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11/04/2012 1:58 AM EST
Yeldon TD leads No. 1 Alabama past LSU 21-17
ALABAMA 21, LSU 17

By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP National Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- While a small batch of Alabama fans
celebrated behind the end zone at Tiger Stadium, A.J. McCarron
found his parents at the edge of the stands. He lunged into
their arms, his watery-eyed father furiously rubbing his son's
hair.



McCarron had vowed he wouldn't let his team lose to LSU in the
game of the year.



The Crimson Tide quarterback was true to his word.



With Alabama's hopes of a second straight national title
slipping away, McCarron shook off a dismal second half and
guided his right down the field. He read an LSU blitz and
flipped a screen pass to T.J. Yeldon, who did the rest on a
28-yard touchdown with 51 seconds remaining that gave the
top-ranked Tide a 21-17 victory over No. 5 LSU.



Talk about a Saturday night stunner in Death Valley.



"It was like clockwork," McCarron said. "The whole offense just
looked at each other and you could just tell in everybody's eyes
it was like, `We do this every Thursday, so what's the
difference here?"'



Alabama (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) now has a clear path
to the league championship game in Atlanta, and remains solidly
on course to defend its national title in Miami.



"There's just so many emotions running through me," McCarron
said. "Sometimes it can be a lot of pressure playing here at
this university, especially with all the tradition of winning
and everything. Just coming back and winning a game like that,
and like coach (Nick) Saban said, it might be known as `The
Drive' for the history of Alabama. And just to be a part of it
with my teammates was just truly a blessing."



This one was a struggle. Led by embattled quarterback Zach
Mettenberger, LSU (7-2, 3-2) fought back from a 14-3 halftime
deficit with an offensive performance that was nothing like
their dismal showing against the Tide in last season's BCS
championship game.



Jeremy Hill scored on a 1-yard run late in the third quarter,
LSU's first TD against Alabama since 2010 - a span of nearly
three full games. Then Mettenberger threw perhaps the best pass
of his LSU career, hooking up with Jarvis Landry on a 14-yard
touchdown that put the Tigers ahead 17-14 with just under 13
minutes remaining.



LSU was on the verge of putting the game away, driving into
Alabama territory and forcing Saban to call his remaining
timeouts. But Drew Alleman missed a 45-yard field goal, and
McCarron took over from there.



He completed three straight passes to put Alabama in scoring
position. Then, when LSU brought a corner blitz, he got the ball
away quickly to Yeldon. The freshman running back broke one
tackle and faked out another defender, racing to the end zone
for the winning score.



"I'm really, really pleased with that last drive," Saban said.
"That's something I'll never forget."



Before the final possession, McCarron was 1 of 7 for 0 yards in
the second half. All was forgiven when he guided the Crimson
Tide on the lightning-quick 72-yard drive, connecting with Kevin
Norwood on three straight passes covering 18, 15 and 11 yards
against an LSU defense that was giving some room short. McCarron
took one shot at the end zone, the ball falling to the turf when
both the receiver and the defender fell down.



But, with a much shorter throw, he hit paydirt on the very next
play.



Mettenberger, who had gotten much of the blame for LSU's
lackluster offense, suddenly put it all together for the Tigers
in the second half. But LSU couldn't overcome the nation's
top-ranked team and some dubious calls by coach Les Miles.



The Mad Hatter kept reaching into his bag of tricks - and kept
getting burned. A fake field goal was stuffed. An onside kick
didn't work. And going for it on fourth down in Alabama
territory didn't work out either.



"I wish I had a couple of my calls back," Miles said. "That's
the way it goes."



Mettenberger nearly bailed out his coach. He finished 24 of 35
for a career-best 298 yards, with 14 of those completions for
202 yards coming over the final two quarters. Landry had eight
catches for 76 yards, and freshman Jeremy Hill rushed for 107
yards and a third-quarter touchdown that got LSU back in the
game.



Alabama has not been behind in the fourth quarter since 2010,
and sure didn't have much experience at playing with a deficit
in 2012. The Tide arrived in Baton Rouge having trailed for a
grand total of 15 seconds this season - one play against
Mississippi - and when McCarron took off on a 9-yard touchdown
run with just 11 second left in the first half it looked like a
repeat of last January's national championship game.



But LSU was determined not to turn in another embarrassing
performance like the one in the Superdome, when a perfect season
ended with a dismal 21-0 loss to the Crimson Tide. The Tigers
managed only 92 yards and five first downs in that game; this
time, they put up 435 yards and 17 first downs against the
nation's top-ranked defense.



It still wasn't enough.



"I told the players they would have to overcome a lot of
adversity to win a game here," Saban said. "Things went bad. The
momentum changed. But they kept their poise, kept playing, kept
competing. I've never been prouder of as bunch of guys."



Alleman's 38-yard field goal gave LSU an early lead, but Alabama
began to impose its will in the second period. McCarron
completed four straight passes, Yeldon rushed five times for 40
yards and Eddie Lacy capped an 11-play, 92-yard drive by running
it in from the 7.



McCarron finished 14 of 27 for 165 yards and has still yet to
throw an interception this season. Lacy finished with 83 yards
rushing, while Yeldon had 76.



LSU actually moved the ball rather effectively through much of
the first half, but some silly blunders and questionable calls
cost the Tigers dearly.



After Alabama's Cyrus Jones bobbled away a bouncing punt,
Jerqwinick Sandolph recovered for LSU at the Tide 32. With the
record Tiger Stadium crowd of 93,374 in a frenzy, Hill quickly
ripped off a 19-yard run, but fullback J.C. Copeland picked up a
needless personal foul when he plowed into an Alabama player
after the play was over.



The officials stepped off 15 yards the other way, and LSU's
drive imploded. LSU lined up for a 47-yard field goal attempt on
fourth-and-12, but Miles decided to try one of his trademark
gambles.



It backfired.



Brad Wing, the holder, took the snap and tossed a short pass to
Alleman. Miles was counting on his 5-foot-11, 183-pound kicker
to outrun the defense, which he's done it before, but the
Crimson Tide wasn't fooled at all. Alleman was dragged down for
a 2-yard loss, preserving a 7-3 lead.



Getting the ball back with just over a minute remaining in the
half, Alabama moved quickly down the field for a touchdown that
many thought had broken LSU's back.



Norwood hauled in an 8-yard pass and stepped out of bounds with
16 seconds left. McCarron dropped back into the pocket and
spotted a huge hole right up the middle. The junior never even
hesitated, taking off on 9-yard touchdown run without being
touched.



After that big play, McCarron was largely overshadowed in the
second half.



Until the end.



Call if The Drive, Alabama style.



"I didn't doubt it one bit at all," McCarron said. "I just love
moments like that. I like having the ball in pressure
situations. When you've got teammates like I have, it makes your
job easy."



---



Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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