Tigers take Tide down, 17-7

What had been a very good year for the Alabama Crimson Tide included a very bad day Saturday as ninth-ranked Bama was defeated by unranked Auburn, 17-7, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

And although the players and coaches may not feel they deserve it, there is still a reward – and another tough football game – for the Crimson Tide. Bama, now 9-3 on the season and finished with Southeastern Conference play with a 6-2 mark, will head to Hawaii next Saturday. Kickoff will be at 6:45 p.m. CST from Aloha Stadium with national television coverage by ESPN.

Auburn, 8-4 and 5-3 in SEC games, still has a mathematical shot at the league championship game, but realistically is more likely to end its season in a minor bowl game.

Auburn dominated in every phase of the game. The Tigers had an excellent game plan and even though Auburn was missing several key players had great effort. On this Saturday there is no question that the best team won.

Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione said that schemes by Auburn did not surprise Bama, but rather that Auburn did a better job of executing, blocking, and tackling.

Alabama, the SEC's most penalized team, was particularly undisciplined Saturday. Penalties against the Tide were disastrous on numerous drives. Bama was flagged 10 times for 90 yards.

Auburn scored the first 17 points of the game. Alabama's lone score came midway through the third quarter, but the Tide couldn't get any consistency in most drives. Franchione pointed out that Alabama's formula in big road games had been to get ahead and make the home team play from behind. He said that Auburn had used that formula against Alabama.

Although Auburn played without tailback Ronnie Brown, backup Tre Smith had some big plays for the Tigers. Auburn also got solid play from its quarterback, Jason Campbell. Big plays were instrumental in Auburn's win. On Auburn's second possession Smith had a 51-yard run that led to a Campbell pass to tight end Robert Johnson for a 7-0 Auburn lead. Following Alabama's second possession, Lane Bearden made a nice punt, but Alabama had no coverage. Bearden, playing with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, had to make the touchdown-saving tackle. As it turned out it was just a touchdown-delaying tackle as Auburn moved down the field in six plays, completing another touchdown pass to tight end Johnson for the score.

Auburn got its final points with a nice drive in the second quarter. A quarterback scramble was the big play. But Bama's defense got its biggest break when Johnson – wide open as he had been on the two touchdown passes – dropped what might have been his third touchdown pass. The Tigers had to settle for a 40-yard Damon Duval field goal.

Alabama finally got on the board in the third quarter when Santonio Beard went in from a yard out. The scoring drive was set up when Waine Bacon turned in an interception at the Auburn 46-yard line. Even that drive was far from the efficient offensive performances of recent games. Two facemask penalties against Auburn were instrumental in the score.

In the fourth quarter Tyler Watts was lifted in favor of Brodie Croyle, but Croyle had no more luck than Watts in getting the offense going.

Although statistically it looks like a good day for Alabama, no one watching the game would suggest it was even a decent performance. Alabama had slightly better numbers except the ones that mattered – those on the scoreboard. Bama had 17 first downs to Auburn's 14. Alabama had 34 rushes for 111 yards, Auburn 38 carries for 129 yards. Bama completed 18 of 37 passes for 209 yards, Auburn 10 of 18 for 169 yards. Alabama had total offense of 71 plays for 320 yards, Auburn 56 plays for 298 yards. Both teams suffered an interception, Alabama's coming on a desperation fourth down pass in the final minutes.

Shaud Williams was the Tide's leading rusher with seven carries for 48 yards. Beard, who rushed for 199 yards in Alabama's 31-7 win over Auburn last year, had 12 carries for only 41 yards.

Watts completed 11 of 21 passes for 126 yards, Croyle seven of 16 for 83 yards. Williams had seven catches for 43 yards, Triandos Luke three for 42 yards, and Dre Fulgham two for 58 yards.

While Franchione was obviously disappointed, he felt his team had played hard. "We just seemed to be a play out of sync all day," he said. "But I am proud of them."

And, he said, "A good team closes ranks and marches on."

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