- - Tuesday, January 10, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — The BCS title game, a rematch of a Nov. 5 field goal fest that LSU won 9-6, was heavily influenced by Alabama’s kicking game, and there was a lot of defense, just like the first meeting.

But while Tide kickers missed four field goal attempts in that November matchup, they only missed two Monday night. More importantly, kicker Jeremy Shelley connected on five field goals.

And while the Nov. 5 game featured two stifling defenses, Alabama’s was unrelenting in a 21-0 win in the BCS championship game.

Consider these numbers: Alabama running back Trent Richardson ran for 96 yards on 20 carries. LSU’s total offense was 92 yards. One running back outgained an undefeated team that came in ranked No. 1 and with the potential to go down as one of the greatest teams ever.

The Crimson Tide, which finished ranked first nationally in every major defensive category, didn’t allow the Tigers to cross the 50-yard line until midway through the fourth quarter. Alabama forced two LSU fumbles and recovered one. Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley intercepted a shovel pass that LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson desperately fluttered downfield.

“I give credit to our opponent,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “Great playing. They kept the ball, and it became very difficult to get first downs. And with time, certainly, it spoke to victory for them.”

Alabama fans even got in on the act. Although the game was played in the Superdome , some 80 miles from the LSU campus, crimson-clad fans were so raucous that they disrupted LSU’s play-calling.

“There were a number of missteps by our offensive line, a number of miscommunications,” Miles said. “And we really did not handle the noise at the start. Now, we practiced against it extremely. Really, for weeks. So we felt like we were prepared, but obviously we were not.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban, not one to go overboard in praising his team, couldn’t help but talk up his defense after the game.

“When you throw the ball out, they’re going to go get it, because they are a hateful bunch — and they are as competitive as you can ever imagine. That’s probably why they played really well in big games,” Saban said.

LSU defensive back Tyrann “Honey Badger” Mathieu, who had sparked the Tigers to victory in the SEC championship game against Georgia with his punt returns and great defensive plays, was a non-factor. He finished with two tackles, and had one punt return for 1 yard.

Alabama’s special teams had much more success. Wide receiver and kick returner Marquis Maze returned a Brad Wing punt 49 yards in the first quarter, setting up Alabama’s first field goal. Before that return, LSU had allowed just six punt-return yards on 17 returns all season.

When the Tide wasn’t smothering the Tigers, Alabama’s offense showed it had more to offer than Richardson’s running. Sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron, who was named offensive MVP, was 23-of-34 for 234 yards with no interceptions.

McCarron said the win was the fulfillment of a promise made to Saban. “When I first got recruited here, I told him I would lead him to a national championship. Nobody can ever take that away from me.”

Alabama earned its second BCS title in three years. And, in a thought that has to scare opponents, it should be highly ranked entering the 2012 season. The Tide likely will lose several stars, including Richardson, to the NFL. Some predictions have as many as four defensive players being taken in the first round of the draft. But Saban excels at recruiting.

So while LSU licks its wounds and wonders what could have been, the Tide can revel in the moment and dream of adding another crystal football to its collection.

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