TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Twice, Jalen Hurts has almost single-handedly ruined LSU’s hopes for a huge upset in its annual marquee Southeastern Conference West matchup with Alabama.
After leading the Crimson Tide to a 10-0 victory over the Tigers as a true freshman a year ago, when he racked up 114 rushing yards and 107 passing yards, Hurts was at it again when the bitter rivals faced off Saturday night.
Time and again, the 6-foot-2, 218-pound quarterback was a pain for LSU’s defense when he used his arms and legs to spark top-ranked Alabama’s 24-10 win in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The elusive Hurts rushed for 44 yards with a back-breaking 3-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter and hit on 11 of 24 pass attempts for 183 yards and another score while darting between LSU defenders for much of the evening.
With his 227 combined yards, Hurts accounted for 75.9 percent of Alabama’s 299 yards.
In his first game against LSU last November, Hurts broke up a scoreless duel with a weaving 21-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, then got his team in position for an insurance field goal that secured the victory.
Even though LSU’s front seven was able to apply some pressure to Hurts on Saturday, Alabama managed to make enough plays throughout the game to get the job done.
It left many wondering where Alabama would have been without him after the Crimson Tide, which was tops in the league in total offense (499.8 yards per game), rushing offense (298.8), scoring average (43.0) and touchdowns (42), fell well short of those gaudy numbers.
“We didn’t do a great job out there, considering the people that were down (with injuries), but you can’t argue with our fight,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We made the plays we needed to win the game, but you also have to give LSU’s players credit.”
Saban said LSU made it tough on Alabama by putting eight defenders on the line of scrimmage, a plan designed to slow down the Crimson Tide’s powerful running game and make Hurts beat them with his arm.
Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris combined for just 72 yards on 20 attempts as the Tide netted 116 yards and a 3.2 average on 36 carries.
“We didn’t have a lot of consistency on offense, but we made enough plays when we needed them and we scored enough points to win the game,” Saban said.
Hurts completed passes of 47, 24, 22 and 21 yards and peeled off runs of 19, 15 and 11 yards.
“I thought he played a really good game,” Saban said. “They had an eight-man front, which made it really hard for us to run the ball. They also ran some guys at him.”
Hurts, who had a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to push his team’s lead to 21-3, created four huge plays late in that quarter and early in the fourth.
On the series that ended with his scoring run, he threw a 15-yard pass to Cam Sims to keep the drive going, then hit Calvin Ridley for a 22-yard gain to the LSU 3.
Then, after LSU trimmed the deficit to 11 points on a short scoring run by Darrel Williams, Hurts made the Tigers pay again.
He eluded would-be tacklers and sprinted to the chains for an 11-yard gain on third-and-10, then spotted Smith for a 21-yard gain on third-and-4 to get his team in range for a field goal for the final points of the game.
“He made some big plays, but it was kind of ugly in between,” Saban said of his team’s performance. “But Jalen did a good job out there.”