BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — If Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and receiver DeVonta Smith wind up as Heisman Trophy finalists, they can thank one another.
And the way they combined to spearhead a rout of LSU will be a prime example of why.
Jones and Smith connected eight times for 231 yards and three touchdowns, including two scoring passes longer that 60 yards, and No. 1 Alabama rolled to a 55-17 victory over LSU on Saturday night to clinch the SEC West and lock in a date with No. 6 Florida in the conference title game.
“We did a fantastic job offensively, controlled the tempo of the game,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who was back on the sideline after a bout with COVID-19 kept him home for last weekend’s Iron Bowl win over Auburn. “Mac played well. Smitty had a great game.”
Smith, who went to the same high school (Amite) as Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, capped a pair of three-play, 75-yard scoring drives with touchdowns of 65 and 61 yards. On his third touchdown catch, from 20-yards out, he shed tight coverage from top LSU cornerback Derrick Stingley Jr. and made a twisting, leaping, one-handed catch high over his head before landing on his back.
“I love Smitty,” Saban said. “He’s probably done as much this year for our team as any player that we’ve ever had.
“He had some challenges out there today because they were trying to take him out of the game,” Saban added, mentioning how frequently Smith was double-covered or shadowed by Stingley. “He still performed well.”
Najee Harris rushed for 145 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries for Alabama (9-0, 9-0 SEC), juking, shedding and even leaping over LSU defenders along the way.
LSU (3-5, 3-5) showed signs of life in the second quarter, scoring on a pair of long plays.
One nearly didn’t happen when receiver Kayshon Boutte caught a 43-yard pass from TJ Finley and released the ball in celebration just before crossing the goal line. Luckily for LSU, Jontre Kirkland was following the play and picked the ball up in the end zone to complete LSU’s first scoring play against Alabama in Tiger Stadium since 2014.
Later, John Emery ran for a 54-yard touchdown, the longest run allowed by Alabama this season. Each score pulled LSU as close as two touchdowns, but the Tide answered each with the two deep connections between Jones and Smith.
After the second Smith TD, Orgeron stomped along the sideline, gesticulating and hollering angrily in the direction of defensive coordinator Bo Pelini while also throwing his headset on the ground.
“Our plan was to double team Smith and that was one of the times we didn’t,” Orgeron said. “Frustrating to see one player get (more than 200) yards in the first half.”
Jones, who finished with 385 yards passing, had 338 yards and all four of his TDs passing by halftime, when Smith had seven catches for 219 yards. Smith’s third TD shortly before the half gave the Crimson Tide a 45-14 lead.
“It was all right,” Smith said of his performance. “There was some stuff I left out there, that we left out there, that I wish I could have done different, but we won so that’s all that really matters.”
Jones now has 3,113 yards and 27 TDs passing this season. He has completed 75.7% of his passes and thrown just three interceptions.
Smith has 80 catches for 1,305 yards and 15 TDs. He has had gains of 20 or more yards 25 times this season.
Aided by an LSU offside penalty on third and 3, Alabama drove 75 yards in seven plays on the opening series, taking a 7-0 lead on Harris’ zig-zagging, 14-yard run.
LSU responded by driving to the Alabama 15, briefly enlivening the socially distanced crowd of 22,349 in 102,000-seat Death Valley, only to come up short on third and 1 and fourth and 1 — both rushes by Tyrion Davis-Price.
Two plays later, Alabama was inside LSU’s 20 and scored on Harris’ short run.
Jones found wide-open tight end Jahleel Billingsley for a 24-yard score that made it 21-0 before the first quarter ended.
Alabama: Alabama put up the highest point total in the 85 games these teams have played since 1895. If anything, the four-touchdown spread underestimated the gulf between Alabama and an LSU program that has fallen far since last season’s Tigers finished as unbeaten national champs.
LSU: The young and rebuilding Tigers’ execution was inconsistent and seemingly no mistake went unpunished by an Alabama squad that came in outscoring opponents by an average of 30 points this season. The Tigers gave up the most points by an LSU team since 1993 (vs. Florida) and now must win their final two regular season games and a bowl game — if they go to one — to avoid their first losing record since 1999.
There’s no reason to expect Alabama to drop from No. 1 after winning in the convincing manner forecast by oddsmakers.
Alabama: Visits Arkansas to close out its regular season.
LSU: Visits Florida in a game rescheduled from Oct. 17 because of a COVID-19 outbreak affecting the Gators.
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