In two games, each school won in the other’s home state. But it was Alabama claiming this season’s Bowl Championship Series national title with its convincing 21-0 victory Monday before a divided, deafening crowd at the Superdome.
A lot of people did not think we belonged in this game. But we showed everybody with offense, defense and special teams,” Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower said.
While Monday served as a rematch of LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Nov. 5, it certainly was not a rerun of the Tigers’ narrow victory. Alabama place kickers Cade Foster and Jeremy Shelley combined to miss four field goals in that game. Shelley made five field goals Monday (23, 34, 41, 35 and 44 yards), a record for the BCS title game.
The victory by Alabama (12-1) represented the sixth straight BCS national title for the Southeastern Conference and the third overall for Coach Nick Saban, who also won in 2003 with LSU and 2009 with Alabama. Saban, the only coach to win BCS crowns at different schools, also became the first coach to win three BCS titles.
Saban’s third came with what will be considered one of the best defenses in recent college football history. Alabama led the nation in every major statistical category and allowed just 8.8 points per game in the regular season, the lowest average since 1988 (Auburn).
The defense was at its best Monday, when it held LSU to five first downs and 92 yards of offense. LSU’s offense drove into Alabama territory just once in the game.
Even without his top receiver, Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron managed to guide his offense to a productive night against a talented LSU defense. As AP explained:
McCarron deftly guided the Crimson Tide to a national title Monday night in a 21-0 win over LSU in which the Tigers were geared up to stop Richardson just like every other defense.
Only this ferocious, speedy defense was maybe good enough to pull it off.
“We’ve been leaning on No. 3 (Richardson) all year,” McCarron, the offensive MVP, said. “He’s our workhorse. I mean, he’s our main guy.
“And we knew coming into the game somebody else had to step up, and coach just gave me an opportunity.”
McCarron delivered, even after No. 1 receiver Marquis Maze’s early exit with a left hamstring injury.
The third-year sophomore sprinkled the ball around, avoided big mistakes and played with poise even as LSU senior Jordan Jefferson struggled.
McCarron, who needed a couple of games to secure the starting job, completed 20 of 34 passes for 234 yards. He even scrambled 13 yards for a first down in the fourth quarter to help set up Richardson’s 34-yard touchdown run that finally proved LSU coach Les Miles hadn’t erected some invisible goal line barricade.
For many who decried the choice of teams for the national championship, the 21-0 scoreline filled with field goals and defensive dominance proved their criticism correct. As Matt Brooks reported:
The Alabama defense was nothing short of dominant in last night’s BCS national championship, holding the top-ranked LSU Tigers to 92 yards of total offense, five first downs and zero points in a convincing 21-0 victory.
For fans of hard-nosed, defensive football — and fans of the Crimson Tide, of course — last night’s title game was a masterpiece.
But for the rest of the country, a game that featured as many punts (12) as points scored before the final few minutes left a lot to be desired.
It was LSU who didn’t come to play and deprived the primetime audience of any semblance of excitement beyond the first half. Jordan Jefferson was dreadful, the running game averaged only 1.4 yards per carry and national coach of the year Les Miles failed to take any chances, even with his team falling further behind.
It’s impossible to know if Oklahoma State could have produced a few more big plays and — gasp — a touchdown or two, had they been given the opportunity to face LSU in the final. The Cowboys’ 41-38 overtime victory against Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl was a far cry from Monday’s defensive slugfest.
It’s all moot with the Tide taking home their second title in three years. But for those who flipped the television off early last night out of sheer boredom, it’s hard not to wonder if there might have been a better alternative.
More BCS coverage from Washington Post Sports:
Final AP/Coaches’ rankings: Alabama earns No. 1 spot
Alabama Crimson Tide stifles LSU Tigers to win BCS title game
Poised McCarron takes starring role from Richardson on biggest stage
Alabama’s Shelley gives goat status the boot with 5 FGS in win
Poll: Who deserves the 2012 BCS national championship?