BATON ROUGE - LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron did worse than former coach Les Miles against Alabama. His team did not score in a 10-0 loss to the No. 1 Crimson Tide in front of 102,321 at Tiger Stadium Saturday night.
It was the Tigers' first shutout since a 17-0 loss at Arkansas in 2014. It was LSU's first shutout at the hands of Alabama since the 21-0 setback in the national championship game on Jan. 9, 2012, which in many ways started Miles on his road to dismissal early this season. No. 14 LSU (5-3, 3-2 Southeastern Conference) lost for the sixth straight time to Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC), including the previous four in which it at least scored.
"We struggled to run the ball. We struggled to pass protect. We struggled," a subdued Orgeron said.
LSU's "new" offense under interim offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who replaced Cam Cameron on the same Sept. 25 day that Orgeron replaced Miles, saw his unit limited to 33 rushing yards on 27 carries and six first downs. Tailback Leonard Fournette gained 35 yards on 17 carries, which was nearly identical to his total under Miles at Alabama last season when he gained 31 on 19 carries in a 30-16 loss.
Alabama sacked LSU quarterback Danny Etling five times and hurried him three other times. He completed 11 of 24 passes for 92 yards with an interception. Alabama outgained LSU with 323 yards on 70 plays to 125 on 51 plays. LSU, as was frequently the case in the Miles era in recent years, often looked confused and disjointed at the line of scrimmage and frequently called timeouts to try to get it together.
"We had trouble getting play calls right," Orgeron said. "We had trouble getting protection right. We just couldn't get anything going on offense. We're very disappointed in everything."
The Crimson Tide took the 10-0 lead with 2:45 to play in the game on a 17-yard field goal by Adam Griffith and ate up 9:51 of the fourth quarter on a 50-yard drive in 15 plays that buried the Tigers and finally silenced a raucous crowd that at times was deafening. Etling's interception set up the drive. On first down from his 37, he hurried his throw under a rush and was hit just as he released. Defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick intercepted it after linebacker Ryan Anderson got a hand on the awkward pass.
"We had a nice game plan coming in," Etling said. "But I just don't think we executed it well enough to put points on the board, obviously."
Alabama finally broke the ice on the first Football Bowl Subdivision game this season to be scoreless after three quarters when quarterback Jalen Hurts scrambled and rambled 21 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a third-and-eight play. The score climaxed a 90-yard drive on the 12th play as the Tide went up 7-0 with 13:08 to play in the game.
"We didn't score for three quarters. They didn't score for four," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Hurts led all rushers with 114 yards on 20 carries. He completed 10 of 19 passes for 107 yards with one interception. Alabama converted a fourth and one at the LSU 33-yard line on its first scoring drive when tailback Bo Scarbrough gained 10 yards to the 23-yard line.
Just moments before LSU appeared to be in business at the Alabama 42-yard line following the first sack of the game of Hurts as seldom used defensive tackle Frank Herron nailed him for a 5-yard loss and forced a fumble that defensive end Arden Key recovered. Etling hit tight end Colin Jeter for a 5-yard gain, but on third and three LSU was called for a delay of game when Etling couldn't get the snap in time. Etling gestured to the sideline in frustration, and Orgeron responded by walking toward him onto the field, getting in his face and cussing. Then on third and eight, defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson sacked Etling for an 11-yard loss, and LSU punted. It was Alabama's fifth sack of Etling, who completed 9 of 18 passes for just 77 yards through the first three quarters.
LSU also did not cash in on a scoring opportunity in the opening minutes as safety Jamal Adams intercepted Hurts' second pass of the game at the Alabama 33-yard line. On second down and seven, Etling threw errantly to open wide receiver Travin Dural for an incompletion, then was sacked for a 2-yard loss by defensive end Tim Williams of Baton Rouge. Colby Delahoussaye attempted a 49-yard field goal, but Alabama's Ronnie Harrison blocked it.
Etling found wide receiver D.J. Chark for a 41-yard gain to the Alabama 43 on LSU's next possession, but the next three plays lost eight yards as Fournette lost five and Etling was sacked by end Jonathan Allen and linebacker Rashan Evans on back-to-back plays. And LSU punted. In all, LSU punted eight times.
"Everybody is feeling like we left a lot on the table tonight," Orgeron said.
But LSU's defense under first-year coordinator Dave Aranda answered the bell and kept the Tigers in the game - much like former defensive coordinator John Chavis' unit did until late in that 21-0 loss to Alabama.
"The defense gave a valiant effort," Orgeron said.
Alabama tailback Damien Harris was held to 53 yards on 12 carries after coming in averaging 87 yards a game. Alabama entered the game averaging 43.9 points a game.
"Dave Aranda had a tremendous plan," Orgeron said.
"I thought the defense played well enough for us to win," Etling said.
Alabama, which punted five times, could do very little offensively for much of the game against a spirited, swarming LSU defense. And the score stood at 0-0 at halftime. It marked the first time since a loss to Florida State in 2007 that Alabama did not score in a first half. LSU did not score in the first half for the second time this season as it was held to nothing in the first half in a 16-14 loss to Wisconsin.
The Tide appeared ready to take the lead early in the third quarter after Hurts hit wide receiver ArDarius Stewart for 52 yards to the LSU 8-yard line on the Tide's first play of the second half. LSU defensive tackle Lewis Neal stuff tailback Damien Harris for no gain on second and goal from the 5-yard line. After Hurt gained four to the 1, Saban decided to go for it on fourth and one. But linebacker Duke Riley and Key nailed Hurts for a 5-yard loss as Tiger Stadium erupted.
Soon, though, it would be quiet as in 2014 and 2012.