Alabama finished regular season play as winner of the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 7-1 league mark and as the nation’s second-ranked team with an 11-1 mark. Auburn, a surprising choice of many to win the SEC and perhaps even compete for the national championship, was shockingly worse than expected as the Tigers finished 6-6, including last in the SEC West with a 2-6 conference mark.
Next for Bama is the SEC Championship Game against East Division champion Florida. Kickoff is at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. central time) in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta next Saturday, Dec. 6, with CBS televising the game.
Alabama closed out the game with Derrick Henry going 25 yards around ri,ght end on a fourth-and-one play with just 26 seconds remaining in the game. It was fitting that Adam Griffith, who kicked five field goals in five attempts, tacked on the final point.
Bama’s last TD “drive” was somewhat a gift as Auburn had been forced to gamble on a fourth-and-seven from its own 34 with just 2:18 to play. When the pass was dropped, incomplete, the Tide had merely to run out the clock. Henry’s run punctuated an outstanding effort, 46 rushes for 271 yards. Meanwhile, five Bama drives came up short and resulted in Griffith nailing three-pointers – four in the first half and a 47-yard three-pointer in the fourth quarter – that kept the Tigers at bay.
That TD pass came on Bama’s second possession of the second half. Bama started in a hole at its 15, and, as is often the case, it began with a couple of nice runs by Henry for 9 and 6 yards to move it out. A Coker pass to Calvin Ridley gained 14. Later Henry had a two-yard run on a fourth-and-one at the Auburn 45. Two plays later Coker was under pressure, but broke away to the right and looked as if he would run for a big gain. But he spotted Stewart and rifled it to him at the back of the end zone. Stewart had to leap, but made the scoring catch.
It seemed as though Bama had a little breathing room with a 19-6 lead, but Auburn quarterback Jeremy Johnson and Tigers wide receiver Jason Smith made a play that took one’s breath. The long pass into double coverage was overthrown, but Smith got his fingers on it, tipped it up, and then grabbed it with nothing but grass between him and a 77-yard touchdown play. It came on a third-and-12 and cut the Tide lead to 19-13.
Alabama got a bit of that back on its first possession of the fourth quarter, in part because of huge Auburn mistakes. First on a Coker scramble out of bounds, the Tigers were hit with a personal foul penalty for tackling the Bama QB out of bounds. That drew a 15-yard penalty. And while it was being discussed, Auburn’s sideline got into it with an official, and that earned the Tigers another 15-yard penalty. Bama had the ball at Auburn’s 34.
The Tide, though, did not take full advantage of the opportunity, making it to only the Auburn 29 before Griffith was called on for his fifth field goal try of the game. Like the other four, this 46-yard effort was right down the middle and the Tide was up 22-13.
Alabama, which had the ball for 11 minutes in the third quarter and 10 ½ in the fourth, was wearing Auburn down in the final period, including a 10-play, 51-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock without scoring. That probably contributed to Henry’s easy run around right end for the final touch.
Griffith’s last visit to Jordan-Hare Stadium had ended badly, but it obviously didn’t bother him in a ragged first half as the Crimson Tide took a 12-6 lead to intermission. All points for both Alabama and Auburn were made by field goal kickers, with Griffith good on all four of his tries and Auburn’s Daniel Carlson hitting 2-3.
Griffith had been the unfortunate kicker on Bama’s ill-fated last-second kick in 2013 that ended with an Auburn runback for a touchdown and a 34-28 win. He showed no ill effects from the bad experience.
Griffith gave Alabama a 3-0 lead on a 26-yard field goal at the end of Bama’s first drive. Later in the quarter Carlson hit from 24 and 44 as the Tigers ended the first quarter with a 6-3 advantage.
In the second quarter, Griffith nailed a 40-yarder to tie the game at 6-6, one from 26 to regain the lead for the Tide at 9-6, and a 50-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining in the first half to make it 12-6.
Bama’s first drive wehtn to the Auburn 9, but a second down pass and third down Henry run failed to get it closer and Griffith got his first call. Henry had the big play in the scoring drive, a 30-yard run.
Auburn had drives to the Tide 9 before settling for the first Carlson field goal and to the 27 for his second.
After a misplayed kickoff, Alabama was stuck at its 10, but primarily on the strength of Henry’s running moved to the Auburn 23 where Griffith kicked the game even.
Calvin Ridley got the Tide off to a nice start with pass receptions for 13 yards on a nice move and 46 yards on an excellent catch to set up first-and-goal at the 5. Henry got 4 on first down, but slipped down on his next carry for a loss of 8. After an incomplete pass, Griffith put Bama in the lead with a 26-yard field goal.
Auburn drove to the Bama 31, but Carlson’s 48-yard field goal was well off the mark.
A 17-yard Jacob Coker to ArDarius Stewart pass got the Tide’s ensuing drive started, and Henry’s 15-yard run at right end moved it into Auburn territory at the 36. Three plays gained only 3 yards and Griffith nailed a 50-yard field goal with 24 seconds remaining in the first half, giving Bama a 12-6 lead.
Henry, who is considered perhaps the leader for the Heisman Trophy, played him some football against Auburn. He had 46 carries – that’s right, 46 – for 271 yards. Coker completed 17-26 passes for 179 yards with one TD and no interceptions. Stewart had 8 receptions for 81 yards, Ridley 6 for 90 yards.
Auburn was led by Jovon Robinson with 14 carries for 51 yards, while Johnson completed 10-23 passes for 169 yards.
Johnson was sacked three times, while Coker was not sacked.
Alabama had 24 first downs, twice as many as Auburn.
The Tide had 50 rushes for 286 yards, the Tigers 37 runs for 91 yards.
Alabama had total offense of 76 plays for 465 yards (6.1 per play), Auburn 60 plays for 260 yards (4.3 per play).
The Tigers fumbled twice and lost one (on the final play of the game, recovered by Maurice Smith), while the Tide did not fumble.
Bama was penalized 7 times for 65 yards, the Tigers 8 times for 62.
After Auburn had a slight lead in time of possession at halftime, Bama ended up with an advantage of 35:23 to 24:37.
Alabama was able to convert only 5-16 on third down and Auburn only 3-15.
Alabama’s defense was led by Geno Matias-Smith, although he may have been noticed primarily for being the man who most likely could have prevented the reception from Johnson to Smith for Auburn’s 77-yard touchdown. Matrias-Smith made 6 primary tackles and assisted on 2 others and caused a fumble. Marlon Humphrey had 5 primary, 1 assist. Linebacker Reuben Foster, who came to Alabama from Auburn High School, made 4 primary tackles, assisted on 2, broke up a pass, and had a quarterback pressure. Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams each had 2 quarterback pressures.