Alabama Wakes Up Just In Time
With 1:24 to play, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy completed a four-yard touchdown pass to third team tailback Roy Upchurch to give Bama a 26-21 come-from-behind win over Auburn. The only score that matters is the final one, and that was the only time in the game the Crimson Tide had the lead.
Alabama has now completed its second consecutive undefeated regular season with its second straight win over Auburn. Bama is 12-0 and finished Southeastern Conference play with an 8-0 record. Auburn fell to 7-5, including a 3-5 conference record.
Alabama, ranked second in the nation, will now prepare to face number one ranked Florida in the SEC Championship Game in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta on December 5. Florida is 11-0 overall and also 8-0 in SEC games and will finish its regular season against Florida State Saturday.
Alabama fell behind b 14-0 in the first quarter, battled back to tie the game before halftime, then trailed through most of the third and fourth quarters before McElroy's heroics delivered the victory.
The winning performance began with the defense making a big stop of the Tigers with just over 10 minutes to play. Kareem Jackson made a tackle for a seven-yard loss and Rolando McClain sacked Auburn's quarterback for a 10-yard loss. Instead of being able to punt Bama into a hole, the Tigers could get the Tide only back to the 21.
McElroy completed three first down passes to Julio Jones in the drive, two of them on third down plays. From the Auburn 27, McElroy swung a pass out to tailback Trent Richardson and the freshman tailback ran it to the 10.
Richardson got two more runs as Auburn burned timeouts with the clock running down. On third down from the four, Alabama inserted nose tackle Terrence Cody into the backfield as a blocker, and everyone was thinking the Tide would run. If the run didn't get the touchdown, went the thinking, Bama would call on Leigh Tiffin for his third field goal of the second half.
Instead, it was play fake. McElroy stepped to his right and Upchurch had beaten a linebacker in the end zone. The senior tailback gathered in the soft toss and Bama led by five.
Naturally, the Tide attempted a two-point conversion, but McElroy's pass was intercepted by Jake Ricks. The winning touchdown drive covered 79 yards in 15 plays and took just over seven minutes.
The Tigers made it interesting with its final possession, but a Hail Mary was batted away in the end zone by Tide safety Justin Woodall as the game ended.
On the winning drive, McElroy threw incomplete on first down. After that he completed seven passes for 63 yards.
It was not a good day for Alabama offensively or defensively. The Tigers had the best of it statistically with 59 plays for 332 yards to Bama's 67 plays for 291 yards. Alabama did avoid turnovers, while capturing one Auburn pass and causing and recovering one fumble by the Tigers.
McElroy completed 21 of 31 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn's Chris Todd was good on 15 of 25 with one interception for 181 yards and two touchdowns and back-up Kodi Burns missed on his only try.
As for who is the best running back in the state? Neither Alabama's Mark Ingram (16 carries for 30 yards and three pass receptions for 21 yards) nor Auburn's Ben Tate (18 carries for 45 yards and four pass receptions for 17 yards) had a big day. Auburn's leading rusher was a wide receiver, Terrell Zachery, who ran one play, an end-around for a 67-yard touchdown. Bama's leading receiver was freshman Trent Richardson, 15 carries for 51 yards. He also had three pass receptions for 31 yards.
Trickery and deceit got Auburn off to a great start. On the Tigers' first possession, an end-around to Terrell Zachery caught the Alabama defense out of position and he went 67 yards untouched for a touchdown with 11:40 remaining in the game. Wes Bynum kicked it to 7-0.
Alabama's offense never had a chance to respond. An on-sides kick should have been recovered by Bama's Brad Smelley, but the Tigers got it at the Auburn 42. Even a block in the back penalty couldn't stop the Tigers, who got a trick pass from Chris Todd Darvin Adams to the Alabama 28 and a quarterback draw by Todd to the Alabama 15. On a third-and-five, Bama safety Justin Woodall intercepted and seemed touchdown bound from the goalline, but a whistle stopped the play.
Auburn had been guilty of illegal procedure. Unfortunately for Alabama, Woodall threw the ball in frustration and was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Instead of all the bad things that should have happened to the Tigers, Auburn had it third-and-two instead of third-and-six and converted a first-and-goal at the three. Two runs didn't get the touchdown, but then Todd passed to Eric Smith for a one-yard touchdown. With 5:42 left in the first quarter, Auburn had a 14-0 lead.
