Rapid reaction: Alabama wears down Auburn, wins third consecutive Iron Bowl
Another Iron Bowl is in the books. With strong play in the trenches, Alabama was able to overcome a sloppy first half and finish off an undefeated regular season, its second under head coach Nick Saban and first since 2009.
Here’s a closer look at Alabama’s 30-12 victory over Auburn on Saturday in Tuscaloosa:
What it means
Other than shear pride, the game was basically meaningless as far as championships are concerned. Alabama was headed to the SEC Championship Game regardless. For Auburn, it remains to be seen what impact losing to the No. 1 team in the country will have on its bowl destination.
What I liked
Alabama: Defense and winning the line of scrimmage made the difference. The Tide defense smothered Auburn’s offense. At halftime it limited Auburn to just one first down and 34 total yards. Collectively the Tide won the battle of the line of scrimmage both offensive and defensively, and leaned heavily on its running game to pull away in the second half.
Auburn: A trick play, a flea-flicker that went for 27 yards from QB Jeremy Johnson to WR Will Hastings didn’t result in points, but it helped loosen up the Alabama defense a little bit and paved the way for another big play on the next drive, a 55-yard bomb from Johnson to WR Eli Stove that led to a field goal. Unfortunately for the Tigers, four field goals accounted for all of their points.
What I didn’t like
Alabama: Ball security. The Tide bounced the ball around like a pinball, especially in the first half — two interceptions and a couple of fumbles. Fortunately, they were able to recover those drops, and when they didn’t, the defense limited Auburn to field goals. But the lack of concentration in execution was costly nevertheless and allowed Auburn to hang around. Alabama’s lead was only 10-9 late in the second quarter despite dominating the game.
Auburn: An inability to finish drives resulted in the Tigers kicking field goals while Alabama scored touchdowns. And though it kept Auburn in the game, it wasn’t nearly enough to get a victory.
Who’s the man
Alabama: WR ArDarius Stewart hauled in a career-high 10 catches, one of those for a touchdown. His previously grabbed eight passes in four games. It was a nice follow up to his career-high 156 receiving yards in his last outing vs. Mississippi State. He did not play last week against UT-Chattanooga.
Auburn: K Daniel Carlson booted four field goals, including a 52-yarder, in five attempts. It’s the third time this season that Carlson has connected on at least four field goals in a game. He hit four at Ole Miss and delivered a career-high six in scoring all the points in an 18-13 victory over LSU.
QB Jalen Hurts fired a 38-yard touchdown pass Stewart in the third quarter and the Tide finally had some breathing room. The scoring play gave the Tide’s an insurmountable 27-9 lead. Hurts finished with 286 yards passing and two touchdowns. He also ran for 37 yards and a score.
Alabama: The Tide defends its SEC championship next Saturday when they meet Florida on Saturday at Atlanta in the 25th SEC Championship Game. It will be the ninth such meeting between the two programs, more than any other.
Auburn: The Tigers await the bowl announcements a week from Sunday to find out where they are headed and who the opponent will be.