41 - 34 Final
  for this game

LSU rallies to beat Saban, Alabama

Nov 4, 2007 - 2:59 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) -- Nick Saban guided Louisiana State to a championship four years ago. The gritty Tigers kept alive their current title hopes by beating their former coach in dramatic fashion Saturday.

Jacob Hester scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:26 remaining to lead third-ranked LSU to a 41-34 victory over No. 17 Alabama in a Southeastern Conference thriller.

The highly anticipated matchup pitted Saban's Crimson Tide against the Tigers, who won the 2003 BCS championship - the school's first national title since 1958 - under Saban.

After spending the last two seasons as the coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins, Saban returned to the college game amidst much fanfare January 3, signing an eight-year deal reportedly worth $32 million to coach Alabama.

"It's like playing against someone who is in your family," Saban said. "I wish (LSU's players) well and like to see them doing well. I am proud to see how some of them developed into successful young men, and I want to watch them continue to be successful in their lives."

By beating their former mentor, the Tigers (8-1, 5-1 SEC West) remained a serious title contender while emerging as the outright leader in the SEC West division.

But it was far from a picturesque performance for LSU, which committed three turnovers and 14 penalties.

"I don't know if I have been around a game where we have played this poorly, made mistake after mistake and, yet, come out with a victory," Tigers coach Les Miles said.

Alabama (6-3, 4-2 West) fell one game behind LSU and dropped its fifth consecutive contest in this rivalry.

"If anyone is going to have success in the SEC, I wish it for (LSU), and I want to see them do well," Saban said. "If it's not going to be us, it might as well be them."

LSU, which trailed by as many as 10 points in the second half, forged a 34-34 tie with 2:49 remaining on Matt Flynn's 32-yard TD pass to Early Doucet, who caught a short slant to convert a 4th-and-4 before juking past a pair of defenders for the score.

With the momentum clearly shifted in their favor, the Tigers made another crucial play on the ensuing possession. Alabama's John Parker Wilson was sacked at his own 16-yard line by safety Chad Jones, who forced the junior to fumble.

"It was tough," said Wilson, who was sacked seven times and intercepted once. "We made some good plays, but we just didn't make enough. We had our chances; we had plenty of chances to win, but we just didn't make the plays."

Safety Curtis Taylor recovered the loose ball at the Alabama 3, and Hester scored from a yard out two plays later to give LSU the lead for good.

"This team is just tough," Flynn said. "We've got so many older guys and so many leaders on this team that they just come out there every day and work hard. It doesn't matter what's happening in the game - they just overcome adversity and find plays."

Alabama scored 24 points during a 25-minute span bridging the second and third quarters to take a 27-17 lead late in the third quarter.

But LSU forged a 27-27 tie courtesy of Flynn's 61-yard TD to Demetrius Byrd late in the third quarter and Colt David's 49-yard field goal with 11:21 remaining.

After forcing a punt on the following possession, the Tigers were faced with a 4th-and-1 from their own 36-yard line with 7:51 remaining.

Known for making risky decisions, Miles left his offense in the game, opting to go for the first down. The gamble backfired, as the Tigers ultimately were forced to punt after being whistled for a five-yard false start and a 15-yard personal foul on the play.

Alabama took a 34-27 lead on the next play, as Javier Arenas returned the punt 61 yards for a score with 7:33 to play.

But Flynn took over from there, rebounding from a poor first half to lead the Tigers to their fourth consecutive win. The senior completed 24-of-44 passes for 353 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions.

"It doesn't matter if something good happens or something bad happens," Flynn said. "You just have to play. You just have to forget about it and keep reading the plays."

Byrd had an outstanding game, hauling in career highs of six catches for 144 yards. Doucet finished with five receptions for 67 yards and two TDs while Hester rushed for 47 yards and two scores for the Tigers, who improved to 5-1 vs. ranked teams this season.

Wilson struggled through one of his roughest performances of the season, completing just 14-of-40 passes for 234 yards, three TDs and one interception.

"We need to not be hung over about this game," Saban said. "We need to learn from this game, improve and play better in the future."