Alabama shuts down Fournette, manhandles LSU

Published 12:22 am Sunday, November 8, 2015

Alabama running back Derrick Henry stiff arms LSU safety Jamal Adams during Saturday night’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Henry rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns as the Crimson Tide dominated LSU 30-16. --Alaina Denean Deshazo

Alabama running back Derrick Henry stiff arms LSU safety Jamal Adams during Saturday night’s game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Henry rushed for 210 yards and three touchdowns as the Crimson Tide dominated LSU 30-16. –Alaina Denean Deshazo

TUSCALOOSA — Saturday night’s game between No. 4 Alabama and No. 2 LSU was billed as Leonard Fournette against the Crimson Tide’s stingy rushing defense.

Advantage, Alabama.

Fournette rushed for only 31 yards and a meaningless fourth quarter touchdown as Alabama (8-1, 5-1) took control of the SEC West with a dominant 30-16 win at Bryant Denny Stadium. The LSU sophomore came into the game as the perceived frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy, but it was Alabama’s Derrick Henry that was the more effective runner. Henry gashed the Tigers’ defense for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

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“I thought it was real important that we could control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and we did a really good job of that in terms of being able to run it and keeping the ball away from their offense because they have some very explosive players,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.

From start to finish, Alabama imposed its will on LSU (7-1, 4-1).

The Crimson Tide amassed 434 yards compared to only 182 from the Tigers. Many of those came on the ground as Alabama ran for 250 yards, but Jake Coker was an efficient 18-of-24 passing for 184 yards as well.

The day couldn’t have gone any better for Alabama, who came in needing to win out and needing a Mississippi loss somewhere along the way to get back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. The Rebels lost to Arkansas 53-52 in overtime before Alabama and LSU kicked off, giving the winner a chance to take firm control of the division.

Following Saturday’s game, it’s clear the route to a SEC West title still goes through Tuscaloosa.

After a scoreless first quarter, Alabama was the first team to put points on the board. Adam Griffith nailed a 22-yard field goal and on Alabama’s next drive Henry capped a 3 play, 57 yard drive with a 2-yard score that put the Tide up 10-0.

On the verge of getting blown out, LSU found some much needed offense.

Tigers’ quarterback Brandon Harris threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Travin Dural to pull the Tigers within 10-7 with 6:12 left in the second quarter. Jalen Mills sacked Coker for a 10-yard loss on the ensuing drive, leading to a three-and-out by Alabama.

Harris threw a 13-yard pass to Malachi Dupre and ran for a 16 yards to set up a Trent Dominque 39-yard field goal to tie the game with 2:22 remaining in the first half.

Alabama answered with a six-play, 45-yard drive before the half. Coker hit ArDarius Stewart for a 19-yard pass on the first play to move the Tide to the LSU 46-yard line. Henry picked up another first down with a 10-yard rush, but Coker was sacked two plays later. After a third down pass from Coker to Richard Mullaney came up short of the first down, Saban sent out the punting unit.

Then, he called timeout and elected to send Griffith out to attempt a 55-yard field goal attempt. Griffith’s kick split the uprights, giving Alabama a 13-10 lead going into the break.

“I looked at Adam and I said ‘What do you think?’” Saban said. “And he said, ‘I think I can hit it.’ He got a little wind behind him and he hit it good.”

On the first play of the second half, Harris was intercepted by Dillion Lee at the LSU 32. Coker threw a short pass to Kenyan Drake that the running back took all the way to the LSU 3-yard line. Three plays later, Henry ran it in from 1-yard out to give Alabama a 20-10 lead.

After the teams traded punts, the Crimson Tide marched 73 yards on 11 plays to put the game out of reach. Henry rushed seven times on the drive and capped it with a 7-yard score to make it 27-10 Alabama.

Griffith added a 29-yard field goal with 12:45 left in the fourth quarter to give Alabama a 20-point lead.

Henry made Alabama’s only real mistake the entire night on the next drive, as he fumbled at the Alabama 22. Fournette took the first play of the next drive 18 yards — which resulted in most of his positive yardage in the game — and scored four plays later on a 1-yard touchdown run with 9:18 to play.

Outside of that, it was a quiet night for the big back, who came in leading the nation in rushing yards. He averaged only 1.6 yards per carry Saturdy on 19 attempts.

“That’s their bread and butter, so to be able to control that, I thought our front seven was really, really good,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, Henry was having a career day.

He ran it 38 times and averaged 5.5 yards per carry and helped Alabama dominant the time of possession. The Crimson Tide held the ball for 39:27, while LSU had it for only 20:33.

“He did a great of carrying the ball. It was special,” Saban said.

After Fournette’s touchdown, LSU looked like it might still have a sliver of hope. The Tigers’ kickoff following the touchdown was cornered toward the sideline, forcing Alabama’s Kenyan Drake to pick it up at the 1-yard line. He returned outside the Alabama 5, but a block in the back pushed Alabama back to its own 4-yard line with over nine minutes to play.

Alabama’s answer with a heavy dose of Henry, who ran it 10 times on the drive. He took one carry 29 yards to push Alabama over midfield and by the time the Crimson Tide reached the LSU red zone, so little time remained that Coker could just take a knee to drain the remainder of the clock.

Alabama will play at Mississippi State next week.