Was that Nick Saban running to an Alabama cheering section, alternating between thumb-up and pointer up, to say, we’re number one? Why, yes it was.
And that was an awfully big smile on Saban’s face, as LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. stopped him to offer congratulations.
And why was Alabama’s coach looking a lot like the happy guy that once hoisted a crystal ball after a victory over LSU?
Because his top-ranked Tide just played not its best game but walked out of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday with a 21-point, ultimately dominant showing against No. 10 LSU in one of those games Alabama supposedly could have lost.
Alabama showed weakness in the secondary and had anxious moments against the team that has most often challenged the Tide’s dominance of the SEC since 2009, but Saban’s team ultimately exploited weakness and asserted itself.
LSU doesn’t have the defense it had in previous epic meetings with Alabama, especially against the run.
Alabama can still run and came straight at LSU after the Tigers tied the game at 17-17 early in the third quarter, wearing LSU down.
“I was really proud of our players in the second half,” Saban said. “I thought we did a fantastic job and probably played our best half of football.
“It wasn’t perfect, didn’t played great in the first half, but I tell you what. There was a lot of character in the second half to control the line of scrimmage the way we did on offense.”
This wasn’t the best LSU team to play Alabama these past four years. There are reasons the Tigers now have three losses.
They have an accurate quarterback in Zach Mettenberger, and he attacked an Alabama secondary that has struggled against the better quarterbacks they’ve faced. He was the biggest reason why LSU found itself tied with Alabama at 12:01 of the third quarter.
But LSU also had the nation’s 50th best defense against the run coming into Saturday’s game, and Alabama has running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake and an offensive line that has gelled.
The Tide lined up and ran straight at LSU. Of Alabama’s 35 plays in the second half, 28 were runs.
On a 14-play drive that ended in Yeldon’s 4-yard run to put Alabama up 24-17, 11 were called runs.
On 10-play drive ending in Yeldon’s 1-yard run to make it 31-17, six were called runs.
On an eight-play drive ending in McCarron’s touchdown pass to Jalston Fowler to make it 38-17, seven plays were called runs.
It didn’t come with the eye-popping rushing total. Alabama finished with 193 net rushing yards.
But it was reminiscent of how Alabama asserted its will with the run against Georgia in last year’s SEC Championship Game.
It also allowed Alabama to hold the ball for 19:29 of the second half, and that kept Mettenberger on the bench more than he was on the field.
The assertive show of running wasn’t the only key in Saturday’s game. Tana Patrick’s strip of LSU fullback J.C. Copeland kept a touchdown off the board early in the game.
Saban also found his inner Les Miles and kept that 14-play touchdown drive alive with a fake punt.
There were times in this game when Alabama had to make plays.
In the end, however, it was a three-touchdown victory over that purple-and-gold team that won the so-called “Game of the Century” at Bryant-Denny two years ago, and it the manner of victory was a hallmark of Saban’s championship teams.
Sports columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576, firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @jmedley_star.