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Saturday, November 8, 2008
Alabama, Johnson prey on LSU's Lee


Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Senior safety Rashad Johnson has been the rock of the Alabama secondary all season.

"He makes up for a lot of things that go wrong," Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain said.

 
  AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
 Alabama safety Rashad Johnson (49) makes an interception on a pass intended for LSU's Brandon LaFell (1) in overtime. The Tide defeated the Tigers 27-21.

From the perspective of beleaguered LSU quarterback Jarrett Lee, Johnson also made a lot of things go wrong Saturday in Alabama's 27-21 overtime escape against LSU.

Without Johnson, the Crimson Tide probably aren't unbeaten right now.

Without Lee, they probably aren't, either.

Johnson and the Alabama defense preyed on the LSU redshirt freshman quarterback, who served up four interceptions and has now thrown 14 for the season.

Three of those picks went to Johnson, who returned one 54 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to tie the game at 14-14. It was the sixth interception Lee has thrown this season that the opponent has returned for a touchdown.

"We knew if we put pressure on him, he would throw us a couple," Alabama defensive end Brandon Deaderick said.

But four?

The last one was the worst of the night. LSU had first shot in overtime. And on third down from the 21, Lee threw into double coverage into the end zone. Johnson was in perfect position to make the pick.

"It's trying to make big-time plays in the ballgame that aren't there," said Lee, doing his best to explain the four picks.

It was obvious as the game wore on that LSU wasn't completely comfortable with Lee throwing the football. But Alabama was loading up the line of scrimmage so much that the Tigers had no choice.

"Just from watching film, I knew he had a lot of pick-sixes and made some mistakes," said Johnson, who tied a school record with his three interceptions. "I knew there was a possibility we could come in here and rattle him."

Johnson returned his first interception 10 yards to the LSU 15, setting up Alabama's first touchdown in the first quarter. He took his second interception to the house in the second quarter, the second consecutive game in which Johnson has scored on an interception return.

Still, it was his third one that might have been the most important.

Tiger Stadium was rocking after Ricky Jean-Francois blocked Leigh Tiffin's 29-yard field goal attempt to send the game into overtime. It's the kind of game-changing play that beats most teams on the road.

But not this Alabama team ... and not with Johnson patrolling the Crimson Tide secondary.

"Before we went out there, coach (Kirby) Smart said, 'Make a play to where we have the possibility to go ahead and end the game now,' " recounted Johnson, who saw Lee roll out and knew what was coming.

"It was a great play-call, to blitz him on that side so he couldn't get all the way out and throw the out route like he normally does. He looked for seven and overthrew it."