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Tide Turned: No. 2 LSU takes control of SEC, CFP race with long-awaited win over No. 3 Alabama

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At halftime, you could feel it in the air. LSU had scored two touchdowns in the final 26 seconds to take a 33-13 lead into the break, and the Tigers would get the ball to start the second half. It was set to be the Clemson game all over again.

This time, though, Alabama rallied. The Tide scored four straight touchdowns and thrice pulled within one score, but each time LSU got into danger, Joe Burrow pulled them out of it. The Ohio State transfer was masterful once again, as he led the Tigers to their fourth defeat of a top-10 opponent and himself to the front of the Heisman Trophy race. Burrow hit 31-of-39 passes for 393 yards with three touchdowns, and No. 2 LSU never trailed No. 3 Alabama en route to a 46-41 win.

The win snaps LSU’s (9-0, 5-0) oh-so-painful 8-game losing streak to Alabama, and puts the Tigers on the precipice of their first SEC West title since 2011, while the Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 SEC) will now hope for chaos in the division and elsewhere to keep its streak of five straight College Football Playoff appearances alive.

As expected, Tua Tagovailoa started and played the entire game, in the process throwing for 418 yards and four touchdowns. But he committed two costly turnovers that turned into 14 LSU points, starting with the first drive of the game.

Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and rolled to the LSU 8-yard line until Tagovailoa fumbled the ball, recovered by LSU’s Ray Thornton. The Tigers promptly roared out of the gate, needing only 62 plays to move 92 yards, the final 33 on a strike from Burrow to J’Marr Chase.

Another Alabama fumble — this one by punter Ty Perine on a bobbled snap — giving LSU the ball at Alabama’s 40 with a 7-0 lead and a chance to deliver an early haymaker. Instead, Alabama’s defense limited the Tigers to a 40-yard Cade York field goal and then delivered a haymaker of its own in the form of a 72-yard Jaylen Waddle punt return touchdown.

LSU immediately answered, though, moving 75 yards in eight plays and scoring on a 29-yard toss from Burrow to Terrace Marshall, Jr. York’s PAT was blocked, though, and LSU’s lead sat at 16-7 not even two minutes into the second quarter.

After a pair of scoreless drives, Alabama’s offense finally joined the game when Devonta Smith streaked past LSU’s freshman All-American corner Derek Stingley, Jr. — who was looking to the sideline at the snap — for a 64-yard touchdown. Joseph Bulovas‘s PAT pushed wide right, keeping LSU’s lead at three with 6:43 to go in the second quarter.

After a York field goal pushed LSU’s lead to six and a Crimson Tide three-and-out, the Tigers took over at its own 39 with 2:39 left in the first half. LSU played the drive beautifully, keyed by a 16-yard connection to Thaddeus Moss where he stepped out of bounds, stepped back in and then snared the ball with his arm stretching practically to Birmingham, which put the ball at Alabama’s 1. Clyde Edwards-Helaire soared in three plays later, putting LSU up 26-13 with 26 ticks left in the first half.

Ed Orgeron and company would have been thrilled to take a 13-point lead into the locker room until Patrick Queen intercepted Tagovailoa on the next snap which, when paired with an unnecessary roughness penalty on Alabama offensive lineman Landon Dickerson, gave LSU the ball at Alabama’s 13 with 11 seconds left before halftime. They needed only five, as Burrow found Edwards-Helaire for a touchdown, putting the Tigers up 33-13 at the break and getting the ball to open the second half.

LSU indeed threatened to blow it open, but Burrow was sacked by Xavier McKinney and fumbled at the Alabama 45, which was recovered by the Tide’s Terrell Lewis. Alabama did not score off the turnover, but the Tide did score next — a 10-play, 95-yard drive that culminated in a 15-yard pass from Tua to Najee Harris.

Alabama then forced an LSU punt, and Harris’s 1-yard touchdown run with 14:33 to go pulled Alabama within 33-27 with nearly an entire quarter to play.

Burrow answered, running for 15 yards on 3rd-and-5 to keep a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, nudging LSU back in front at 39-27. Alabama needed a touchdown on its next touch, and at first the drive seemed in peril before it began when facing a 3rd-and-19, but Tagovailoa found Henry Ruggs III for 26 yards to keep the drive alive. Alabama eventually found itself inside LSU’s 10, but a 4th-and-2 suddenly became a do-or-die moment with 5:32 to go and 12-point deficit. Tua found Jerry Jeudy to pull the Tide within 39-34.

Once again LSU needed Burrow to carry them, and once again he did. Burrow kept for 18 yards on a 3rd-and-2 with two minutes remaining, setting up a 7-yard Edwards-Helaire run that seemingly put the game on ice with 1:37 remaining. It wasn’t on ice yet: Tua immediately hit DeVonta Smith for an 85-yard score to pull Alabama within one score for the third time in the second half, but LSU recovered the onside kick and expired the remaining clock, clinching the school’s biggest win since the 2011 Game of the Century.

Tua Tagovailoa sets Alabama all-time pass TD record as No. 1 Crimson Tide handles No. 24 Texas A&M

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Any thought about No. 25 Texas A&M (3-3, 1-2 SEC) scoring a big upset at home against No. 1 Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) was quickly washed away by another dominant effort by the best team in the country. Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa threw four touchdowns and rushed for one more in a record-setting day for the Heisman Trophy hopeful as Alabama left Kyle Field in College Station with a 47-28 victory.

Tagovailoa became Alabama’s all-time touchdown pass leader with his first touchdown pass of the day, a 31-yard pass to Jaylen Waddle on Alabama’s first offensive series of the game. That touchdown tied the game, and Tagovailoa’s second touchdown gave Alabama the lead for good. The Crimson Tide never trailed after going up 14-7 and the closest Texas A&M would get the rest fo the game was on the ensuing possession. The Aggies cut the lead to 14-10 with a field goal, and the Crimson Tide scored the next 33 of 43 points to run away with the game.

Next up on Tagovailoa’s list of accomplishments at Alabama? All-time passing yards.

In the box score, Texas A&M actually hung with Alabama in terms of overall offensive yardage, but Tagovailoa had a batch of receivers to help him have a much more efficiently productive output compared to Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond. Devonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III, and Najee Harris all caught touchdown passes for Alabama, in addition to the previously mentioned Waddle. Jalen Wydermyer was the only Aggie to catch a touchdown pass (he actually caught two in the game). Devonta Smith was tossed from the game late in the fourth quarter for throwing a punch at a Texas A&M player at the end of the play. No penalty was assessed to Texas A&M despite Smith’s punch being in retaliation to a punch thrown at him. Expect the SEC office to review that situation.

Harris also rushed for over 100 yards for the Tide. Mond was the leading rusher for Texas A&M. It was another reminder of just how much talent and skill Alabama has accumulated over years of recruiting and a reminder of where Texas A&M hopes to be one day under head coach Jimbo Fisher.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban remains undefeated against his former assistants. Saban improved to 18-0 all-time against head coaches that previously worked on his staff. Fisher is now 0-3 against Saban, including one matchup while Fisher was the head coach at Florida State. Fisher has now lost to Alabama in his first two games as head coach of the Aggies. Since Johnny Manziel stunned the Crimson Tide in the first meeting as SEC West opponents in 2012, the Aggies have lost to the Crimson Tide in seven straight meetings.

Alabama will return home next weekend to face traditional rival Tennessee. The Vols picked up a win in SEC play with a victory over Mississippi State earlier in the day but will be a heavy underdog in Tuscaloosa next week. Alabama has won 12 straight games in the series dating back to 2007. This should be the seventh time in that span Alabama will be the top-ranked team in the matchup, and the 12th time in 13 games Tennessee will not be ranked in the top 25.

Texas A&M, now 1-2 in SEC play with losses at home to Auburn and Alabama, will get a chance to regroup in the next couple of weeks. First up is a road game at Ole Miss next Saturday. The Aggies have won the last two meetings with the Rebels, including last season’s 38-24 victory in Oxford.

No. 2 Alabama too much for South Carolina

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The good news for South Carolina is that it landed several punches against Alabama and the game was much more competitive than the final score indicated. The bad news for the SEC? A “close” win still amounted to a 31-point win Tua Tagovailoa threw for 444 yards and five touchdowns to led the No. 2 Crimson Tide to a 47-23 victory over a game South Carolina squad.

Alabama (3-0, 1-0 SEC) accepted the ball to open the game and sliced 65 yards in five plays, scoring on a 24-yard Tua toss to running back Najee Harris, and at that point it seemed the route was on.

South Carolina (1-2, 0-1 SEC), however, did not agree. The Gamecocks pieced together a 14-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a 44-yard Parker White field goal. Then South Carolina’s defense simply swallowed Alabama’s offense on its next possession, sacking Tagovailoa on first and third down. Skyler DeLong‘s punt went just 14 yards, handing South Carolina the ball and a golden opportunity to take the lead at Alabama’s 30.

The Tide defense forced its own three-and-out but, rather than try a 51-yard field goal, Will Muschamp called a beautiful fake field goal that went for a White touchdown, but the score was wiped off the board due to holding and the Gamecocks punted.

Alabama punished that mistake three plays later, when Tua hit Henry Ruggs III for an 81-yard touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 14-3 lead at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter.

Once again knocked to the mat, South Carolina answered. This time, the Gamecocks went 75 yards in six snaps, scoring on a 31-yard toss from Ryan Hilinski to Shi Smith.

The first quarter ended with the quarterbacks going 17-of-24 for 273 yards and three touchdowns and the teams rushing for 28 combined yards.

South Carolina limited another Alabama drive to a field goal to open the second quarter, but then committed another crucial special teams mistake. This time, an illegal shift penalty negated a punt that was downed at the 1-yard line; on the second attempt, Joseph Charlton booted it 55 yards to the 17, which Jaylen Waddle returned 18 yards to the 35, turning a 5-yard mark off into a 34-yard penalty.

The Gamecocks forced Alabama into a 4th-and-3 at its own 42, when Tua tossed it to Najee Harris and the former 5-star did the rest, shucking one tackler and hurdling another for a highlight reel touchdown.

Alabama forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and then South Carolina committed its third special teams disaster of the first half. Sensing the game slipping away from him, Muschamp called a fake punt from his own 30, but the Tide’s coverage unit was not fooled at all and Alabama took over at the South Carolina 32.

This time, however, Alabama paid back the Gamecocks with a special teams miscue of its own — a 37-yard field goal that Will Reichard pushed wide left.

Needing a drive to remain in the game, South Carolina got one, moving .. On first-and-goal from the 4, Rico Dowdle dove into the end zone but was ruled down at the 1. However, replays showed Dowdle perhaps got into the end zone before his thigh hit the ground, but the play was not reviewed. Hilinski’s second down pass was incomplete, and he fumbled the third down snap for a loss of two. Rather than kick a field goal, Muschamp elected to go for a fourth down on the final play of the half and Hilinski’s pass was incomplete and the Gamecocks came up empty.

South Carolina took the ball to open the second half and went 71 yards to get a 28-yard White field goal, meaning the Gamecocks compiled back-to-back drives totaling 24 plays, 148 yards… and three points.

Alabama finally separated for good when Tua found Devonta Smith on an RPO slant route for a 42-yard touchdown, putting the visitors up 31-13 with 9:52 to play in the third quarter. Tagovailoa ended his day at the 13:41 mark of the fourth quarter when he hit Smith for his 28th completion and his fifth touchdown of the day. Mac Jones capped the Tide scoring with a 1-yard keeper with 2:04 remaining.

Hilinski played courageously in his first start, completing 36-of-57 passes for 324 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, including an 11-yard toss to Kyle Markway with 11 seconds left in the game.

Trio of Tua TD tosses puts Alabama up on South Carolina at the half

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South Carolina has landed several punches on No. 2 Alabama through one half. Unfortunately for a game ‘Cocks crew, several of those punches have missed the Tide and landed squarely on their own face, and as a result Alabama leads 24-10 at the half in Columbia.

Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and sliced 65 yards in five plays, scoring on a 24-yard Tua Tagovailoa toss to running back Najee Harris, and at that point it seemed the route was on.

South Carolina, however, did not agree. The Gamecocks pieced together a 14-play, 60-yard drive that resulted in a 44-yard Parker White field goal. Then South Carolina’s defense simply swallowed Alabama’s offense on its next possession, sacking Tagovailoa on first and third down. Skyler DeLong‘s punt went just 14 yards, handing South Carolina the ball and a golden opportunity to take the lead at Alabama’s 30.

The Tide defense forced its own three-and-out but, rather than try a 51-yard field goal, Will Muschamp called a beautiful fake field goal that went for a White touchdown, but the score was wiped off the board due to holding and the Gamecocks punted.

Alabama punished that mistake three plays later, when Tua hit Henry Ruggs III for an 81-yard touchdown to give the Crimson Tide a 14-3 lead at the 3:15 mark of the first quarter.

