Brian Kelly: LSU 'grew up' in every facet by answering Bama challenge

BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU coach Brian Kelly made the decision to go for two against Alabama sound simple.

"If you asked me, 'Hey, I'm going to give you one play and if you're successful on that one play, you beat Alabama,' I would've taken that 100 times out of 100," he said.

Kelly was able to smile about his gambit Saturday night because it worked. After answering the Crimson Tide's touchdown in the first overtime with a touchdown of their own, Kelly and the Tigers passed on kicking the extra point to play a second overtime and instead opted to go for two and the victory.

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels went to his right and completed a pass to tight end Mason Taylor for the walk-off win.

Alabama's playoff hopes were diminished. LSU's chances of reaching the SEC Championship were suddenly alive.

Thousands of fans stormed the field, giving Kelly the signature win of his first season in Baton Rouge.

"That was truly a home-field advantage for us," Kelly said, alluding to the sell-out crowd. "And then I thought tactically we played smart. We were able to pin Alabama in poor field position -- mostly the first half -- and made it difficult for them. And I thought we just played smart. We didn't turn the football over. We had the one play where we came out of coverage late. Other than that, I think our guys played really smart football.

"So the basic tenets of winning games like this is one play at a time, play tactically smart, take care of the football. I thought we did all those things and really grew up today."

Daniels, who was maligned at points during the season for not throwing the ball effectively, was a playmaker with his arm and his legs against Alabama. He threw for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for 95 yards and a score.

Kelly said the win was emotional for him.

"Because that was such a great game," he said. "And I had never beaten Alabama."

A guest of Kelly's sounded her approval from the back of the news conference.

"She hasn't beaten out Alabama either and she's been with me," Kelly said, smiling. "But so those things are kind of like you want to check the box and move on. And so yeah, you get a little emotional about those.

"And I was emotional, not for myself, but I was emotional for our team because I know what we look like in January and to see where we are today, that's pretty emotional."

LSU, which lost the season opener to Florida State and was trounced by Tennessee at home, now controls its destiny as the first-place team in the SEC West.

The Tigers play at Arkansas next Saturday, followed by games at home against UAB and on the road at Arkansas.

As it stands, LSU would play Georgia in the conference championship game in Atlanta.

"This is really about building a program and doing it week in and week out," Kelly said. "We're here to graduate champions and we want to win a championship. Now, we've put ourselves in a position where in November, we're contenders for the SEC championship. But we've got Arkansas next. We're going to enjoy this win over the next 24 hours and then we're going to get ready for Arkansas. "

Alabama, handed its second loss of the season, is left to pick up the pieces.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said everyone needs to "check their hole card" and focus on improving -- whether that's players improving their personal stock or the team goal of winning 10 games.

"I like this team," Saban said. "I think this team is very capable. I think we could play with more consistency and sometimes we beat ourselves too much and it's kind of hard to overcome. So it's a tough loss. But there's nobody that feels worse about it than the players; they work their tail off, they compete their tail off and we just came up a little bit short."

Alabama plays at No. 11 Ole Miss next Saturday before ending the season with games at home against Austin Peay and Auburn.