The No. 2 Tigers’ 46-41 win over the No. 3 Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium did more than close a heap of galling streaks, including Alabama’s eight-game hex over LSU and Alabama’s four-year home hegemony. It did more than showcase state-of-the art offensive skill in front of the 101,821 which included even the president and the first lady.

No, it rewarded a gutsy adaptation to the spread offense by LSU Coach Ed Orgeron and his staff in the offseason, and it cemented LSU, instead of Alabama, as a must-watch team heading toward the College Football Playoff. It also revealed in the highest stakes how LSU has upgraded its passing attack as if from the 19th century to the 21st, seen in a virtuoso quarterback in Joe Burrow and surely one of the most admirable football players around these days, the running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, whose penchant for dragging defenders found its epitome twice in the closing.

With 1:37 left, he manned himself out of the arms of an antagonist on a 7-yard touchdown run that provided a 46-34 lead and just about a clinch. With 1:21 left and the score 46-41, he bulled and shoved seemingly half the Alabama defense, if not the state itself, for an 11-yard gain and a first down that actually was the clinch.

His program’s offense, which had managed only 809 total yards combined in the previous four meetings with Alabama while looking muddled and antiquated, rampaged for 559. Burrow looked like a rare maestro with 31-for-39 for 393 yards and another 64 yards rushing, often in urgent situations.

Edwards-Helaire rushed for 103 and caught nine passes for 77. Receivers Justin Jefferson, Ja’Marr Chase and Thaddeus Moss (a tight end) had 19 catches combined for 296 uards. It all added up to so much that it even eclipsed Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, his 418 passing yards and four touchdown passes.

That couldn’t have been easy, and it wasn’t when LSU twice operated with a big lead pared to 33-27 and then 39-34. Both times, Burrow and Edwards-Helaire led the team down with plays full of creativity and imagination.

It all followed a funky and breathtaking first half that seemed to defy most accepted norms of football reality. LSU, which had squirmed for a combined 26 points in the past four Alabama-LSU games, streamed up and down the prairie of the field for a 33-13 lead by halftime, with 309 yards and about 100,000 home-crowd palpitations.

It began briskly, just after weirdness.

First, Alabama went 63 yards to take up shop well into the red zone, with a third-and-goal from the LSU 8-yard line. Tagovailoa took off on a rational, rightward scramble, shifted the football from his left hand to his right and then, untouched, fumbled backward. Linebacker Ray Thornton promptly recovered, and LSU’s offense took over on its own 8.

It moved up the field in telltale bursts of highbrow skill. For the closing three plays and 74 yards of the six-play, 92-yard trip, Burrow threaded one 23 yards up the left sideline to Chase just as a safety closed in, threw one 18 yards to Jefferson crossing for a high catch, and sent one up the right toward Chase and cornerback Trevon Diggs running together near the right pylon. Chase halted, Diggs didn’t, Chase caught it and Chase pranced in.

For the first time since long, long, long ago in 2014, LSU had scored in the first quarter of this urgent rivalry.

Alabama pitched in blunders from there: a muffed punt snap, a 12-men-on-the-field penalty that quashed an interception, an offside. Cade York drilled a 40-yard field goal, and things stood 10-0, in the unfamiliar direction.

But then Jaylen Waddle took the 101,821 witnesses on one of the wilder rides in eccentric annals of punt-return history. The Alabama receiver fielded a punt at his own 23, where he met up with a fellow No. 17, LSU receiver and special teams man Racey McMath. McMath snared Waddle’s face mask as he raced by, slingshotting Waddle dramatically back around the 13, where the play had just begun.

From there, Waddle turned around and hurried left, got out to the left sideline, got by the first wall of antagonists at about the 30, ran about 30 more yards and found a whole bunch of friends around the LSU 40. That set him up clearly for his 77-yard punt return for which he deserved 87 for statistical credit.

