TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With an immovable defense and one big play by JaMarcus Russell and Dwayne Bowe, No. 5 LSU bounced Alabama from the national title picture and asserted itself as a dark horse contender.
The Tigers ended the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide's hopes for a perfect season with a 16-13 overtime victory yesterday, culminating a gutsy comeback with Russell's ad-libbed 11-yard touchdown pass to Bowe.
''It definitely turned out to be the SEC showdown everyone thought it would be," LSU offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said. ''They're a great team going at you. It's a tough loss for them but a great win for us."
LSU (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) seized control of the tightly packed SEC West with the win, their fourth in five attempts over ranked teams.
The Tigers would clinch it with victories over Mississippi and Arkansas. They were ranked seventh in the Bowl Championship Series standings entering the game, and still can dream about a spot in the national title game.
Alabama (9-1, 6-1) had its hopes of contending for anything beyond the SEC title dashed. While LSU players swarmed into the end zone, Tide fans mostly sat stunned by the sudden end to their unexpected bid for perfection.
''We came in to win the SEC and win the national championship," said Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle, who was sacked five times playing behind a new center. ''That's what everybody signs at Alabama to do. The fact that we're not going be able to do either one unless something crazy happens, and we had it right in front of us, it's a tough pill to swallow."
In the end, an Alabama native dealt the final blow. Russell, who's from Mobile, hit Justin Vincent on a swing pass for 10 yards to open the overtime possession after Alabama had to settle for a field goal. Then the LSU quarterback was stopped for no gain when he couldn't find an open receiver against the nation's top scoring defense.
A reverse to Xavier Carter went for 4 yards, forcing a third and 6.
''We were thinking the game might be over," Croyle said. ''Their kicker had been shaky all day."
LSU won it without having to turn to kicker Chris Jackson, who had already missed three of his four long field goal attempts.
Russell rolled right and threw a strike over the middle to Bowe to punctuate an up-and-down day mostly dominated by the defenses.
''We tried to run the post, but things weren't looking the way they needed to," Russell said. ''[Bowe] was my first read. I kept an eye open for him.
''I eyeballed the safety to get him to bite on the tight end. That's what [Bowe's] supposed to do, come back over the middle, and I knew it."