In 1996, what would be Gene Stallings’ last year at the helm of the Crimson Tide, Alabama and LSU found themselves on now-familiar ground: sitting atop the leaderboard in the SEC West, both ranked in the Top 11, both sporting ferocious defenses, in a night game in Death Valley setting up the winner for a trip to Atlanta...and LSU getting their souls snatched from their body.
That night, the LSU defense has a very simple game plan: key on the Tide’s star running back Dennis Riddle, and pin their ears back to bring the heat on a notably-immobile Freddie Kitchens.
For over a quarter, it worked. Gerry Dinardo’s team absolutely smothered Riddle. And, every time Kitchens dropped back, there was a swarm of white and gold jerseys in the backfield. After just 19 minutes of play, the Tigers had already amassed 5 sacks.
Fortunately for Alabama, there was a freshman running back on the bench that LSU didn’t have much tape on, a little-used reserve from Florence, Kentucky. That night, Alexander the Great would begin his meteoric rise through the Alabama and SEC record books, stake his claim as one of the best ever...and rip the heart out of an excellent LSU team along the way, all-but assuring a trip to Atlanta for the Tide.
To say Alexander had a good night is an understatement: he set the Tide’s single-game rushing record with 291 yards, and scored four touchdowns on runs of 17, 73, 72 and 12 yards.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, huh?
It was not an instant classic by any means. LSU was playing with a backup quarterback. Playcalling was iffy on both sides. The crowd was thoroughly deflated and nonexistent in the second half. Alabama did not even win the SEC title that year. Still, that performance by Alexander remains one of the most iconic moments in Alabama sports of the last quarter century.
67 Days until Football Season