Ten Plays That May Have Made The Difference

How many times have you heard a coach say that in a close game a handful of plays will make the difference in winning and losing. When he says it to his team, he’s making the point that players need to give their all on every play because there is no way to know which of them will be one of the half dozen critical plays.

Sports artist Danny Moore certainly wants to know.

Coaches for both sides in Alabama’s 55-44 win over Auburn Saturday would be able to find many plays that were critical to the outcome. Some were good and some were bad, again for both sides.

An important statistic in the game is that Alabama made five trips into the Auburn red zone (20-yard line to the goalline) and scored five touchdowns. Auburn made eight trips into the Alabama red zone and scored two touchdowns, five field goals, and once the Tigers were stopped on fourth down by the Tide defense.

In a game of big plays on both sides, here are 10 that Alabama fans should have been pleased with:

1, Nick Perry interception – Auburn had a 36-34 lead and the ball with time winding down in the the third quarter. Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall was forced out of the pocket and forced a pass in the middle of the field. Bama safety Nick Perry intercepted the ball at the Tide 46 and returned it 23 yards to the Auburn 31, leading to a UA touchdown and (with a two-point conversion) a 42-36 Alabama lead.

2. Blake Sims fourth down pass to DeAndrew White – It was fourth and 3 at the Auburn 42 with under 9:00 left in the third period. A screen pass to White gained 3 yards along the Alabama sideline, a first down at the Tiger 39. On the next play, Sims faked a handoff to Henry and found Cooper alone in the middle of the field for a 39-yard touchdown.

3. T.J. Yeldon fourth down TD – Late in the second quarter, Alabama had driven to a first-and-goal at the Auburn 9 with the Tide trailing 16-14. A Yeldon run and a Sims pass to Amari Cooper around an incompletion set up a fourth-and-goal at the one. A field goal would give Bama a one-point lead. Alabama Coach Nick Saban elected to go for the TD, and Yeldon took it over the right side and into the end zone for a 21-16 lead.

4. Jarron Reed at the goalline – Alabama had taken a 21-16 with just 1:23 until halftime. Auburn used only 29 seconds for a Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates pass for 68 yards and a TD that gave Auburn the lead with 54 seconds to play before intermission. Sims threw and interception setting the Tigers up at the Tide 41. Marshall threw to Coates at the 1. Auburn helped a little with poor clock management, but Jarron Reed caught Tigers tailback Cameron Artis-Payne for a three-yard loss forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal on final play of second quarter

5. Sims to Cooper – A lot of choices for this category, but we went with: Auburn had taken a 36-27 lead late in the third quarter and after the kickoff Bama was starting at its 25. Sims launched a deep first down pass to Cooper, who caught it behind the defense and went the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown and cutting the lead to 36-34 with 3:20 remaining in the third.

6. Ragland recovery – Alabama may have thought the game could not have had a worse start that the Tide’s attempt at an onside pooch kick. Adam Griffith’s effort went out of bounds untouched at the Auburn 39. But the Tigers were about to have a worse start. On first down AU quarterback Nick Marshall tried a backwards pass to tailback Roc Thomas. Thomas muffed the lateral, but more than that didn’t react to the situation. Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland, coached to go after any loose ball, pounced on it for Bama at the Auburn 35. Five plays later T J Yeldon went in from eight yards out and a 7-0 Tide lead.

7. Sims scramble – Alabama students may have been a little disappointed with the end of the third quarter because Bama was knocking at the goalline. Now, though, it would be the goalline in the North end zone, away from the student section. A Sims pass to Cooper had given Alabama a first-and-goal at the eight, but the last play of the quarter was a false start penalty against the Tide, so it was first-and-goal from the 13 when the Tide went North. A Sims scramble got a couple on first down. On second down, Sims made a streak for the left side of the end zone and was able to sneak in for the touchdown, giving Bama a 42-36 lead, the last of five lead changes in the game.

8. Fowler muscle – A year ago, Auburn had stuffed some late-game, short-yardage Tide runs. With Alabama nursing its 42-36 lead and having forced an Auburn punt, Bama had the ball at its 28. A nice drive moved Alabama to the Auburn 16, third-and-one. The Tide ran a true fullback play, Jalston Fowler bursting over the right side for an eight-yard gain and setting up a touchdown.

9. Perry stop – Although Auburn has quick strike ability, the Tigers needed a score to get back in the game when AU (down 48-36) faced fourth-and-eight at the Alabama 14. Marshall completed a crossing route pass to Marcus Davis, but Bama safety Nick Perry was on Davis immediately and rode him out of bounds short of the first down.

10. Sims takes a knee – With the score Alabama 55, Auburn 44 with 18 seconds to play, an onsides kick attempt by Auburn was recovered by Alabama's Jalston Fowler at the Auburn 46. A penalty for illegal blocking by Auburn on the kick moved the ball to the Auburn 41 with 18 seconds remaining. The Crimson Tide took a knee in the victory formation and the game ended, three hours and 57 minutes after it had begun.

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