The crowd boomed, and the play seemed to matter. Then Burrow and his friends came back out and made it matter less. At the end of an eight-play, 75-yard drive, from the Alabama 29, Burrow looked left from the pocket until receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. got lonely on the right. Burrow shifted his glance and threw to Marshall barely beyond the 20, with nothing but air up ahead for a lead of 16-7 and a stadium full of uh oh.

Relief came soon when Tagovailoa used a morsel of trickery for a thrilling 64-yard touchdown. He clapped without getting the snap, then relaxed his body and looked to the right as if to the bench, then clapped while relaxed to receive the ball, as the defense spent a costly split-second unaware.

That led to one of the prettiest sights available in college football, DeVonta Smith surging up a left sideline to haul in a flawless throw and storm to a touchdown. That play made it 16-13 and seemed to matter, until Burrow and his friends returned to make it matter less.

Some 6:43 remained in the half, but LSU had another 17 points left in it. It went 48 yards for York’s second field goal, a 45-yard flutterer, even after Burrow finally threw an incompletion after hitting on his first 13 throws. It went 61 yards just 26 seconds before halftime, with the help of a disputed and carefully reviewed 16-yard catch on the right sideline at the Alabama 1 by Moss, before Edwards-Helaire hopped over the line old-timey style on third down.

That made it 26-13, surprising enough, but then Alabama, aggressively using the limited seconds, made a costly mistake. LSU’s Patrick Queen lurked in the middle of the field, unseen by Tagovailoa. Queen took the interception, and took it 16 yards to the Alabama 26, where the Crimson Tide threw in a roughing penalty to make things worse. One play after that, Burrow shipped a 13-yard touchdown pass to Edwards-Helaire, bringing the score to both 33-13 and unthinkable.

In-game updates

By Jacob Bogage in Washington

The “Game of the Century” lived up to its billing. In a drama-filled night before a presidential audience, No. 2 LSU shocked No. 3 Alabama, 46-41, in Tuscaloosa.

Tigers running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire had 180 total yards and four touchdowns, none bigger than his last scoring run with just more than a minute left, breaking three tackles and squirming into the end zone from the 7-yard line. Quarterback Joe Burrow made his best case for the Heisman Trophy with a three-touchdown, 393-yard performance on 31 of 39 passing.

“I feel like my heart can’t be measured,” Edwards-Helaire told CBS’s Jamie Erdahl after the game. Tough to argue.

Or not: Did we speak too soon? Tua Tagovailoa hit DeVonta Smith for an 85-yard touchdown pass, a lightning bolt down the left sideline, on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage after falling behind by 12. That cut LSU’s lead back down to five points. LSU recovered Alabama’s onside kick attempt to get the ball back, but this game isn’t over. (LSU 46, Alabama 41, 1:21 4th quarter)

That should do it: Clyde Edwards-Helaire nailed Alabama’s coffin shut with his fourth touchdown of the game. The Tigers marched 75 yards in seven plays and took 3:55 off the clock before Joe Burrow handed off to Edwards-Helaire at the 7-yard line. The running back broke three tackles and scooted inside the pylon at the right corner of the end zone. He has 91 rushing yards on 19 carries and three scores, and nine catches for 77 yards and another score. Most importantly to LSU, the TD put them up 12 with just over 1:30 left. (LSU 46, Alabama 34, 1:37 4th quarter)

Alabama won’t go away: And just like that, the Crimson Tide cut LSU’s lead right back down. Tua Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy on a quick out route from the 5-yard line on fourth and two. But LSU’s touchdown on its last drive means Alabama needs another touchdown of its own to retake the lead. The scoring play was Alabama’s second fourth-down conversion of the drive, and put the pressure squarely on the shoulders of Joe Burrow and the LSU offense. Tagovailoa is up to 20 of 39 for 333 yards and three touchdowns. (LSU 39, Alabama 34, 5:32 4th quarter)

LSU responds: The Tigers answered with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took more than four minutes off the clock. Clyde Edwards-Helaire spun out of a tackle in the backfield on first and goal at the 5-yard line and walked into the end zone. The Tigers went for two, Burrow’s pass to Edwards-Helaire was incomplete. Edwards-Helaire had kept the drive alive earlier with a powerful catch and run on the near sideline with LSU facing third and 10. Edwards-Helaire now has 157 all-purpose yards and three TDs, two rushing and one receiving. (LSU 39, Alabama 27, 10:07 4th quarter)

Buckle in for a wild fourth: Najee Harris powered over the right tackle for a touchdown to complete a nine-play, 78-yard drive that cut LSU’s lead to six points. Harris has 175 all-purpose yards, 131 of them rushing, and two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Alabama has completely dominated the second half after looking on the verge of getting run out of its own stadium. (LSU 33, Alabama 27, 14:33 4th quarter)

We’ve got a ballgame: Alabama went 95 yards in 10 plays, capped by Tua Tagovailoa’s back-shoulder throw on the far side to running back Najee Harris for a touchdown. It cut LSU’s lead to a manageable 13 points with plenty of time left for a comeback. Harris had 88 total yards on the drive. (LSU 33, Alabama 20, 4:51 3rd quarter)

Quick pick: The Tide’s defense got a break when Xavier McKinney came off the edge and put a hit on Joe Burrow, causing the ball to flutter out of his hand and into the chest of linebacker Terrell Lewis for a fumble. Alabama took over at its own 42-yard line, but went three-and-out for the third time in the game. (LSU 33, Alabama 13, 11:08 3rd quarter)

The No. 2 Tigers have left Bryant-Denny Stadium stunned with perhaps the best half of football played by a Power 5 conference team this year. They lead No. 3 Alabama, 33-13, at the half, a score befitting the shellacking Coach Ed Orgeron’s team has inflicted from the get-go.

Quarterback Joe Burrow, a Heisman Trophy hopeful, has thrown for three touchdowns and 252 yards on 18 of 20 passing. The LSU defense has forced the Crimson Tide into four turnovers: two takeaways, two on downs.

The margin could be worse for Alabama if not for an electric 77-yard punt-return score by Jaylen Waddle. LSU will get the ball to start the second half.

Blowout in the making?: Burrow played nearly a perfect half of football and capped it with a 13-yard scoring strike to halfback Clyde Edwards-Helaire with six seconds left in the first half. The TD came two plays after Tua Tagovailoa’s third interception of the season with 11 seconds left in the first half, but it could hardly have come at a worse time. One snap after LSU went up 26-13, linebacker Patrick Queen picked off Tagovailoa’s pass over the middle and set LSU up in scoring position.

Burrow is 18-20 for 252 yards and 3 TDs. And CBS’s Brad Nessler is stunned.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this. LSU by 20,” he said on the broadcast. (LSU 33, Alabama 13, 0:06 2nd quarter)

A circus catch and the Tigers push further ahead: What a crucial drive for the Tigers, who went 61 yards in eight plays — and it only took 2:13 off the clock. Edwards-Helaire catapulted over a scrum at the line of scrimmage for a one-yard touchdown plunge that extended LSU’s lead to 26-13. The Tigers will also get the ball to start the second half. The drive was helped along by a spectacular catch by Thaddeus Moss that gave LSU the ball inside the 1-yard line. Upon replay, it appeared Moss stepped out of bounds before making the tightrope grab, but the call on the field was a completion and it was confirmed after review. (LSU 26, Alabama 13, 0:26 2nd quarter)

York extends Tigers lead: Cade York hit his second field goal of the day, a boomer from 45 yards. This scoring drive for LSU — seven plays. 48 yards — feels like a win for both sides. The Tigers kept clicking on offense and added three more points. The Tide will take solace in keeping LSU out of the end zone and preserving a one-score game. (LSU 19, Alabama 13, 4:20 2nd quarter)

Tagovailoa finds a groove: A busted LSU coverage left DaVonta Smith wide open for a 64-yard touchdown catch and run to cut the Tiger lead 3, after the point-after attempt was no good. It capped a four-play, 90-yard drive in which all but five yards came from Tagovailoa’s arm. He’s now 10 of 16 for 174 yards and a touchdown. (LSU 16, Alabama 13, 6:43 2nd quarter)

The World Series, this was not: President Trump was greeted with a rousing, roaring round of cheers and applause as he and first lady Melania Trump were formally introduced at Bryant-Denny Stadium during the first quarter of the Alabama-LSU game. As the stadium’s giant screens showed the first couple waving and applauding, the crowd of more than 100,000 overwhelmingly cheered for nearly a minute, while Crimson Tide fans shook their red-and-white pompoms.

Some boos broke out partway through, as did enthusiastic chants of “USA! USA! USA!” The response was markedly different than the reception Trump has received in his recent outings at sporting events.

Trump was roundly booed when he attended Game 5 of the World Series in overwhelmingly Democratic Washington on Oct. 27. He followed that up with a visit to an Ultimate Fighting Championship match in New York Nov. 2, where he was met with a mix of boos and cheers.

The president watched the game with several Alabama lawmakers, including Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R), Rep. Robert B. Aderholt (R) and Rep. Bradley Byrne (R).

Seung Min Kim in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Alabama turns it over again: This time it’s a turnover on downs at the LSU 49-yard line. Alabama needed one yard and tried to pick it up out of the wildcat formation, but a surge from the Tigers stopped ball carrier Slade Bolden short and handed possession right back to that hot LSU offense. (LSU 16, Alabama 7, 9:48 2nd quarter)

Tigers bounce back fast: Alabama’s defense was all out of sorts at the end of an eight-play, 75-yard drive and Burrow hit Terrace Marshall for a 29-yard touchdown. Burrow is 9 for 9, a career-best mark to start a game, with 146 yards and two scoring passes. York’s point-after attempt was blocked. (LSU 16, Alabama 7, 13:03 2nd quarter)

Alabama cuts into LSU lead: The Crimson Tide are on the board. After Alabama’s defense forced a three-and-out that featured a sack of Burrow, Waddle fielded a punt and ran it back 77 yards for a touchdown. (LSU 10, Alabama 7, 1:14 1st quarter)

Tigers push lead into double-digits: The Tigers picked up a first down off Alabama penalties, but the Tide defense held. York hit a 40-yard field goal for the Tigers to up LSU’s lead. (LSU 10, Alabama 0, 4:54 1st quarter)

Oy, Alabama: The Tide ran out of downs and tried to punt, but punter Ty Perine mishandled the snap and had to fall on the ball inside Alabama territory. The very next snap, the Tide had 12 men on the field on defense, which negated a Joe Burrow interception. (LSU 7, Alabama 0, 7:55 1st quarter)

LSU strikes first: The Tigers took the Alabama turnover and marched 92 yards in six plays. Burrow connected with Ja’Marr Chase for a 33-yard touchdown down the right sideline. Burrow was 3 for 3 for 74 yards on the drive. (LSU 7, Alabama 0, 9:15 1st quarter)

Alabama’s great start goes awry: Tagovailoa tried to scramble for the end zone, but the ball squirted loose as he tried to tuck it away. LSU recovered and took over at its own 8-yard line. (LSU 0, Alabama 0, 12:01 1st quarter)

Game on, and Tua is active: And, we’re off! LSU kicks off to Alabama, which will start at its own 28-yard line. Before the game, Tide Coach Nick Saban told CBS’s Jamie Erdahl, “He’s fine. We’re starting him.”

Alabama is Donald Trump country, but not for a couple dozen protesters making their antipathy for the president known on one of the biggest football game days of the year.

