Tide Self Destructs At Auburn (STATS)

Alabama was its own worst enemy as Auburn won its sixth straight game over Alabama in Auburn Saturday night. The Crimson Tide had costly penalties and a terrible turnover just before halftime that killed Bama chances. Auburn won by a 17-10 margin.

The loss dropped Alabama to 6-6. Bama fell to 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play. At one time Bama was 6-2, but Bama lost its final four games. Auburn improved to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in SEC competition.

Although common sense would say that Alabama has not earned a bowl bid, post-season play is not out of the question. Tennessee's win over Kentucky, Georgia's win over Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt's loss to Wake Forest, and South Carolina's loss to Clemson on Saturday all worked in favor of the Tide nabbing a minor bowl spot.

The key plays in the game were minuses for Alabama. A questionable personal foul call (roughing the passer) in the final minutes was critical to Auburn's clinching touchdown. Earlier in the quarter Bama was guilty of running into the kicker, a penalty that took Alabama from good field position and allowed Auburn to get good field position.

For the second SEC game in a row Alabama threw away almost certain points just before halftime. Trailing 10-7 and and time running out in the final minute before intermission, Alabama had the ball at the Auburn 11. Alabama was going to make one try for a touchdown and if it failed kick a tying field goal. But the try not only failed, it was intercepted and the Tide got nothing.

(Two weeks ago at Mississippi State the Tide was knocking at the goalline just befoe halftime and threw an interception that was returned 100 yards for a State touchdown.)

Auburn took a 7-0 lead on its first possession of the game with a 65 yard, 12-play drive. Ben Tate took it in from three yards out and Wes Byrum kick the extra point. All but two of the plays were runs. The score came with 8:08 to play.

Rashad Johnson and Simeon Castille both missed interception opportunities on Auburn's second possessionThe first pass, which Johnson just missed, went for a 31-yard Brandon Cox to Rodgeriqus Smith and the drop by Castille forced a field goal try. Byrum kicked a 37-yard field goal with 3:12 left in the first quarter to give the Tigers a 10-0 lead.

Alabama closed the gap to 10-7 early in the second quarter. Penalties figured into the 11-play, 53-yard drive that followed a nice 41-yard kickoff return by Jonathan Lowe. Bama had to overcome two illegal procedure calls in the march, but that was more than offset by a questionable pass interference call against Auburn on a third down play. John Parker Wilson got the touchdown on a quarterback sneak behind an unbalanced line that featured an extra tackle from about two yards out. Leigh Tiffin kicked the extra point.

Alabama had moved to a second-and-eight at the Auburn 25, but a sack took the ball back. Tiffin was then called on for a 44-yard try that was wide left with 2:30 left in the first half.

Alabama got a great opportunity when Rolando McClain picked off Auburn quarterback and returned the ball 23 yards to the Auburn 19 with 50 seconds to play before halftime.

Wilson completed a pass to tight end Travis McCall, but it gained nothing and cost 13 seconds. Wilson then hit tight end Nick Walker on an eight-yard gain to the 11.

Bama used its second timeout to stop the clock with 24 seconds. On third down Wilson's pass in the end zone for D.J. Hall was intercepted by Jerraud Powers and the Tigers had a 10-7 halftime lead.

The pass went off the hands of Hall. It was a good play by Powers, but Hall has made tougher catches.

Auburn opened the second half with a nice drive, but two incomplete passes forced a 43-yard field goal by Byrum, who was short and wide right.

Late in the third quarter, Alabama gave Auburn reprieve with a running into the kicker penalty that gave the Tigers a first down. Bama's punt return would have given the Tide the ball in Auburn territory. The cost of that penalty was evfident a couple of minutes later when Auburn had to punt again and kicked 47 yards to out of bounds at the Alabama one.

P.J. Fitzgerald had an excellent 48-yard punt that rescued some of the yardage, punting Auburn back to its 46.

Bama's defense forced another punt and the Tide started at its 11. Roy Upchurch ran for nine yards and Wilson sneaked for a first down. Wilson then hit Keith Brown on a 19-yard gain to the 43. But on second down Bama was nabbed for holding, making it second and 16 from the Alabama 37. This time Fitzgerald's punt was returned 31 yards by Robert Dunn to the Alabama 44. Only 8:48 remained.

Auburn ran for a first down, then Brandon Cox hit tight end Cole Bennett on an 11-yard run to the Alabama 14. Ezekial Knight caught Tate for a two-yard loss and then Alabgama was called on a roughing the passer play -- a suspiciously late call right in front of the Auburn bench. That gave Auburn first and goal at the eight and tthree plays later the Tigers put the game away with a quarterback sneak. (SEC officials had attempted to give the Tigers a touchdown a player earlier, but the replay overruled the call.)

Alabama made a game try to come back. The Tide drove to near the Auburn 30 before three passes went incomplete. Tiffin came on and kicked a 49-yard field goal to pull the Tide to within 17-10 with 2:11 to play.

Jamie Christensen, who had a successful on-sides kick against Tennessee earlier this year, was called on to try another one. Auburn got the ball at the Alabama 39 with 2:09 to play and Bama with only two timeouts.

Auburn took it down to 1:06 with a fourth and one at the Alabama 30. When Lester ran up the middle for 12 yards, the game was over.

Alabama's leading rusher, Terry Grant, who has been bothered by a hip injury, did not play in the game. Bama was led in rushing by Glen Coffee with 20 carries for 60 yards and Roy Upchurch with eight carries for 41 yards.

Wilson completed 12 of 26 passes for 113 yards with one interception. He was sacked twice. D.J. Hall was the top receiver, but with only three catches for a total of 29 yards.

In addition to the fine interception that went for nothing, Rolando McClain led all tacklers with 15 total, eight primary.

Auburn had 17 first downs, Alabama 15.

Bama finished with 36 rushes for 112 yards, Auburn with 41 runs for 165. Wilson's 113 yards of passing gave Alabama 62 plays for 225 yards of total offense. Auburn completed 12 of 22 passes for 117 yards.

There were no lost fumbles in the game. Bama fumbled twice, but recovered both. Auburn did not fumble. Alabama was penalized six times for 38 yards, Auburn three times for 35 yards. The Tigers had a 31:09 to 28:51 advantage in time of possession.

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