Crimson Tide notebook: LSU QB Joe Burrow shreds Alabama defense in Heisman audition

AP photo by Vasha Hunt / LSU quarterback Joe Burrow flees Alabama defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis during the first half of Saturday's game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Earlier this decade, former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel entered Bryant-Denny Stadium in front of national television audiences on CBS and cemented their Heisman Trophy campaigns with memorable performances at Alabama's expense.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow didn't just have a Heisman moment Saturday against the Crimson Tide. He had moment after moment after moment while leading the Tigers to a 46-41 triumph that catapulted the graduate transfer from Ohio State into the clear-cut favorite for college football's top individual award.

"This is why I decided to transfer," Burrow said. "I wanted to play, and I knew I could play on this stage. I've got great people around me, a great coaching staff and I'm in a great program all the way around. I can not say enough good things about my offensive line tonight.

"They have a great defense, and they had a fresh package that we had not seen a lot of this year."

Burrow riddled the Tide for 393 yards on 31-of-39 passing and had 14 rushes for 64 yards. His 457 yards of total offense surpassed the 345 that Manziel racked up in Texas A&M's 29-24 upset in 2012 and dwarfed the 255 compiled by Newton in Auburn's famous 28-27 "Camback" win from a 24-0 deficit in 2010.

LSU players quickly recognized Burrow's stellar showing and carried him on their shoulders.

"That was pretty special, having these guys embrace me the way they have," he said. "I was just some quarterback from Ohio who came in last June before the (2018) season, and the way they have embraced me - I mean it means a lot to me that this entire program has embraced me, and the whole state as well."

Burrow's first crack at Alabama last November resulted in a 29-0 loss in Baton Rouge. He made sure there would not be a second shutout, taking the Tigers 92 yards in just six plays on their opening possession, which was capped by his 33-yard touchdown toss to Ja'Marr Chase.

By halftime, the 6-foot-4, 216-pounder had completed 18 of 20 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns, staking the Tigers to a 33-13 lead.

"I think it's the system," Alabama coach Nick Saban said when asked about Burrow's dramatic rise from a year ago. "I think it's the things that they are doing. I think it really features the players, and Joe has a really good handle of what they're trying to do. It's challenging to defend, and it utilizes the people they have.

"We played six defensive backs a lot, thinking we could adjust better in the second half. I think we did, but we still made some mistakes that gave them plays. Give them a lot of credit. They really have no weaknesses on offense."

Burrow now has 33 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season, and his victim list includes Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Texas.

"He's a good QB," Alabama junior safety Xavier McKinney said. "He was looking to the sideline and getting the coverage that we were in, and then he's going to wherever he was supposed to go to. He threw well and scrambled well."

Saturday had the subplot battle between Burrow and Alabama counterpart Tua Tagovailoa, and that matchup did not disappoint. Tagovailoa threw for a game-high 418 yards, but he was less accurate at 21-of-40 and was intercepted just before halftime.

Asked whether Burrow was as good as any quarterback he's ever faced, McKinney said, "No. I think Tua is the best quarterback that I've faced."

photo Alabama's Jaylen Waddle (17) returns a punt for a touchdown as LSU's Jacob Phillips (6) gives chase in the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)

Nation's leader

Alabama sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Waddle got the Tide on the board late in the first quarter with a 77-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Waddle now leads the nation in punt-return average at 25.3 yards, having returned 15 punts for 379 yards and one touchdown through nine games. He averages 19.7 yards for his career, which ranks atop Alabama's career list.

Catch in question

Late in the first half, Burrow connected with tight end Thaddeus Moss for 16 yards to Alabama's 1-yard line. Officials ruled it a catch, but replays showed Moss had a foot out of bounds before bringing it back into the field of play and making the reception.

Tide fans hoped for an illegal touching penalty, but the catch was upheld by replay and the Southeastern Conference sent out an explanation.

"If a receiver is forced out of bounds due to contact by a defender, the receiver can re-establish position on the field and make a legal catch," the league stated. "On the play in question, the ruling on the field was the receiver was forced out of bounds by contact."

Tide tidbits

McKinney matched a career best with 13 tackles. Junior running back Najee Harris rushed 19 times for 146 yards, notching his fourth 100-yard game this season and the fifth of his career. Bowl representatives from the Fiesta, Orange, Peach and Sugar were in attendance.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.