TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Leonard Fournette couldn't find any room to run, and No. 4 LSU was equally unsuccessful in slowing down Alabama's Derrick Henry.
The Tigers couldn't overcome that troublesome combination Saturday night in a 30-16 loss to the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide.
"This is a kind of game we don't expect," LSU coach Les Miles said.
Nor did most college football observers.
Henry ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns, and Fournette finally ran smack into a defense that was his team's match.
The Tide (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) physically dismantled the previously unbeaten Tigers (7-1, 4-1). It was a physical, no-frills performance days after some questioned the team's No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking. LSU came in at No. 2 in the CFP ranking and in control of its own fate.
Henry led the way with 38 carries in a game where he took second billing only until game time. The nation's leading rusher, Fournette gained only 31 yards on 19 carries. His previous season low was 154 yards against Western Kentucky.
Alabama's SEC title chances got a boost about an hour before kickoff when Arkansas beat No. 19 Mississippi 53-52 in overtime. The Rebels are the only team to have beaten the Tide, which got an even bigger jolt from its performance.
Fournette didn't get much help from the rest of the offense and the Tigers were outgained 434-182 in total yards. LSU came in averaging 309 rushing yards and finished with 54.
"We didn't play perfectly but I thought it was really important that we could control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and we did a really good job of that," Tide coach Nick Saban said.
LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, fresh from a third straight 200-yard game, made a few big plays but couldn't sustain anything. He was 6 of 19 for 128 yards with a touchdown and his first interception of the season.
"Our defense was on the field for the whole second half virtually," Miles said. "We have to improve. We can't take those kinds of events. This football team is much better than they showed tonight."
By comparison, Alabama's own first-year starter turned in a mostly pristine performance. Jake Coker was 18 of 24 for 184 yards.
Henry tracked down Fournette on the field afterward, giving him a brief hug before heading to the locker room after a performance the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner would have been proud of. Henry has scored touchdowns in 14 consecutive games, the longest current FBS streak.
"We missed a lot of tackles," LSU safety Jamal Adams said. "As a defense, we have to get better. That's no excuse. He's a big back (and) a great back as we see. We have to rally."
Fournette came into the game averaging 193 yards with nine straight 100-yard efforts. He had 13 yards on 15 carries entering the fourth quarter before scoring his 16th touchdown with 9:18 left after a Henry fumble.
Defensive lineman A'Shawn Robinson, Henry's lead blocker on two short touchdowns, jumped over LSU's line to block the extra point attempt and leave the score 30-16.
Henry helped Alabama drain the final 9-plus minutes after taking over at the 8.
The Tide's surge began with Adam Griffith's 55-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half after LSU had produced a tying 10-point flurry. Saban initially sent out punter JK Scott, but reconsidered and called timeout.
Alabama didn't let up from there. Lee picked off a Harris pass on the first play of the second half to set up another Henry touchdown. That pick provided Miles with another what if scenario.
“If Brandon Harris would have just ran the edge, that's a different play," the coach said. "I think that's some growth there that needs to take place on offense.”
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Posted on Sun, November 8, 2015
by JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer