Sims, White lift Alabama in comeback overtime win

Sean Landry

BATON ROUGE, La. – When it was needed most, No. 5 Alabama’s high-octane offense and hot shot new kicker came through, lifting Alabama to a comeback, overtime 20-13 victory over No. 16 LSU.

Despite an on-paper matchup that was highly favorable to the Alabama run game, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin and the Crimson Tide chose to put the game on first-year quarterback Blake Sims’ arm in front of 102,321 people at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, throwing the ball 45 times for 209 yards. For 59 minutes and 10 seconds, it didn’t amount to much, with the Crimson Tide punting nine times and converting only eight of 20 third downs. Standout wide receiver Amari Cooper dropped several passes but picked up 83 yards en route to setting the single-season and career records for receiving yards at Alabama. 

“We just weren’t doing the little things that could get us there,” Sims said. “ I missed a couple of passes, a couple of reads. I put the whole thing on me because if I would have did what I had to do, the game would have turned out a different way.” 

Then, late in the game, pinned deep in its own territory with time running out, much like the 2012 edition of the matchup, Alabama looked to running back T.J Yeldon to be its savior again. Averaging 4.5 yards per attempt on the night, Yeldon carried the Crimson Tide out of its own end zone but fumbled on the second play of the drive, giving LSU the ball at the 6-yard line with just over a minute to play. Three plays later, after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Tigers made 39-yard field goal, taking a 13-10 lead with 50 seconds left in the game. 

“I went up to [Yeldon] and told him to keep his head because we’re gonna go win this game,” Sims said. “Don’t think you lost this game for us because the game ain’t over yet.” 

Alabama got the ball back at its own 35 and Sims took over, hitting tight end O.J Howard twice, receiver Christion Jones once and rushing for a first down on the final drive in regulation before passing 16 yards to DeAndrew White at the 10-yard line for the last pass of the drive. Griffith redeemed an earlier miss with a 27-yard field goal, forcing overtime. 

“He was ready,” Cooper said of Sims’ comeback drive. “He stepped up. He’s a great leader for us and there was no fear in his eyes or anything like that. He was ready.”

With help from running backs Derrick Henry and Jalston Fowler, Sims was perfect in overtime, finding 304 lb tight end Brandon Greene on the first play, and hitting White with a 6-yard pass for the game winning touchdown, the last completion of the night. 

“We just knew this was our season, man, and we just had to step up and execute,” White said. “We knew LSU’s a good team, a good defensive team, and we had to see what champions are made of.

Sims said the win was one of the most emotional of the Crimson Tide’s season; a vital victory that keeps the Crimson Tide on track for the inaugural College Football Playoff. 

“If Coach Saban is smiling, you know that we did a good job,” Sims said. “If he’s celebrating then we can celebrate even harder.”

Safety Landon Collins, a native Louisianan, said the win in the newly-expanded, even louder Death Valley, was sweeter than any in his career.

“It’s sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet,” Collins said. “It’s sweet as I don’t know what. It’s the best win of my life. We’re in overtime and took over and did our job and played excellent. That’s what we did for all four quarters plus one, so it’s a great feeling for us.”