Once again knocked to the mat, South Carolina answered. This time, the Gamecocks went 75 yards in six snaps, scoring on a 31-yard toss from Ryan Hilinski (making his first career start) to Shi Smith.

The first quarter ended with the quarterbacks going 17-of-24 for 273 yards and three touchdowns and the teams rushing for 28 combined yards.

South Carolina limited another Alabama drive to a field goal to open the second quarter, but then committed another crucial special teams mistake. This time, an illegal shift penalty negated a punt that was downed at the 1-yard line; on the second attempt, Joseph Charlton booted it 55 yards to the 17, which Jaylen Waddle returned 18 yards to the 35, turning a 5-yard mark off into a 34-yard penalty.

The Gamecocks forced Alabama into a 4th-and-3 at its own 42, when Tua tossed it to Najee Harris and the former 5-star did the rest, shucking one tackler and hurdling another for a highlight reel touchdown.

Alabama forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession and then South Carolina committed its third special teams disaster of the first half. Sensing the game slipping away from him, Muschamp called a fake punt from his own 30, but the Tide’s coverage unit was not fooled at all and Alabama took over at the South Carolina 32.

This time, however, Alabama paid back the Gamecocks with a special teams miscue of its own — a 37-yard field goal that Will Reichard pushed wide left.

Needing a drive to remain in the game, South Carolina got one, moving .. On first-and-goal from the 4, Rico Dowdle dove into the end zone but was ruled down at the 1. However, replays showed Dowdle perhaps got into the end zone before his thigh hit the ground, but the play was not reviewed. Hilinski’s second down pass was incomplete, and he fumbled the third down snap for a loss of two. Rather than kick a field goal, Muschamp elected to go for a fourth down on the final play of the half and Hilinski’s pass was incomplete and the Gamecocks came up empty.

Tagovailoa closed the half 16-of-22 for 286 yards and three touchdowns, while Hilinski was 18-of-28 for 175 yards and a score. South Carolina leads the rushing battle, 27-26.

Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy headlines 2019 Biletnikoff Award Watch List

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Media Day season is also Watch List season and the latest to surface for the 2019 campaign comes out of Tallahassee in the form of the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. The award, given annually to the nation’s most outstanding receiver, includes the defending winner in Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy and fellow semifinalist Tylan Wallace out of Oklahoma State, as well as a number of other talented pass-catchers from around the country.

Here’s the full list, which is a good general overview of the best wide receivers and tight ends for the upcoming season even if a few names can gripe about being left off:

Lynn Bowden, Jr. (Kentucky)

Rico Bussey, Jr. (North Texas)

Cedric Byrd (Hawaii)

Grant Calcaterra (Oklahoma)

Damonte Coxie (Memphis)

Gabriel Davis (UCF)

Bryan Edwards (South Carolina)

D’Wayne Eskridge (Western Michigan)

Aaron Fuller (Washington)

Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty)

KJ Hamler (Penn State)

Adrian Hardy (Louisiana Tech)

Damon Hazelton (Virginia Tech)

Tee Higgins (Clemson)

K.J. Hill (Ohio State)

Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State)

Justin Jefferson (LSU)

Jerry Jeudy (Alabama)

Tyler Johnson (Minnesota)

Collin Johnson (Texas)

CeeDee Lamb (Oklahoma)

Ty Lee (Middle Tennessee State)

Kalija Lipscomb (Vanderbilt)

McLane Mannix (Texas Tech)

Kirk Merritt (Arkansas State)

Riley Miller (Ball State)

Denzel Mims (Baylor)

Darnell Mooney (Tulane)

Rondale Moore (Purdue)

Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri)

K.J. Osborn (Miami)

Dezmon Patmon (Washington State)

Jared Pinkney (Vanderbilt)

Michael Pittman, Jr. (USC)

James Proche (SMU)

Jalen Reagor (TCU)

Jared Rice (Fresno State)

Sean Riley (Syracuse)

Reggie Roberson, Jr. (SMU)

Justyn Ross (Clemson)

Henry Ruggs III (Alabama)

Laviska Shenault, Jr. (Colorado)

JD Spielman (Nebraska)

Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC)

Marquez Stevenson (Houston)

Tamorrion Terry (Florida State)

Jaylen Waddle (Alabama)

Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State)

JoJo Ward (Hawaii)

Quez Watkins (Southern Miss)