TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — A hard-running Derrick Henry and No. 7 Alabama’s equally punishing defense stole the show and proved they belong squarely in the College Football Playoff hunt.
Henry ran for 210 yards and three touchdowns and the Crimson Tide’s unrelenting defense smothered Leonard Fournette in a 30-16 victory over No. 4 LSU on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) physically dismantled the previously unbeaten Tigers (7-1, 4-1) in the second half. It was a physical, no-frills performance days after some questioned the team’s No. 4 College Football Playoff ranking. LSU came in at No. 2 in the CFP ranking and in control of its own fate.
Henry led the way with 38 carries in a game where he took second billing. The nation’s leading rusher, Fournette gained only 31 yards on 19 carries. His previous season low was 154 yards against Western Kentucky.
Alabama’s SEC title chances got a boost about an hour before kickoff when Arkansas beat No. 19 Mississippi 53-52 in overtime. The Rebels are the only team to have beaten the Tide, which got an even bigger boost from its performance.
Fournette didn’t get much help from the rest of the offense and the Tigers were outgained 434-182 in total yards. LSU came in averaging 309 rushing yards and finished with 54.
Brandon Harris, fresh from a third straight 200-yard game, made a few big plays but couldn’t sustain anything. He was 6-of-19 passing for 128 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
By comparison, Alabama’s own first-year starter turned in a mostly pristine performance. Jake Coker was 18 of 24 for 184 yards.
Henry tracked down Fournette on the field afterward, giving him a brief hug before heading to the locker room after a performance the presumed Heisman Trophy front-runner would have been proud of. Henry has scored touchdowns in 14 consecutive games, the longest current FBS streak.
Fournette came into the game averaging 193 yards with nine straight 100-yard efforts. He had 13 yards on 15 carries entering the fourth quarter before scoring his 16th touchdown with 9:18 left.
Defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, Henry’s lead blocker on two short touchdowns, jumped over LSU’s line to block the extra point attempt and leave the score 30-16.
Henry helped Alabama drain the final 9-plus minutes after taking over at the 8.
The Tide’s surge began with Adam Griffith’s 55-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half after LSU had produced a tying 10-point flurry. Tide coach Nick Saban initially sent out punter JK Scott, but reconsidered and called timeout.
It was 15 yards longer than Griffith’s previous season best.
Alabama didn’t let up from there. Linebacker Dillon Lee picked off a Harris pass on the first play of the second half. Four plays later Henry plowed for a second straight short touchdown behind Robinson.
AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org