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Alabama leads 3-0 after 1st in BCS championship

By Ralph D. Russo

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 9 2012 7:31 p.m. MST

Alabama's Marquis Maze returns a punt 49 yards during the first half of the BCS National Championship college football game against LSU Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in New Orleans.

David J. Phillip, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS — Round 2 of Alabama-LSU was more of the same.

Jeremy Shelley kicked a 23-yard field goal, set up by a 49-yard punt return by Marquis Maze, and No. 2 Alabama led No. 1 LSU 3-0 at the BCS championship game Monday night.

The Southeastern Conference rivals met on Nov. 5 in what was dubbed the Game of the Century, and the Tigers won a touchdown-less, defensive standoff, 9-6 in overtime.

In a bowl season filled with high-scoring games, the top two defenses in the nation were on display at the BCS title game.

Special teams helped swing the first meeting in LSU's favor. It was Alabama's special teams that struck first in the first BCS title game to match teams from the same conference.

Maze found a lane and broke into the open around midfield, though he pulled up instead of trying to get around punter Brad Wing and grabbed his left leg while running out of bounds at the LSU 26.

Maze, the Tide's leading receiver, had to be helped over to the Alabama sideline, but he had put his team in scoring position.

A.J. McCarron completed a 15-yard pass to Darius Hanks to set up first-and-goal, but LSU's defense, ranked second in the nation behind only Alabama, stiffened.

Shelley, who made one field goal and had another blocked in the first meeting between the SEC rivals, was perfect on a 23-yarder with 5:00 left in the first quarter.

The rest of the quarter, like the first game, was all about defense. Alabama smothered LSU, allowing 28 yards and one first down, with linebacker Courtney Upshaw leading the way.

It didn't sound like an LSU home game at the Superdome, about 80 miles from its Baton Rouge campus. The dome was deafening on almost every play with a crowd that was much closer to 50-50 than partisan.

The racket coming from the crimson-clad Alabama fans might have even contributed to a mishandled snap by Tigers quarterback Jordan Jefferson on the first LSU series.

More than a few people questioned whether Oklahoma State should have been given Alabama's spot in the BCS championship game, but the Tide won over the voters and earned a rematch with the Tigers.

No matter who wins, it'll be the SEC's sixth straight BCS championship.

Alabama is back in the title game under coach Nick Saban for the second time in three seasons, while LSU is trying to make it 3 for 3 in BCS championship games. The Tigers' two previous titles, one under Saban in 2003, the other under Miles in '07, were won in the Superdome.

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