- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Hit after hit, run after punishing run, Derrick Henry and Alabama’s defense stole the show and proved they belong squarely in the College Football Playoff hunt.

Henry ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns and the seventh-ranked Crimson Tide’s unrelenting defense smothered Leonard Fournette in a 30-16 victory over No. 4 LSU on Saturday night.

The Tide (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) physically dismantled the previously unbeaten Tigers (7-1, 4-1). It was a physical, no-frills performance days after some questioned the team’s No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking. LSU came in at No. 2 in the CFP ranking and in control of its own fate.

“I think it shows we’re ready to play whoever, whenever, and that we kind of deserve to be in the College Football Playoff again,” said Alabama linebacker Dillon Lee, who had a key second-half interception.

Henry led the way with 38 carries in a game where he took second billing only until game time. The nation’s leading rusher, Fournette gained only 31 yards on 19 carries. His previous season low was 154 yards against Western Kentucky.

It’s a comparison that didn’t interest Henry.

“Too much talk about Fournette and me,” he said. “I’m just trying to win with the Crimson Tide.”

Alabama’s SEC title chances got a boost about an hour before kickoff when Arkansas beat No. 19 Mississippi 53-52 in overtime. The Rebels are the only team to have beaten the Tide, which got an even bigger jolt from its performance.

Fournette didn’t get much help from the rest of the offense and the Tigers were outgained 434-182 in total yards. LSU came in averaging 309 rushing yards and finished with 54.

“We didn’t play perfectly but I thought it was really important that we could control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and we did a really good job of that,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.

LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, fresh from a third straight 200-yard game, made a few big plays but couldn’t sustain anything. He was 6 of 19 for 128 yards with a touchdown and his first interception of the season.

“Our defense was on the field for the whole second half virtually,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We have to improve. We can’t take those kinds of events. This football team is much better than they showed tonight.”

By comparison, Alabama’s own first-year starter turned in a mostly pristine performance. Jake Coker was 18 of 24 for 184 yards.

Henry tracked down Fournette on the field afterward, giving him a brief hug before heading to the locker room after a performance the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner would have been proud of. Henry has scored touchdowns in 14 consecutive games, the longest current FBS streak.

“We missed a lot of tackles,” LSU safety Jamal Adams said. “As a defense, we have to get better. That’s no excuse. He’s a big back (and) a great back as we see. We have to rally.”

Fournette came into the game averaging 193 yards with nine straight 100-yard efforts. He had 13 yards on 15 carries entering the fourth quarter before scoring his 16th touchdown with 9:18 left after a Henry fumble.

“They run the ball down your throw the whole game and our guys up front wouldn’t let that happen,” Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “It was that kind of game for (the line) to make the plays.”

Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, Henry’s lead blocker on two short touchdowns, jumped over LSU’s line to block the extra point attempt and leave the score 30-16.

Henry helped Alabama drain the final 9-plus minutes after taking over at the 8.

The Tide’s surge began with Adam Griffith’s 55-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half after LSU had produced a tying 10-point flurry. Saban initially sent out punter JK Scott, but reconsidered and called timeout.

“I looked at Adam and I said, ‘What do you think?’” Saban said. “He said, ‘I think I can hit it.’”

It was 15 yards longer than Griffith’s previous season best.

Alabama didn’t let up from there. Lee picked off a Harris pass on the first play of the second half. Four plays later Henry plowed for a second straight short touchdown behind Robinson.

___

AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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