BATON ROUGE, La. -- — Death Valley didn't kill Alabama's perfect season.
Every champion has to survive at least one night when everything isn't going its way. It has to take all the punches, remain upright and find a way to win.
Alabama did it Saturday night in a 21-17 win Saturday night over LSU, as AJ McCarron came alive on the last drive, just in time to keep the Tide pointed toward a possible repeat appearance in the BCS National Championship Game.
Alabama has faced this every week -- not nearly this harrowing, but it seems as if every team tries its hardest to push the Tide the way LSU pushed.
After winning a national title last year and holding the No. 1 ranking this season, the Crimson Tide brings out a barrel full of emotions and desire from every team's fan base every week.
Everybody wants to beat Bama. It's unfair to say it would make a team's season to knock off the Crimson Tide, but a victory would be a pretty big bowl of ice cream at the end of the meal. Teams approached Alabama this way when Bear Bryant coached the Tide, and they do so again now.
We hear so much about Alabama's not-so-strong schedule, but the Tide faces a unique situation no other team in the country must handle. Oregon doesn't face this every week. Neither does Kansas State. Not even Notre Dame.
The Crimson Tide faced it again Saturday against LSU. If there ever was a situation in which the emotion, stakes and timing could do in Alabama, this was it.
First, LSU is a good team. The Bengal Tigers entered as the nation's No. 5 team and earned that. They were at home. On Saturday night. They had lost only once at home on Saturday night in the previous 10 seasons. And this one seemed to have even more of an edge. More media showed up, with an LSU record number of credentials distributed. More fans did. the crowd of 93,374 set a record for the biggest to attend a football game in Louisiana.
Even five hours before the game began, traffic snarled for miles around the stadium. Parking lots already were filled.
And so many of these folks came to see if Alabama finally would get taken down.
The Bengal Tigers appeared ready to cooperate. LSU's running game gashed the Crimson Tide defense unlike anybody in the Southeastern Conference has in two years.
LSU took an early lead. It was only 3-0, but it was a lead. Alabama hadn't been behind by as many three points in regulation since last year's game against Tennessee.
But Alabama responded. The Tide didn't panic. McCarron had his worst game of the season, but midway through the first half, he engineered a 92-yard, six-minute drive for a touchdown, coming on a 7-yard run by Eddie Lacy.
At the end of the half, he put together a quick-strike drive of 63 yards in only 57 seconds. Taking advantage of LSU safety Eric Reid out of the game with a chest contusion, McCarron watched the Bengal Tigers follow his receivers, who were out wide. The middle opened up, and McCarron ran through for a 9-yard touchdown.
LSU had more waiting for Alabama, however, putting together an improbable rally to retake the lead at 17-14 with 12:58 to play. Alabama faced trouble. It faced the end of its perfect season.
But the Tide survived.
If Alabama finishes the season unbeaten, it will have earned its place in the national championship game. It's hard when everyone is hunting your hide, and you deserve respect if you can handle that and not lose.