Tide Ends The Streak Vs. the Tigers

Alabama kept alive its 2008 winning streak and ended one of losing to the rival Tigers on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Tuscaloosa, Ala.-A season filled with disappointing close calls for the Tigers ended with Auburn's worst performance of the season as the Tigers struggled on offense and defense Saturday vs. No. 1 ranked Alabama.

The result was a 36-0 dominating victory for the now 12-0 Tide, which racked up 412 yards of total offense, including 234 on the ground.

Auburn, which finished the season 5-7, struggled to run and pass the football. The Tigers netted just 57 yards on 30 running plays and passed for just 113 more.

The Tigers took an aggressive defensive game plan into the Iron Bowl, putting its cornerbacks on an island most of the day in man coverage in order to get more personnel close to the line of scrimmage to stop the Tide running attack.

"With what they did from a personnel standpoint, there were a couple of zone answers that we felt would not make us stout enough to stop the run," Auburn defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads said.

"When you look at this and what they have done over the course of a game, a series of seven-yard runs are just bad as an occasional 70-yard run," Rhoads said. "The reason we chose some of that man free coverage and some of that pressure (blitzes) was to run stop their run game. Controlling it wasn't going to win this football game.

"We needed to stop it," Rhoads added. "Whether you get beat by 36 or three it is still a loss. We weren't going to game-plan to get beat by a little. We were going to game-plan to win the football game and that is what we did."

Auburn was in the game until a rocky third quarter that the Tigers entered with hope, down just 10-0, and ended down 29-0 as the Tide converted a pair of Tiger turnovers into touchdowns as it scored on drives of 39, 45 and 50 yards.

The Tide added insult to injury with a final TD with 2:49 to play as the backup QB Greg McElroy hit a 34-yard pass to Marquis Maze.

Sophomore Mario Fannin said it was a rotten way to end the season. "We are going to come back ready next year to play better, but I feel bad for the seniors. My heart goes out to them. I wish them the best."

Cornerback Jerraud Powers said it made him ill that he dropped a potential interception that he could have returned for a score when the game was close. "I can't believe I didn't make the play," he said. However, the lopsided loss was more of an irritant.

"This is my fourth year and every year I have been in a bowl game," the redshirt junior said. "This is disappointing. I have been on good teams. We have to move on and try to prepare for next season."

Glen Coffee led the Tide with 144 rushing yards on 20 carries. Mark Ingram added 64 yards and two TD runs on 15 carries.

Tide QB John Parker Wilson hit 8-16 passes for 134 yards and one score.

Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said the poor season was his fault with his failed offensive coordinator experiment and the decision to change what the Tigers were doing offensively midway through the season.

The coach thanked the seniors and said, "I just told them they did a great job for Auburn. I hate for them to end on a note like this. It has been a tough year. I put them in a very tough situation what with what I did this year starting out on offense. It was totally my fault. I made that mistake, it's not theirs. We just never recovered from it as the season went along on offense.

"Defensively, we gave up too many big plays," Tuberville added.

The coach said he and his staff will go back to work on Sunday to begin preparations for the 2009 season with the priorities finding playmakers for next year's team and bringing in a new offensive coordinator. "We were not consistent on offense, but I am committed to getting it done and we will start immediately on recruiting and working in that direction," he said.

Tuberville said the Tigers needed to avoid turnovers and force some to have a chance to pull off the upset victory. However, the opposite happened as the Tide helped its cause with no turnovers while Auburn made three in the second half.

Alabama won the toss and deferred, kicking off to the Tigers who kept the ball nine plays before the Tide took over at its seven after Clinton Durst's rugby style punt was downed at the seven.

After a three-and-out for the Tide, Auburn forced a punt on fourth and 12 and got the ball on a fair catch at the Tide 49.

Auburn couldn't move from there and punted the ball to the Tide five. On third and two, Coffee picked up 10 yards at right tackle to start a drive that would chew up the rest of the first quarter.

Bama scored on the final play of the third quarter as Leigh Tiffin made a 37-yard field goal to finish the 15-play possession.

Auburn's offense struggled in the second quarter and Bama took advantage of better field position to stretch the lead to 10-0 on a 41-yard run at right tackle by Coffee as Auburn defenders knocked each other off the play and the running back bounced outside and scored without opposition. The drive covered 65 yards in four plays and came with10:28 left before halftime.

The Tigers continued to struggle on offense until the final possession of the second quarter.

Auburn took over at its 28 with 2:19 and two timeouts left in the period. The Tigers moved the ball into field goal range. Burns ran for eight, Brad Lester rushed for seven and Burns had a 13-yard run to get the ball into Tide territory. After hitting a 12-yard pass to Rod Smith, the Tigers stalled at the 29.

With Tigers facing fourth and less than one with five seconds left, Morgan Hull was called on to make his first college field goal. The walk-on kicked football down the middle for an apparent score, but Alabama called a timeout before the snap and the Tigers had to do it over again.

On the second try, the snap was low and a low kick bounced off the rush to end the half on a big downer for the visitors.

At halftime the Tigers had just 96 yards of total offense on 32 plays while Alabama had 159 yards on 29 plays. Auburn netted 49 rushing yards on 18 carries with Burns the leading rusher with 16 yards on seven carries. Burns hit 5-14 passes for 47 yards.

Coffee was the big weapon for the Tide in the first half with 98 rushing yards on 11 carries. Wilson hit 5-10 passes for 53 yards in the first two quarters.

The third quarter started off innocently enough for the Tigers when the defense forced a punt and Auburn took over at its 32. However, Lester rushed for eight yards on first down and on the next play was hit on a blitz and Rolando McClain recovered a fumbled ball at the AU 39.

On the next play, Wilson passed to wide receiver Nikita Stover, who got behind cornerback Walt McFadden for a TD pass. Michael McNeil blocked the PAT and the Tide led 16-0.

The Tigers turned the ball over just over a minute later when Burns fumbled at the Auburn 45 and Terrence Cody recovered. The Tide moved scored on eight plays with Ingram getting into the end zone from the one. with 7:35 left. A pass for two failed leaving the Tide up 22-0.

After a three and out for the Auburn offense, the Tide wrapped up the game by driving 50 yards on seven plays with Ingram scoring from 14 yards out on a run up the middle.

Next up for Alabama is a date in the SEC Championship Game next Saturday vs. Florida after ending its six-game losing streak to the Tigers.

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