The “Trump Baby” balloon — the oversized floating depiction of the president as an infant — was spotted in Tuscaloosa near Bryant-Denny Stadium, where the Trump and first lady Melania Trump will be attending the No. 2 LSU Tigers game against the No. 3 Alabama Crimson Tide.

Surrounding the “Trump Baby” balloon (tethered to the ground, not floating in the air) were the handful of protesters, two holding up a banner that read “Roll Impeachment Roll.” One woman’s sign proclaimed that she sold her tickets and gave the proceeds to Alabama Democrats. Another sign, on a crimson-colored poster, read: “Roll Tide Impeach 45.”

A handful of “Trump for President” signs were spotted around the stadium, along with one banner that read “Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer, We Love Trump In Alabama.” And while there was a smattering of “Trump 2020” and “Make America Great Again” gear, most of the red-tinted apparel was for, indeed, the Crimson Tide.

Shortly before the scheduled kickoff, Trump waved from a luxury box near midfield to cheers from the crowd.

Seung Min Kim in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Air Force One nears Bryant-Denny Stadium: President Trump is on final approach to see No. 3 Alabama host No. 2 LSU. Trump’s approval rating in October was 54 percent in Louisiana and 59 percent in Alabama, according to Morning Consult. Only Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban might be more popular.

Long security lines to enter stadium: Alabama athletics officials asked students to begin entering Bryant-Denny Stadium three hours ahead of the 3:30 p.m., kickoff and to be seated two hours before the game begins. Officials asked other fans to enter the stadium two hours before kickoff to allow time for the extra security measures necessary for a presidential visit.

Less than an hour before the start of the game, there’s still a long wait to enter the game.

Saban says “expectation” is Tagovailoa will play: Though Alabama junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is still officially a game-time decision as he recovers from “tight rope” surgery, Coach Nick Saban told CBS in a pregame interview, “The expectation for him and for us is that he will play,” Saban said.

What you need to know

Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Early in the week, it seemed like the hype for Saturday’s Alabama-LSU’s faceoff would inevitably outshine the game. And who could be to blame? Tuscaloosa was set to host a meeting between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams, a game featuring two Heisman Trophy favorite quarterbacks, a presidential visit and the appearance of ESPN’s “College GameDay,” coming just days after the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings.

Then the ranking committee knocked each side down a peg. Ohio State, it declared, was the nation’s top team, not those fighting Tigers or rolling Crimson Tide.

Oh, well. The country will have to settle for No. 2 hosting No. 3. The winner almost inevitably will head to the Southeastern Conference championship game. (Auburn and Texas A&M, the third- and fourth-best teams in the SEC West, already have two losses apiece.) The loser could make the College Football Playoff, anyway.

Alabama’s offense, the second-ranked scoring offense in the country, could be hampered by a less than healthy quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The junior continues recovering from an ankle injury, and though he will almost certainly start — a proposition that was once in doubt — he might not be the same spunky Tua, known to whirl around in the pocket and keep plays alive.

“I watched Tua practice [Thursday], he’s not 100 percent,” CBS analyst Gary Danielson told College Sports on SiriusXM radio late in the week. “I don’t care what Alabama says. I don’t care what Tua says. I watched him. He doesn’t have that spring in his step. It’s not natural.”

Good thing the Tide’s running backs, Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr., are fully healthy after an early-season injury bug. Alabama’s receiving corps, too, including Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle, might be the deepest in the country.

Joe Burrow leads an offense for LSU that is finally comfortable throwing the ball down the field. First-year passing game coordinator Joe Brady has earned the trust of Coach Ed Orgeron after engineering big games through the air against Texas, Florida and Mississippi State. Burrow even in a tight win over Auburn, by far his worst game of the year, still completed 76.2 percent of his passes for 321 yards. He’s averaging 350 passing yards a game, second in FBS.

Throwing to targets like Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase, who each have nine touchdowns, certainly helps. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire has rushed for 323 yards and three scores in his last three games.

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