Jayden Daniels ran for 25-yard touchdown in overtime and then found Mason Taylor for a do-or-die 2-point conversion, and 15th-ranked LSU defeated No. 6 Alabama 32-31 on Saturday night to give first-year Tigers coach Brian Kelly his first victory over Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban.
The surprising victory in a riveting game that included six second-half lead changes and a tying field goal by Alabama in the 30 seconds also gave LSU (7-2, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) control of the SEC West Division with two league games remaining.
Alabama (7-2, 4-2) began overtime with the ball and took a 31-24 lead on Roydell Williams’ second touchdown of the game.
But Daniels needed just one play in overtime to score and force a decision by Kelly to try to tie it with a kick or let Daniels try to win it.
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“I just love the way our guys competed. I didn’t want to keep going in overtime,” Kelly said as jubilant fans stormed onto the field. “It just felt like it was the right time to try to win the game.”
Alabama, favored by nearly two-TDs, lost in Tiger Stadium for the first time since 2010. Kelly, who as Notre Dame’s coach lost to Saban and Alabama twice in college football’s postseason, became the coach to break that streak in the first year of a 10-year contract worth nearly $100 million.
“To come here and restore the pride and tradition of this program just means so much,” Kelly said. “It just feels so good to return the faith and trust that they’ve given to me.”
Daniels passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and also ran for 95 yards and a score.
Alabama’s Bryce Young passed for 328 yards and one touchdown, and also was intercepted.
There were three lead changes in the final 4:44, starting when Young narrowly escaped a sack, rolled right and found Ja’Corey Brooks for a 41-yard touchdown.
LSU went back in front 24-21 with 1:47 left in regulation when Daniels hit Taylor in the back of the end zone for a 7-yard score.
But Young drove Alabama to the LSU 28 and Will Reichard’s 46-yard field goal with 21 seconds left tied it.
LSU then chose to run out the clock.
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Alabama took its first of two fourth-quarter leads with the help of face mask and defensive holding penalties by LSU that negated what would have been a third-down sack at the Tigers 36.
After Jahmyr Gibbs’ 14-yard run to the 2, Williams barreled in to make it 15-14 after a failed 2-point conversion with 12:37 to go.
LSU responded by driving inside the Alabama 15, but the Tide snuffed out Daniels’ third-down keeper, limiting the Tigers to Damian Ramos’ 32-yard field goal with 6:52 to go.
Alabama took its first lead on Will Reichard’s third field goal of the game, concluding a third-quarter drive on which Alabama twice converted on fourth-and-short on runs by Williams.
A crowd of about 102,000 turned Death Valley into “Deaf Valley” with ear-splitting roars that seemed to send vibrations coursing through the nearly century-old stadium.
The Tigers wound up scoring first when John Emery Jr. turned a short Daniels pass into a 30-yard touchdown, high-stepping toward the goal line as former LSU basketball great Shaquille O’Neal pointed at him approvingly from the near sideline.
LSU took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
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Alabama: Pass protection has been an issue periodically this season. Young was sacked twice and routinely threw under pressure. He came in completing 66% of his passes for the season but connected on 49% (25 for 51) in Tiger Stadium. Touchdowns also have been scarce lately. Alabama went more than five quarters without one, going back to the second quarter of its victory over Mississippi State on Oct. 22.
LSU: The Tigers’ defense has improved since giving up 40 points in a loss to Tennessee on Oct. 8 and 35 points in a victory at Florida on Oct. 15. After holding explosive Ole Miss to 20, the Tigers kept the Crimson Tide out of the end zone for three quarters before finally succumbing to the Heisman winner Young’s play-making in the final period.
Alabama: At No. 11 Mississippi, which had this weekend off.
LSU: At Arkansas, which will be trying to regroup from loss to No. 23 Liberty.