TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It started, and ended, with a fake punt.
Alabama outfoxed LSU with a fourth down conversion early in the third quarter, and ran off 21 unanswered points for a convincing 38-17 win in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night.
The Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) took a giant step toward the BCS title game with the win, while LSU (7-3, 3-3 SEC) was eliminated from contention in the SEC West.
T.J. Yeldon did the heavy lifting for Alabama, picking up 133 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. Kenyan Drake added 65 more on the ground, and A.J. McCarron tossed three scores, completing 14 of 20 passes for 179 yards.
Zach Mettenberger led LSU on 16 of 23 passing for 241 yards and a score, finding Jarvis Landry five times for 90 yards. Only 68 of those yards came after the break, however, as Nick Saban's defense showed why it's considered the nation's best.
Trailing 17-14 at the half, LSU quickly evened the score with a six play, 50 yard drive to start the half, capped off by a 41-yard Colby Delahoussaye field goal.
From there, though, it was all Alabama. On the Tide's first drive of the half, Jarrick Williams ran for six yards on a fake punt to convert a fourth and two from the Alabama 41, fueling a 79-yard scoring drive. Alabama took a 24-17 lead on a T.J. Yeldon four yard touchdown with 4:11 to play in the quarter, using 14 plays - 12 runs - and eating up 7:50 in the process.
When LSU's following drive stalled near midfield, Alabama went back to the ground. Yeldon, again the bell cow, totaled 48 yards, the final one coming on a touchdown run to give Alabama a 31-17 advantage with 10:31 left in the game. It was another methodical drive for the Tide, who wore on the LSU defense for 10 plays - six runs - and 71 yards over 4:44.
Odell Beckham Jr. seemed to breathe life back into LSU's sideline when he took Alabama's ensuing kickoff 82 yards to encroach Alabama's redzone. But there, the Tide stood firm, forcing a loss of three and three incomplete passes - the last on a desperation fourth and 13 - to turn the Tigers over on downs.
Saban would show no mercy. Happy to hand the ball to Yeldon, Alabama marched 78 yards - helped in no small part by two LSU personal fouls - for the final score, a McCarron pitch to Jalston Fowler from the three to cap off another clinical seven play, 78 yard drive.
LSU stalled on its final drive, which ended with three straight sacks. The Tide held the Tigers to just 52 second half yards, including minus-16 rushing.
Unlike the 9-6 overtime clash of two years ago, LSU and Alabama moved the ball all over the field for 30 minutes, with the Tide taking a 17-14 lead into halftime thanks to two Tigers turnovers.
LSU seemed set to take an early lead when Mettenberger hit wide receiver Landry for a 45 yard completion to the Tide 31.
But three Tiger runs and 27 yards later, Alabama linebacker Tanna Patrick forced a fumble from fullback J.C. Copeland, who appeared to have a clear path to the end zone. Alabama safety Landon Collins picked it up at the 10 to end a promising drive.
After an Alabama punt, the Tide defense took advantage of another LSU turnover, when center Elliiot Porter prematurely snapped the ball to Mettenberger. Linebacker Trey DePriest fell on the fumble at the Tigers 27, but the Alabama offense stalled and settled for 41-yard field goal from Cade Foster with 3:54 left in the first.
LSU responded quickly, converting two third downs through the air on its following drive to get back to the Alabama 3-yard line, where Jeremy Hill punched it on the first play of the second quarter in for a 7-3 advantage.
McCarron dialed up an answer of his own on the following drive, taking advantage of a third down pass interference penalty by finding tight end O.J. Howard on a slant. Howard took the pass 52 yards for the score to cap off a four-play, 78-yard drive for the 10-7 lead.
A tightened Tide defense, which gave up 129 first-quarter yards, forced LSU off the field, and Nick Saban's offense promptly drove 80 yards on 10 plays, pushing the lead to 17-7 with 5:19 left in the half on a 9-yard McCarron toss to wide receiver Kevin Norwood.
Not to be outdone, Mettenberger engineered a scoring drive of his own, marching 75 yards in 10 plays. His 6-yard toss to wide receiver Travin Dural on third-and-goal -- the last of three third down conversions on the drive -- completed the first-half scoring.
LSU outgained the Tide 232-193 and converted 6 of 7 third downs. Mettenberger led the way with 173 passing yards on 10 of 13 passing, while McCarron completed 9 of 13 for 129 and two scores.
NOTES: In the previous 24 quarters coming into Saturday, Alabama's defense had given up two touchdowns. ... With his 45-yard completion to Landry in the first quarter, Mettenberger became the first player in LSU history to throw for 2,500 yards in consecutive seasons. ... The Tigers entered the game with just a 2-10-1 record all-time against teams ranked No. 1, including 1-4 under Les Miles. ... This marked the seventh straight year Alabama and LSU faced each other as ranked teams. ... QB A.J. McCarron entered the game as the all-time leader in winning percentage at Alabama and the Southeastern Conference. McCarron's victory over Ole Miss on Sept. 28 moved him past Jay Barker's .934 winning percentage. ... With a loss, LSU would be eliminated from contention for the SEC West title. ... This was the sixth straight meeting that both teams were ranked in the top 10. ... This was the fourth straight meeting that LSU or Alabama was ranked No. 1 in the polls (LSU both games in 2011, Alabama in 2012). ... Since 2009, Alabama (78) and LSU (115) have given up the fewest TDs in the nation. ... The two teams have split their last 40 contests 20-20. ... McCarron became Alabama's all-time leading passer in the second quarter.
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