Giving It Away

Alabama never gave up Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium, except that the Crimson Tide gave away too many points. The result was Auburn taking a 22-15 win, the fifth straight victory for the Tigers in the series.

The errors were partly those of the players, partly those of the coaching staff. Alabama certainly and curiously left five points on the field in its decision-making process. That wouldn't be enough to make the difference in the final score, but it might have changed the outcome with later decisions.

Alabama's last chance was ended when David Irons intercepted a John Parker Wilson pass with just over a minute to go. Auburn had only to run out the clock.

Alabama will be able to play the "what if" game for a year. Alabama basically gave Auburn two touchdowns by allowing Wilson to be sacked. Resulting fumbles gave the Tigers short yardage to touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Alabama – the poster child for red zone ineffectiveness – decided it could make two-point conversions after a couple of touchdowns. This is the same team that can't make two years when the payoff is six points rather than two.

Finally, Alabama eschewed valuable field goal points in the final minutes in a desperation try for a touchdown.

Alabama finished the season with three consecutive losses. Although technically the Tide is bowl eligible at 6-6, the odds are long against Alabama being selected for post-season play. Under rules, Alabama could practice for the next couple of weeks until bowl announcements are made following games of December 2.

Alabama finished 2-6 in Southeastern Conference games.

Auburn finished 10-2 in regular season play and 6-2 in SEC games.

Alabama did strike first, although the process was all-too-familiar. With first and goal at the Auburn three, Bama tried three runs in the middle of the line and faced fourth and goal at the one. After a delay of game penalty, Jamie Christensen kicked the Tide to a 3-0 lead.

It had been a nice drive with John Parker Wilson passing to Le'Ron McClain for a 12-yard gain, Kenneth Darby ripping off a 14-yard run, Wilson scrambling for 27, and D.J. Hall going 21 yards on an end-around to the three.

Alabama's defense was doing the job against Auburn, but couldn't keep the Tigers out of the end zone on short drives courtesy of the Alabama offense. On consecutive second quarter series, Auburn defensive end Quentin Groves went over Bama's right tackle, Chris Capps, and sacked Wilson, causing fumbles.

The first fumble gave Auburn the ball at Alabama's 27. Back-up halfback Brad Lester ran it four times, the last 12 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

Barely a minute later, Wilson was blindsided and fumbled at the eight. Auburn star Kenny Irons ran it in on first down. John Vaughn had to kick a long extra point after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but it ws 14-3.

It looked as if Auburn might end the half with a 99-yard drive after Bama punter D.J. Fitzgerald had a 53-yard punt to the Auburn one. But Bama's defense finally got the Tigers stopped at the Alabama 36, where Vaughn's 53 yard field goal try was short and wide.

Alabama had the ball back with 1:55 to play in the first half at the Crimson Tide 37. Wilson found Nikita Stover for an 11-yard gain. Three plays later Wilson caught the Tigers in a blitz and got the ball to Stover who took it 52 yards for a touchdown.

One notable change in Bama'slineup was moving Antoine Caldwell from center to right tackle with Evan Cardwell taking over at center. Later in the game Caldwell would also play left guard.

The touchdown pass to Stover pulled Bama to within 14-9 and the score would stay there as Alabama elected to go for a two-point conversion. It was not close to successful, in fact intercepted.

Alabama got the ball to start the second half because Auburn had won the opening toss and, somewhat surprisingly, decided to receive rather than defer. Wilson directed an excellent drive.

Wilson hit Stover on a third down play for 10 yards and a first down, then connected with Will Oakley for 35 yards on a third down play. Three runs got a first down at the Auburn 14. On second and nine Wilson passed to tight end Travis McCall for the touchdown.

Once again, Alabama failed to get an extra point. Again trying to a get a two-point conversion, the pass was incomplete leaving the Tide with a 15-14 lead.

Auburn would take the lead going to the fourth quarter as Tigers quarterback Brandon Cox hit two big pass plays. The first was to fullback Carl Stewart for 37 yards to the Bama 17. On third-and-15 from the 22, Cox got the ball to Rodgeriquez Smith.

Auburn had a two-point play and made it with ease, fullback Carl Stewart passing to Lee Guess.

It was Auburn 22, Alabama 15 going to the fourth quarter.

Alabama had a nice opportunity when Chris Harris forced a fumble and Jeremy Clark recovered for Bama at the Auburn 40. But one play later Wilson passed to Keith Brown (who has missed a lot of work this year with injury) and Brown fumbled it back to the Tigers at the Auburn 30 with 11 minutes to play.

Alabama had to start from its own 11-yard line after forcing Auburn to punt.

D.J. Hall started the drive with a seven-yard end-around. Jimmy Johns from halfback gained seven more and a first down. Wilson went back to Brown, who hauled in a 21-yard gain to the Tide 46. Johns ran for another six into Auburn territory at the 48. Wilson completed a pass to Tim Castille for 10 and a first down at the Auburn 38.

Wilson passed complete to Stover at the 13, a play close enough to have to withstand review.

In the Red Zone, Bama first lost five yards, Johns caught on a toss sweep. Wilson then misfired on a pass to Brown. On third-and-15 from the 18 with 5:24 to play a scrambling Wilson just overthrew Matt Caddell, who had gotten open in the end zone.

It is difficult to explain the next few moments. Alabama, needing two scores to win, seemed to be ready to attempt a 36-yard field goal. But with time running out, Alabama had to use a time out. Bama threw incomplete in the end zone and Auburn took over with a seven-point lead.

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