a 1-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
The details didn’t matter.
It took 3 plays for Jones to negate that with a 65-yard touchdown to Smith, who didn’t let the ball go until he was about 7 yards into the end zone. That gave the Tide a 28-7 lead early in the 2nd quarter.
On the ensuing possession, John Emery Jr. ran 54 yards for a touchdown that pulled the Tigers within 28-14.
Alabama came right back with a 61-yard touchdown pass to Smith for a 35-14 lead.
That gave the Tide 5 touchdowns in 5 possessions. The first drive required 7 plays, the next 2 required 5 each and the next 2 required 3 each.
On the Tide’s 6th possession, Jones threw his first incompletion and even threw two in a row, but Bama still scored as Will Reichard kicked a 30-yard field goal for a 38-14 lead.
Jones and Smith combined on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left to push the margin to 45-14 as Alabama finished the half with the most points it has ever scored in Tiger Stadium. It added a few more for good measure before the night was done.