TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For the first time in two months, an opponent was standing up to Alabama.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide flashed its overwhelming punching power to knockout No. 10 Louisiana State in a 38-17 victory Saturday, scoring the final 21 points in punishing fashion.

AJ McCarron threw three touchdown passes, T.J. Yeldon ran for 133 yards and two scores and the Tide (9-0, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) turned to smashmouth football to take control of a game that was tied early in the third quarter. Yeldon carried 18 times in the second half, 25 overall.

And down went LSU (7-3, 3-3).

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“I think we probably played our best half of football,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “We didn’t play great in the first half, but man I tell you what, a lot of character out there in the second half.”

Yeldon and McCarron had hooked up for the game-winning touchdown pass in the final minute of last season’s meeting with the Tigers. This one had no such dramatic finish.

Two-time defending national champion Alabama brushed aside its first challenge since Game 2 against Texas A&M.

McCarron was a workmanlike 14-of-20 passing for 179 yards, letting Yeldon, Kenyan Drake and their blockers assert control. He did hit speedy freshman tight end O.J. Howard for a 52-yard touchdown and overtook John Parker Wilson to become Alabama’s top career passer.

“All he does is win and does what his team needs for him to do,” Saban said of his senior quarterback. “I think the guy is the best quarterback in the country.”

He didn’t need to put up big numbers to improve his career mark to 34-2.

LSU’s Zach Mettenberger completed 16 of 23 passes for 241 yards and a touchdown but was also sacked four times.

It was the most points Alabama has scored against LSU since a 41-12 victory in 1947.

LSU had won five of the last six meetings in Tuscaloosa, but lost fumbles on its first two possessions, including one on the goal line. The Tigers, who came in averaging 40.2 points, couldn’t regain the lost momentum and managed just 52 yards in the second half and minus-9 in the final quarter.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “We overcame it (the early turnovers), but it took time.”

“They came in here thinking that they were going to be more physical than us,” Tide defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said. “I feel like we changed that.”