The timing was perfect.
No. 1 Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC) had countered no. 5 LSU’s (7-2, 3-2 SEC) pressure packages with screens and runs up the middle for most of the night in its 21-17 escape from Death Valley.
So when the Crimson Tide needed a big play, the coaches dialed up something they knew would work.
“They blitzed,” head coach Nick Saban said. “When we called that play, everyone on the headset was saying I hope they pressure.”
LSU predictably sent pressure with cornerback Jalen Mills, who didn’t get there in time. Quarterback AJ McCarron floated the ball over Mills’ head to running back T.J. Yeldon who took care of the rest. Yeldon outran linebacker Kevin Minter, juked safety Craig Loston and crossed the goalline as a diving Barkevious Mingo fell to his feet.
”That last drive was something I’ll never forget,” Saban said.
Alabama never hung its heads despite trailing for the first time in the fourth quarter since the 2010 Iron Bowl. The Tide answered critics questioning how the team would respond to adversity in front of record crowd of 93,374 in Tiger Stadium. Running back Eddie Lacy said lineman D.J. Fluker went to every player individually and told them to keep their heads up.
“Let’s make history,” was the what every Alabama player said before the end of the drive.
It was a complete struggle for 58 and a half minutes, but Alabama found a way to break through in the last 1:34 of the contest. After going 10-of-22 through 58 and a half minutes, McCarron went 4-of-5 for 72 yards yards and the 28-yard go ahead touchdown pass to Yeldon. McCarron didn’t play his best game prior to the drive, but stepped up and had his Heisman moment to knock off the Tigers. Despite how high the stacks were, the situation was all too familiar for Alabama.
“We simulate that every week and it was like clock work,” McCarron said. “The whole offense looked into each other’s eyes and it was like, we do this every Thursday, so what’s the difference here.”
The win was unlike any in recent Alabama history. This is a university that has won two national championships in three years, but the celebration after Saturday’s victory hit home for players, fans and even coaches. Saban jumped around, fist pumping in exciting. Offensive linemen jumped for joy. Even the media relations staff let loose after the clock showed all zero. But none were more emotional than McCarron, who embraced teammates, his coach and parents after the game. McCarron said this was “definitely” the most emotional he gotten after a win.
“There are so many emotions running through me,” McCarron said. “Sometimes it can be a lot of pressure playing at Alabama, especially with all the tradition of winning and everything. Just coming back and winning a game like that, and like Coach Saban said, it might be known as ‘the drive’ in the history of Alabama. Just to be a part of it with my teammates was truly special.”