'Bama defense shuts down Tigers in BCS title game
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Alabama delivered what everyone expected from the first play of the BCS title game, when a host of red jerseys stuffed LSU running back Michael Ford at the line of scrimmage: a rock 'em, sock 'em affair dominated by defense.
The Crimson Tide's was simply better.
Led by bruising linebacker Courtney Upshaw and the opportunistic C.J. Mosley, the second-ranked Crimson Tide shut down the Southeastern Conference's top scoring offense in a 21-0 victory Monday night that earned Alabama its second BCS championship in three years.
"I think it was a great team win. The defense did a great job," coach Nick Saban said. "The offense controlled the momentum of the game from the start to finish. It's a great team win. Every fan and supporter in our program — it's great for them."
It was the first shutout in the history of the BCS title game, and the first blanking of the Tigers since 2002, when Alabama beat them 31-0 in Baton Rouge.
That was back when Nick Saban was roaming the Tigers' sideline. The defensive-minded coach was on the other side this time, drawing up a game plan for Alabama that downright flummoxed LSU coach Les Miles, quarterback Jordan Jefferson and everyone else in the Superdome wearing purple and yellow.
The Crimson Tide didn't allow the Tigers to convert a third down until the fourth quarter, and didn't allow a snap in its own territory until there was 7:30 left in the game.
Of course, Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower promptly sacked Jefferson to force a fumble that was recovered by his good buddy Nick Gentry. The way things were going for the Tigers, it was a fitting way for their best offensive series of the night to end.
"This defense wanted to pitch a shutout," Upshaw said. "That's what we did, baby, a shutout."
Trent Richardson added a touchdown run moments later to seal the victory, the first — and only — touchdown scored by either team in two meetings this season.
But the way the Alabama defense was playing, it might as well have been over at 3-0.
Upshaw made a pair of stellar tackles at the line of scrimmage to force 3-and-out on LSU's second possession, and Mosley and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick did so again on its next possession.
"Nobody gave us a chance," Kirkpatrick said.
Miles, stubbornly sticking with Jefferson at quarterback, tried all night to get to the edge against the Crimson Tide's brutish defense. But each time, an Alabama cornerback or safety would fly to the ball, throwing his body at the running back or receiver with total abandon.
Even after halftime, when the Tigers generally get things going — they outscored opponents 264-61 after the break coming into the game — the Alabama defense was there to keep the momentum.
After LSU got its second first down of the night, Upshaw managed to wrestle Jefferson down for a sack, and two plays later LSU had to send punter Brad Wing out onto the field again.
Just about the only bleak moment for the Crimson Tide came later in the third quarter, when Mosley intercepted an errant shovel pass deep in LSU territory. He was returning the ball when he was tugged to the ground by Jefferson, his leg twisting at a gruesome angle.
The sophomore linebacker was eventually taken from the field by motorized cart.
Jefferson wound up 11 of 17 for 53 yards, while the LSU offense managed just 92 yards of total offense. Only 39 of that was on the ground, even below the 45.8 average that the Crimson Tide had allowed against Football Bowl Subdivision teams since to last year's Capital One Bowl.