TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 2 Alabama kept coming up short in the biggest game of the season. That very well could be where the Crimson Tide's national championship aspirations will fall, too.
The Tide botched three field goals and had a trick play backfire in Saturday night's 9-6 overtime loss to No. 1 LSU in a game that Bama fans will long rue as one that got away.
"If everybody executes in the red area," Tide wide receiver Marquis Maze said, "that wasn't even a close game."
Against the top-ranked team in America, Alabama (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) was not good enough to overcome those misfires.
They included two missed field goals in the first quarter, a third that was blocked early in the second and a 52-yarder by Cade Foster in overtime that was short and wide left.
The backbreaker, though, was when Eric Reid intercepted Maze's pass from the wildcat position to tight end Michael Williams on the goal line on first-and-10 from LSU's 28 early in the fourth.
"He made a good throw," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We had an opportunity to catch the ball. We didn't finish the play. We were behind the defense and he made a good throw. We scored on Florida last year on the same play. Their guy did a good job of recovering and certainly did a great job of competing for the ball."
Now, LSU (9-0, 6-0) has the inside track to the BCS title game, winning on Drew Alleman's 25-yard field goal in overtime after a fierce defensive struggle in which neither team reached the end zone.
LSU appeared to win the game on Michael Ford's run around left end after taking a pitch, but he stepped out of bounds at the 7.
After two plays gained nothing, LSU sent on Alleman to attempt his third field goal of the game on third down. Alabama tried to freeze him by calling timeout, but he calmly knocked it through to set off a wild celebration by the visiting team.
The crowd of more than 100,000 at Bryant-Denny Stadium — most of them dressed in crimson — sat in stunned silence as LSU celebrated its victory in only the 23rd regular-season matchup between the top two teams in The Associated Press rankings.
LSU still must win its last three regular-season games — No. 8 Arkansas is the toughest test — and then would have to get through the SEC championship game. But the Tigers are the clear favorite after winning another huge game away from home, emerging with the victory in a matchup between the two teams generally considered the best in the land.
And what if the BCS formula pits LSU against Alabama again in the national championship game?
"I'd be honored to face that team again," Tigers coach Les Miles said.
Alabama has two remaining SEC games to try to prove itself worthy of a mulligan, at Mississippi State and No. 25 Auburn.
Foster missed two first-quarter field goals, and Jeremy Shelley had one blocked before Shelley finally made one from 34 yards. Alleman kicked a 19-yarder on the final play of the first half, leaving the teams tied at 3 even though the Crimson Tide clearly had the upper hand.
Interceptions set up both field goals in the second half. Foster made one from 46 yards after Jarrett Lee threw his second pick of the game, then Alleman connected from 30 yards after Alabama's AJ McCarron made an ill-timed throw.
The Tide's defense held after Maze's interception, and it looked as though Alabama would get it back in good field position to take another crack at the LSU end zone. But a hobbling Maze, favoring a leg injury, couldn't catch the long line-drive punt. He turned away from it around his own 40 and the ball rolled all the way to the Alabama 19.
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