NEW ORLEANS — There were five field goals again, but they were all for Alabama.
Jeremy Shelley tied a bowl record with five made kicks as the No. 2 Crimson Tide atoned for their lone loss of the season by smothering No. 1 LSU 21-0 to claim the BCS championship Monday night in the Superdome. It is the second national championship in three years for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide and the sixth consecutive title for a Southeastern Conference team.
Shelley set a bowl mark with seven field-goal attempts, but no kick was bigger than the 41-yarder he made on the final play of the first half that put Alabama up 9-0. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound junior was mobbed by linebacker Courtney Upshaw and several other larger teammates as the Tide players headed for their locker room.
“We really didn’t to a whole lot different,” said Tide coach Nick Saban, who became the first coach to win three BCS titles. “They had a hard time time running the ball, and our special teams did an outstanding job.”
Saban urged his players to finish the game after taking the 9-0 lead into halftime, and that they did.
Alabama’s first three plays of the second half were a 32-yard kickoff return by Christian Jones, a 19-yard pass from AJ McCarron to Darius Hanks and a 26-yard pass from McCarron to Kenny Bell. The quick second-half start set up a 35-yard Shelley field goal that made it 12-0, which is a blowout in this pairing of the nation’s finest defenses.
So dominant was Alabama defensively that LSU did not run a play in Crimson Tide territory until 7:30 remained in the game. The Tide scored the game’s first touchdown with 4:36 left on a 34-yard run by Trent Richardson.
Alabama (12-1) will become the first BCS champion that didn’t win its conference or even its division. That was due to LSU’s 9-6 overtime victory over the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
The Tigers (13-1) wound up beating the teams that won the BCS championship (Alabama), Rose Bowl (Oregon), Orange Bowl (West Virginia), Cotton Bowl (Arkansas), Chick-fil-A Bowl (Auburn), Gator Bowl (Florida) and Music City Bowl (Mississippi State). They also beat the loser of the Outback Bowl (Georgia).
“The only team I’ve told them not to schedule is the Green Bay Packers,” LSU coach Les Miles said before the game.
McCarron was effective from the start, going 18-for-25 for 156 yards in the first half with completions to six receivers. He would finish 23-of-34 for 234 yards in earning game MVP honors and had no need to attempt a pass in the fourth quarter.
“When you have a great offensive line and great players around you, it makes it easier,” McCarron said, “and we’ve got the greatest running back who has ever played at this university.”
Said Saban: “AJ did a great job, and our receivers did great.”
Richardson wound up with 20 carries for 96 yards and a score in what likely was his last college game since the junior is a surefire top-10 NFL pick.
LSU never got it going offensively, finishing with 27 rushes for 39 yards. Kenny Hilliard led the Tigers with 16 yards on five carries, while quarterback Jordan Jefferson had 15 yards on 14 carries.
It was no better for Jefferson throwing the ball, as he finished 11-of-17 for just 53 yards.
Alabama’s Marquis Maze made the game’s first big play when he returned a 54-yard Brad Wing punt 49 yards to LSU’s 26-yard line with 6:54 left in the first quarter. Maze pulled his hamstring during the run and could not make it past Wing before getting pushed out of bounds.
LSU allowed only 6 yards on 17 punt returns in its first 13 games for an average of 0.4 yard a return, but Maze’s return enabled the Tide to take a 3-0 lead on Shelley’s 23-yard field goal.
The Tide squandered a scoring chance on the first play of the second quarter when quarterback McCarron overthrew a wide-open Brad Smelley down the right sideline. Alabama converted a fake field goal to keep that drive going, but the Tide came up empty with 11:57 before halftime when a 42-yard Shelley attempt was blocked by Michael Brockers.
Shelley made a 34-yard attempt with 4:18 left in the half to cap an impressive 11-play, 58-yard drive that consumed six minutes and 12 seconds. Richardson had a 20-yard run around left end to LSU’s 25-yard line and backup Eddy Lacy had a 9-yard run to the 16, but a third-and-1 run by Lacy was stuffed by Barkevious Mingo for a 1-yard loss.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...