No. 6 Auburn upends No. 1 Alabama
AUBURN, Ala. — A division title, in-state bragging rights and a trip to the SEC Championship Game were all on the line Saturday when No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Auburn played in the most anticipated Iron Bowl since 2013.
And the Tigers emerged with a 26-14 victory at Jordan-Hare Stadium behind the outstanding play of quarterback Jarrett Stidham, tailback Kerryon Johnson and a rugged defense.
The Tigers’ defense has been dominant in back-to-back matchups with No. 1-ranked teams. It limited Georgia and Alabama to a combined 31 points and controlled both teams’ powerful running games with relative ease.
Auburn also sacked elusive Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts two times and forced him into a number of ill-advised throws.
“We didn’t protect very well,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We didn’t get open very well. The quarterback didn’t read very well.”
Saban’s record fell to 0-7 against Auburn teams that finished with nine wins or more. He was 0-3 while at LSU and is now 0-4 at Alabama.
Stidham, who played one of his best games as a Tiger, completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards. He added 12 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson finished with 30 carries for 104 yards and a score before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an undisclosed injury. He also had three receptions for 21 yards.
“It’s a shoulder issue,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said about his star running back. “And we will have to see where he’s at.”
Auburn wideout Ryan Davis led all receivers with 11 catches for 139 yards.
“We knew when we recruited him he was a good football player,” Malzahn said of Davis. “We got him the football. And he’s really tough in space.”
The win wrapped up the SEC West title for Auburn (10-2, 7-1 SEC). The Tigers will take on Georgia in the SEC title game next Saturday in Atlanta.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1) still has a shot at a College Football Playoff berth, but it no longer controls its destiny.
“I don’t know all the scenarios, but I think this team deserves to be in the playoffs,” Saban said.
A big story of the game was third-down success. Alabama converted just 3 of 11 third-down attempts; Auburn was 9 of 17.
“I’m so impressed with our third-down defense,” Malzahn said. “I was concerned about that coming in. And we did a really good job of that.”
Hurts, who was a big key to the SEC’s top-ranked rushing and scoring attack entering the game, got his share of yards on the ground (17 carries for 80 yards), but he completed just 13 of 23 passes for 177 yards and a score.
Auburn’s defense also did a good job on Alabama’s talented tailback duo of Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough. Harris accounted for 51 yards on the ground. Scarbrough ran for 46 yards and a score.
Auburn jumped out to a 7-0 lead when Johnson capped a 12-play, 95-yard scoring drive with a 3-yard jump-pass to wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers out of the Wildcat formation on third down at the Alabama 3.
The scoring march was sparked by a 25-yard completion from Stidham to Craig Myers on third-and-9 — from the Tigers’ 27-yard line — and another key third down run by Johnson.
Alabama tied the score 7-7 in the second quarter when Hurts connected with wide receiver Jerry Jeudy on a 36-yard scoring strike. Just one play before, Hurts picked up a key fourth-and-1 to keep the drive alive.
Daniel Carlson added a 33-yard field goal to send the Tigers in the locker room with a 10-7 halftime lead.
Scarbrough gave the Crimson Tide a 14-10 lead when he burst off left tackle for a 21-yard scoring run on the opening possession of the second half.
But Auburn responded after Carlson trimmed the lead to 14-13 on the ensuing possession when he drilled a 44-yard field goal.
Johnson helped the Tigers regain the lead at 20-14 late in the third quarter when he scored from 1 yard. Auburn extended the lead to 26-14 when Stidham rushed for a 16-yard touchdown after a botched Crimson Tide field-goal attempt.
NOTES: The winner of the Iron Bowl has played in the national championship game in seven of the past eight years. ... Alabama holds a 45-36-1 advantage in the series. It had won seven of the last nine matchups. ... Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson surpassed 100 yards rushing for the seventh time in his last eight games.