Auburn: Game Tigers succumb to Alabama's second-half TD avalanche
Auburn was not intimidated in the least. And why should it have been? The Tigers had won five times in Tuscaloosa since 2000.
In Saturday’s clash, the Crimson Tide threw their best punch and the Tigers gave back as good as they got, in the trenches where games are usually won and lost.
But Auburn lost 52-21 in the 83rd Iron Bowl, leaving the Tigers at 7-5 (3-5 SEC) with a bowl game left in an up-and-down year.
Alabama pulled away, scoring touchdowns on five of its first six second-half possessions to force the Tigers out of their comfort zone.
At halftime Alabama led 17-14 despite being outplayed and outcoached. Gus Malzahn fooled Nick Saban and the Tide defense, scoring on a trick play that caught Alabama completely by surprise. Malzahn punched holes in the Tide defense and employed an imaginative offense that kept the home team on its heels.
Ryan Davis, Auburn’s all-time career receptions leader, took a backward pass from QB Jarrett Stidham and threw to a wide open Malik Miller, who hauled in the pass for a 23-yard touchdown. That pulled the Tigers to within a field goal at halftime.
Davis, Auburn’s most effective player offensively, was knocked out of the game early in the third quarter by a hit from Jared Mayden. The Alabama defensive back was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of the SEC Championship Game.
Davis had just hauled in his fourth pass from Stidham. The Stidham-to-Davis combination is the most prolific pass tandem in Auburn history with 149 completions.
Just a few plays later, the Tide was spared another ejection when defensive back Shyheim Carter hit Stidham high and very late. Carter was called for roughing the passer but escaped a targeting penalty so he won’t not have to join Mayden on the sidelines for next week’s SEC title game.
His “luck” ran much better than LSU’s Devon White, whose similar actions in a game in October meant the Tigers’ best defensive player had to sit out the first half of the next game, which just happened to be against Alabama.
Alabama scored first on Saturday, taking a 7-0 lead. Auburn appeared to score first when speedster Shaun Shivers dashed 79 yards to the end zone. But a questionable holding penalty brought it all back. The Tigers had scored first in 24 of the previous 29 games.
Defensively, outstanding open-field tackling across the board kept the Tigers in the game for one half, as they held Bama to few yards after contact.
Credit JaTarvious Whitlow with some tough, solid running against an Alabama defensive front that looked penetrable. Whitlow rushed for 61 yards on 19 carries to lead a ground game that moved the ball until the Tigers were forced out of their gameplan.
But the Auburn receivers dropped far too many passes to keep the Tigers in the game.