Alabama will forever question a controversial no-call in the third quarter of Saturday's game. LSU, however, will choose to remember how the Tigers took control in the second half and pulled away for a 26-10 victory.
"They played with a lot of heart," LSU coach Nick Saban said.
"It meant a lot to them to come out there and give their best to try to win this game, and I was really proud of the effort that we got. I'm really proud of the way we played in the second half.
"Everybody always asks, 'What have you got to play for?' You guys always ask me that. You play for your pride. It means something. You beat Alabama, it means something."
That was evident in the second half when the 14th-ranked Tigers (7-2, 4-2 SEC) turned their game up several notches after trailing 10-6 at halftime. In fact, Alabama appeared to be on the verge of increasing its lead when quarterback Spencer Pennington tossed a pass from the 9-yard line toward receiver Keith Brown in the end zone. LSU cornerback Corey Webster appeared to bump Brown out of the way, intercepting the pass. Instead of being flagged for interference, Webster returned his pick 44 yards.
"We didn't like that," Pennington said. "Back where we come from, that is pass interference every day. It was a big turning point in the game. We're fixing to go up 17-6 and there's no doubt in my mind about that."
There was, however, doubt in the mind of Webster about the need for a penalty.
"You know that's the aggressive kind of defense we play," a grinning Webster said. "And I guess referees, they always make good calls and they made the right call there. We were both fighting for position. We both saw the ball in the air. We kind of nudged each other around, just being real aggressive. I think it was a good no call."
Right or wrong, it was LSU that responded positively to the turn of events.
LSU didn't score off the interception but eventually took advantage of the positive field position when defensive end Marcus Spears knocked the ball away from Pennington at the 8-yard line and linebacker Cameron Vaughn picked up the fumble and returned it for LSU's first touchdown of the game and a 13-10 lead with 5:10 left in the third quarter.
"It gave everybody a confidence boost," Spears said of the decisive turnovers. "It did more (for morale) than anything. The offense rejuvenated after they saw that happen and went out and made good plays, big runs. It takes things like that to get you going sometimes."
The Tigers spent the rest of the game controlling Alabama's one-dimensional offense and slamming away at the Crimson Tide with their own offense, closing strong with two fourth-quarter touchdowns by running back Joseph Addai.
"The one thing that nobody's ever said about this team that I'm going to say," Saban said, "is we do a lot of things wrong, we're not always pretty, we can complain about how much we throw the ball and how many we complete, but the one thing we do is we've come back four times and won. You've got to say something about that.
"A lot of teams would melt down in those situations, and I'm really proud of the way our players believe in themselves, trust in each other to be able to come back in the game and win a game like we did today against a good football team."
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