Alabama's first two offensive possessions, both starting at the 40 after out-of-bounds kickoffs, got its third possession of the first quarter at the Alabama 42 after an Auburn punt out of bounds.
Although the series began inauspiciously with Julio Jones dropping a short pass, Bama took just nine more plays to get a touchdown. The drive continued into the second quarter. Greg McElroy completed a 15-yard pass to Darius Hanks to get it started, then hit Jones for an eight-yard gain. After Mark Ingram ran for one first down and took a pass for a six-yard pass on the final play of the first quarter, Trent Richardson took over at tailback. He ran for six, took a McElroy pass for 13 to the five, then took it into the end zone. Leigh Tiffin's extra point kick cut the Auburn lead to 14-7 with 13:26 remaining in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Alabama defense turned in a good three-and-out, forcing an Auburn punt from the five. After an 11-yard return by Javier Arenas, Bama was the at the Auburn 45 with 7:49 remaining in the first half.
Two plays didn't do much, but on third down from the 33 McElroy hit tight end Colin Peek over the middle and Peek took it to the end zone. With 5:31 to play in the first half, Tiffin's kick tied the score at 14-14.
Tide linebacker Eryk Anders found himself in deep coverage and committed a pass interference. But he redeemed himelf by causing and recovering a fumble with a hit on Auburn quarterback Todd. The Alabama had a golden opportunity to take the lead, starting from the Auburn 48 and driving to a when Anders forced and recovered a fumble with a pass rush on Auburn quarterback Todd. Bama had the ball at the Auburn 48 and moved to a second and five at the Auburn 47.
McElroy was flushed from the pocket and had running room, but tried to force a pass to Marquis Maze. The pass was incomplete, Bama came up short on a third down play, and on fourth down Tiffin's 42-yard field goal was well short.
Auburn drove back into Tide territory, but was forced to punt. At intermission nothing had been settled. It was 14-14.
Auburn got its biggest play on its second series of the second half. Todd pumped, Tide safety Mark Barron bit on it, and the Tigers' Darvin Adams was all alone behind the secondary. Todd connected with him and the play covered 72 yards for a touchdown. Byrum kicked Auburn to a 21-14 lead with 11:05 to play in the third quarter.
Arenas had a 46-yard return to the Alabama 46 on the ensuing kickoff, but Alabama had a terrible series. Facing third and less than a yard, Bama tried two Mark Ingram runs at the middle and he came up short, giving the ball over to the Tigers at the Auburn 45. Bama's defense held and forced a punt, which Arenas returned 56 yards to the Auburn 33.
A pass completion to Jones gained seven, and when his facemask was grabbed on the tackle Bama had a first down at the Auburn 13.
It was the first of two excellent Red Zone opportunities on which Bama would not get touchdowns.
Richardson gained three yards. Ingram then tried a halfback pass to a wide open Julio Jones in the end zone. The pass was just out of reach of the diving Jones. A third down pass was incomplete and Tiffin kicked a 27-yard field goal to pull Bama to within four points, Auburn 21, Alabama 17.
Moments later Mark Barron intercepted a pass, his SEC-leading seventh of the year, and Bama was set up at the Auburn 43. McElroy passed to Jones for 18 to the 15. After Auburn was offsides, Richardson ran for a first down at the Auburn 13. But three plays, including a botched handoff between McElroy and Richardson, gained nothing. Tiffin's second field goal with 24 seconds remaining in the third quarter pulled the Tide to within a point, Auburn 21, Alabama 20.
Auburn was in a hole as the fourth quarter began, a holding penalty making it first and 20 at the Auburn 25. The Tigers escaped on a nice scramble by Todd, then avoided disaster when a pass went through the hands of Bama linebacker Nico Johnson. Auburn did switch field position, punting the Tide back to the Alabama three-yard line.
Alabama didn't start well with a false start penalty that put the ball inside the two-yard line. Another false start put it just outside the end zone, officially on the one. Bama moved a little, but eventually had to punt the ball from the five and Auburn was set up at the Alabama 44 with 10:37 to play.
Bama's defense stepped up big with Kareem Jackson stopping a sweep for a seven-yard loss and Rolando McClain sacking Todd at the Auburn 40. The Tigers punted and Bama took over with 8:27 to play and the ball at the Alabama 21.
From there, Bama marched to its winning touchdown.
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