The sight of Alabama’s DaVonta Smith running free behind his secondary — again — drove LSU head coach Ed Orgeron to storm down his own sideline and angrily spike his headset into the turf.
It was the second of Smith’s two long-distance scoring plays in the first half – in this case a 61-yarder early in the second quarter – that not only gave the Crimson Tide a three-touchdown lead, but rendered the Tigers helpless to slow down the Amite native.
Smith was just a part of Alabama’s three-pronged offensive juggernaut that scored on its first seven possessions en route to a historic 55-17 victory Saturday over LSU at Tiger Stadium.
“Our plan for most of the game was to double team,” Orgeron said of Smith. “We got beat one on one, it was nobody’s fault. Sometimes we had him doubled and he made some big plays. It was just frustrating to see one player almost have 300 yards (actually 219) in the first half.”
With Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and Smith serving as the catalysts, along with running back Najee Harris, the Crimson Tide torched LSU’s defense for a season-high 650 yards and the 55 points scored was the most by either team in the 85-year history of the series.
Top-ranked Alabama (9-0) clinched the SEC’s Western Division crown and will meet Florida for the SEC Championship on Dec. 19.
The Crimson Tide also covered the spread of 29 ½ points which made the Tigers (3-5) the biggest underdog involving a reigning national champion.
“It was a tough game,” LSU center Liam Shanahan said. “I thought we played hard, but we made too many mistakes throughout the game. There’s a reason why they’re the No. 1 team in the country. They are who they are, and we couldn’t afford to make the mistakes that we made.”
Jones, who completed his first 12 passes, continued adding his Heisman Trophy credentials, completing 20 of 28 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns in just over three quarters of play.
Smith turned in the second-biggest game of the season for an SEC receiver with 8 catches for 231 yards and three touchdowns – all but one catch for 13 yards coming in the first half. Two of Smith’s three scores came against LSU cornerback Cordale Flott instead of All-American Derek Stingley Jr.
“Early on in our calls we were able to,” LSU linebacker Jabril Cox said of the Tigers attempt to double team Smith. “We got mixed up in a couple of switch routes and sometimes the safety was leaning toward the other way. Early on we were able to do it, but they got behind us in those few times and able to make the catch and score touchdowns.”
Alabama’s high-powered offense was the latest to subdue an LSU defense, which also yielded 632 yards to Mississippi State, 586 to Missouri and 506 to Auburn.
Bama’s 55 points, which only included 10 after halftime, was the fourth time this season the Tigers permitted 44 or more points.
The flickers of hope for LSU came from its offense which broke a scoreless streak of 11 straight quarters without a point against Alabama in Tiger Stadium.
Freshman quarterback TJ Finley drove LSU from its own 5-yard line and the drive gained steam following an 8-yard completion to wide receiver Kayshon Boutte, coupled with a roughing the passer call, to the Tigers’ 42-yard line.
Three plays later Finley found Boutte (8 catches for 111 yards) wide open down the numbers but the freshman from New Iberia wasn’t able to complete the 44-yard scoring play. He inexplicably dropped the ball before crossing the goal line, and fortunately trailing receiver Jontre’ Kirklin alertly recovered for the touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.
Finley was 14 of 28 for 144 yards without an interception and fellow freshman Max Johnson went 11 of 17 for 110 yards.
“He made some good plays,” Orgeron said of Finley. “He made some poor throws, but a freshman’s going to do that. I think he played pretty good to handle everything, especially at the beginning of the game.”
The Tigers finished with 352 yards of total offense, 79 of which came from running back John Emery Jr. on seven carries.
LSU wasn’t able to seize the momentum for very long. Alabama found itself back in the end zone in three plays with Jones connecting with Smith for a 65-yard score that made it 28-7 after the extra point kick.
The Tigers scored on consecutive possessions and closed the Alabama lead to 28-14. Emery found a crease over the left side, hit the sideline in front of his own bench and followed Boutte the final 10 yards to complete the 54-yard scoring run with 12:32 left in the second quarter.
Alabama’s offense kept its foot on the gas pedal. Jones maintained his red-hot first half with a 61-yard bomb to Smith against Flott for a 35-14 advantage 11:14 before halftime.
That sparked a stretch of 24 unanswered points from Alabama, which led 45-14 at halftime, to its biggest lead of 52-14 with 3:39 showing in the third quarter on a Harris 11-yard TD run, his the third rushing score of the game.
Smith managed to outdo himself when he completed Alabama’s 45-point first half with a spectacular 34-yard TD pass with 46 seconds left before halftime.
Stingley appeared to have inside position on Smith who simply reached high into the air with his right hand to pull in Jones’ pass near the back of the end zone.
“We put a lot into this,” Shanahan said. “This isn’t something that’s just like a hobby for us. This is pretty much our life … football year-round is what we work for. It’s got to be tough whenever you lose games, especially whenever you have a big opportunity like we did against one of the top teams.”