NEW ORLEANS — Turns out, Alabama was the better team all along.
The Crimson Tide emphatically stated that case Monday by beating Louisiana State University 21-0 in the BCS national championship game.
Alabama, 12-1, will take its second crystal ball trophy in the past three seasons back to Tuscaloosa, and although there was little drama and nothing offensively aesthetic about this game, the Tide will take great satisfaction in how this one was constructed.
And how it avenged the regular-season loss on the Tide’s home field.
The teams have now spilt their meetings, with LSU prevailing 9-6 in overtime on Nov. 5. There was talk of an Alabama triumph throwing the national championship race into a confused state because the Southeastern Conference powers split their two games and the Tigers had had played a more difficult schedule.
Could third-ranked Oklahoma State edge its way to the top in another poll? It seems unlikely. The Cowboys, 12-1, might have made for a fun opponent with their high-flying offense. But the totality of Alabama’s triumph likely ends any debate.
No matter what happens in other rankings, Alabama’s players and coaches got the confetti shower and accepted a trophy on the Superdome turf Monday night.
A remarkably active ‘Bama defense, combined with an unimaginative LSU offense, was the game’s primary theme.
This was the most dominant defensive performance in BCS title game history. A champion had never been crowned after a shutout until Monday.
Somehow, it was appropriate. The Southeastern Conference, guaranteed of its sixth straight BCS title when the West Division opponents were paired in the final, had ruled college football with its defensive approach. Monday was a celebration of that approach.
Secondarily, Alabama made field goals — five of them by Jeremy Shelley — reversing the fortune that doomed the Tide to the regular-season loss.
It didn’t matter when Shelley missed an extra point after Trent Richardson flew down the left sideline for a 34-yard touchdown run — the first touchdown in the eighth quarter between the teams this season and one that sent purple and gold fans streaming out of the building. The damage was done.
Defense was bound to rule when in this collision. Alabama and LSU boast the nation’s top two ranked units with a slew of future NFL defenders that proved no match for any opponent this season.
But LSU didn’t hold up its end of the bargain. Alabama’s quickness beat the Tigers to the corners, stuffed the middle and bottled up quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
Jefferson had ended his high school career with a state championship in the Superdome, but there would be no such happy ending for him and a Tigers team that had won the BCS title for 2003 and 2007 in a building some 80 miles from the Baton Rouge campus.
Through three quarters, LSU had collected a total of two first downs and 66 total yards. A third down wasn’t converted until early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers didn’t take their first snap in Alabama territory until 7« minutes remained. When they got there, the Tigers lost 3 yards, were flagged for 5 more and Jefferson was sacked and fumbled on fourth down.
When it came to scoring, the Tide never crossed the goal line until late. But Shelley, who sprayed one of the four misfires in the Nov. 5 meeting, was money.
Shelley, who primarily handles Alabama’s kicking duties from inside 40 yards, connected from 23, 34, 41, 35 and 44 yards. He missed one and had another blocked.
The five field goals and seven attempts were the most ever in a BCS bowl game.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron save perhaps his best game of this season for the biggest stage. He completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards. He didn’t throw an interception, and the Tide wasn’t afraid to challenge what many consider to be college football’s best secondary, especially cornerbacks Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne.
Tailbacks Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy gained the tough yards between the tackles, with Lacy especially effective in the second half dragging LSU defenders. Alabama’s offense line takes a bow here. It won the trench warfare with the Tigers up front.
LSU offered little in response. Through three quarters, the Tigers had recorded one play longer than 10 yards.
And Alabama, which beat Texas two years ago in Pasadena, Calif., for its first BCS title, claimed its second.