Tuscaloosa, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - No. 1 Alabama saw its perfect season hanging in the balance with Saturday's matchup against 10th-ranked LSU locked at 17-17 early in the third quarter.
But behind a pair of second-half touchdowns from T.J. Yeldon, the top-ranked Crimson Tide ripped off 21 unanswered points to rally for a 38-17 victory over the Tigers in an SEC showdown from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Yeldon, who finished with 133 yards on 25 carries, scored from four yards out to break the tie before adding a 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth.
AJ McCarron capped the second-half flurry with a 3-yard TD pass to Jalston Fowler and finished 14-of-20 passing for 179 yards and three touchdowns for Alabama (9-0, 6-0 SEC), which has won three straight and five of seven in the series after a thrilling 21-17 come-from-behind victory in Baton Rouge last season.
"I was really proud of our players in the second half," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "I thought they did a fantastic job and probably played our best half of football. It wasn't perfect, and we didn't play great in the first half, but [there was] a lot of character out there in the second half to control the line of scrimmage the way we did on offense."
Zach Mettenberger completed 16-of-23 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown, while Jeremy Hill added 42 yards and a score on 13 carries for the Tigers, (7-3, 3-3), who fell to 2-11-1 all-time against No. 1 ranked teams.
"We weren't going to back down from Alabama," Mettenberger remarked. "We had a good game plan going, but we just weren't able to execute it."
Colby Delahoussaye drilled a 41-yard field goal on LSU's opening possession of the second half to tie the game at 17-17, and the Tigers quickly forced the Crimson Tide into a 4th-and-2 from the Alabama 41.
After taking a timeout to talk about it, Alabama decided to fake a punt, with defensive back Jarrick Williams taking a handoff six yards for a fresh set of downs at the Alabama 47.
"I just got the ball, saw an opening and took it," Williams said. "I gained six yards for my team."
McCarron converted a 3rd-and-4 shortly after with a 13-yard completion to Amari Cooper before Yeldon broke free for 22 yards to the LSU 12.
Facing 3rd-and-2 from the LSU 4, Yeldon sprinted toward the right pylon and dove across the goal line for a 4-yard score that made it 24-17 with 4:11 left in the third.
Mettenberger moved LSU across midfield on the team's ensuing touch, but his 3rd-and-7 pass for Jarvis Landry was broken up by Deion Belue, forcing the Tigers to punt the ball away.
Yeldon carried the load on Alabama's next possession, with the sophomore running back racking up 48 yards from scrimmage on a 10-play trek that he capped with a 1-yard TD surge to double Alabama's lead early in the fourth.
Odell Beckham returned the ensuing kickoff 82 yards to give the Tigers excellent field position, but Mettenberger misfired on his next three throws and the Tigers turned the ball over on downs.
Aided by a pair of personal foul penalties against LSU, Alabama quickly made its way down the field before McCarron flipped a short pass out to his right for Fowler, who ran through a defender and stretched the ball across the goal line for a 3-yard score that made it 38-17 with just over four minutes left.
Mettenberger was sacked on three straight plays to end LSU's ensuing touch and McCarron kneeled down three straight times to run out the rest of the clock.
Early on, LSU looked poised to score the game's first points on the team's opening drive, but J.C. Copeland was stripped just before the goal line and Alabama's Landon Collins returned the fumble to the Alabama 10.
The Tigers then forced an Alabama three-and-out, but a miscommunication between Mettenberger and his center gave the ball back to the Crimson Tide.
From the shotgun, Mettenberger stepped to the line to change the play just as center Elliott Porter snapped the ball, which deflected off Mettenberger and was recovered by Alabama's Trey DePriest at the LSU 27.
LSU's defense stood tall and forced the Crimson Tide to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Cade Foster that made it 3-0 late in the first.
The Tigers answered with an 8-play, 57-yard march that Hill capped with a 3- yard TD surge to make it 7-3 LSU, but after a defensive pass interference call extended Alabama's ensuing series, McCarron found O.J. Howard on a quick slant that Howard took for a 52-yard score to make it 10-7 Alabama.
After an LSU punt, McCarron completed all four of his passes on a 10-play, 80- yard trek, culminating in a 9-yard TD pass to Kevin Norwood that gave Alabama a 17-7 edge with 5:17 left in the half.
Mettenberger countered with a 10-play march of his own, converting all three third downs on the series, including a 3rd-and-goal from the Alabama 6 when he found Travin Dural in the back of the end zone to make it 17-14 with under a minute left in the half.
McCarron now has 7,997 passing yards for his career to set the Alabama career passing yard record, surpassing John Parker Wilson's mark of 7,924 yards set from 2005-08 ... Hill's TD run was the first touchdown allowed by the Alabama defense in the second quarter this season ... Mettenberger has thrown for 2,733 yards this season, becoming the first LSU QB to register 2,500 passing yards in back-to-back seasons. Mettenberger threw for 2,609 yards last year in his first season as a starter ... Alabama compiled 25 first downs, compared to 16 for LSU ... Landry caught five passes for a game-high 90 yards ... Alabama racked up 193 rushing yards while limiting LSU to 43 yards on the ground.