Midway through the third quarter of Alabama’s game against LSU on Saturday the Crimson Tide seemed in jeopardy of suffering another November loss.
At the time, the Tigers had just tied the score and stopped RB T.J. Yeldon for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-1.
Facing a fourth-and-2 from its own 41-yard line, coach Nick Saban dialed up a trick play at just the right time. Jarrick Williams took the ensuing fake punt 6 yards for a first down and prolonging the drive.
Eight plays later, Yeldon plunged into the end zone from 4 yards out to give the Crimson Tide a lead it never relinquished on its way to an impressive 38-17 victory.
Saban out-Les Miles’ed Les Miles. The payoff allowed Alabama to avoid the pitfall of losing in November – something it did in each of its last two championship runs.
Unlike the last two seasons, Alabama probably can’t afford a late-season defeat this year. With undefeated teams from four major conferences, the odds of the Crimson Tide re-emerging in the national title picture after another November upset seems unlikely.
The entire team rose to the challenge LSU presented.
After the momentum-changing fake punt, Kirby Smart’s defense allowed just 32 yards and three first downs. Even when Odell Beckham’s 82-yard kickoff return put the Tigers in great field position to make it a game again, Alabama stood tall and forced LSU to turn the ball over on downs on four consecutive plays.
Alabama’s offense, meanwhile, finished by scoring touchdowns on its final three possessions that didn’t feature plays from the Victory Formation.
Obstacles still remain for the Crimson Tide – namely a road game at Auburn and whoever emerges from the SEC East.
However, Alabama survived its biggest challenge on the road to a three-peat.
No wonder Saban displayed such exuberance at game’s end when the normally buttoned-down coach jumped into QB AJ McCarron’s arms during the postgame celebration.
During the week of tests for the nation’s top two teams, Alabama avoided the same fate that befell Oregon.
Its path to Pasadena remains unobstructed as a result.