By Greg Collier
Auburn took down another #1 this time it was big bad BAMA 26-14 in an old fashion streetfight with the boys from the other side of town that represent the SEC West. At stake a trip to the first-ever SEC Championship Game to be held in Mercedes Benz Stadium. For Auburn, it sets up the rematch against Georgia the former #1 whom they knocked off the mantle. To make it to the College Football Playoffs no other team could have a tougher road than Auburn. Alabama was their second #1 team in three weeks.
Jarrett Stidham spearheaded another solid, well-balanced attack completing 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards most importantly no interceptions. Kerryon Johnson did what he usually does carry the team when it comes to the running game. He carried the ball 30 times for 113 yards. Ryan Davis appeared to complete the image of the three-headed monster catching 11 passes for 139 yards.
All the stats will always grab the headlines, but let’s give the enforcers their credit the Tigers Defense, in particular, the big boys up front. They dominated the line of scrimmage forcing Jalen Hurts to run for his life just to throw the ball away. They never allowed the Alabama offense to get into any rhythm.
Head Coach Nick Saban said, “ we played against the best quarterback we played against all year, and we couldn’t sustain they are a good football team give them credit.”
The heavyweight bout started as most do both teams feeling each other out, stalling on their first drives. Bama got the first break a punt leaving Auburn in the pressure cooker at their six-yard line. Kerryon Johnson provided the games first big play a blast up the middle to buy some operating room. Darius Slayton caught a 25yard bullet from Jarrett Stidham to set up the games first score a cram fake fire pass by Kerryon Johnson out of the wildcat to tight end N-Craig-Meyers. The 3-yard touchdown pass was the highlight of the 12 play 94-yard drive. That is how you make a business statement. Bama was unaccustomed to somebody coming out and hitting them dead in the mouth. They played as if they were stunned facing 2nd and 27 Jalen Hurts fumbled on a scramble that left Auburn in scoring territory.
At the end of the first quarter Auburn rescued them, Stidham fumbled a low snap it was an early Christmas Present for Bama at the 9-yard line or Saban ordered that online during Black Friday and had it delivered right on time. That is how you duck a knockout punch, saved by the bell. A basic punt that caught the lucky bounce ended up 64 yards downfield. How is it that good teams always get the lucky bounce?
The Auburn defense had the cork to Jalen Hurts’ bottle until he faked a run option towards the right tackle he stepped back and hit Jerry Jeudy on a 36-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7. I am impressed with Hurt’s patience to be willing to take what the defense gives and to strike on demand. He just keeps coming at you seemingly effortless.
As prescribed it was Auburn’s turn to get a lucky bounce they downed the ball at the Alabama two-yard line. It was the second time they had their backs against the wall.
Auburn ended the half on a successful 33-yard field goal by the SEC’s leading scorer in history Daniel Carlson to take the lead at halftime 10-7. It was a highly competitive half between two good football teams. However, one has to wonder what if Auburn had scored instead of fumbled. Could a, would a, should a, I guess we all know what that means.
Championship football is about making in-game adjustments and seizing opportunities that’s what Bama did to take the lead to start the half 14-10 on a Bo Scarbrough 21 yard run to cap the 5 play 79-yard drive. Auburn countered with a field goal. The defense did its thing forcing the ball to go over on downs.
It was Stidham’s turn to play championship football keeping the drive alive with his feet picking up 9 yards on a scramble and 12 yards on another. It took 69 yards and 12 plays before Kerryon Johnson barreled in for the 1-yard touchdown. Auburn had the #1 team in the country on the ropes 20-14. However, heavyweights do not go down easy. There is a valid reason the Crimson Tide hover around the #1 ranking, they are good and well coached by college football best Nick Saban.
Trevon Diggs returned the kick 55 yards down to the Auburn 39. That is when the soldout crowd raised the decibels to be deafening, causing a pre-snap infraction before it lady luck appeared again, this time in a tipped pass that looked like a touchdown for Alabama but after further review, it was an incomplete pass the ball hit the ground. If we were in a dome, they might have shattered the glass. I hope they have reinforcements for Mercedes Benz Stadium during the SEC Championship Game. The drive ended with a bobbled snap and a failed field goal attempt to end the third quarter with Auburn up 20-14. You could hear the tiger clawing some Crimson Tide Hide.
Kerryon Johnson started the fourth quarter doing an impersonation of the Tasmanian devil spinning around and around gaining all the yardage he could get. Coach Malzhan had his online Black Friday purchase delivered by Jarrett Stidham from a special bag of tricks, a reverse pass to Robert Davis for a substantial gain to convert the first down. The pocket collapsed Stidham survived the onslaught of defenders scrambled, stumbled and fell into the end zone to put the Tigers up 26-14 at the 12:49 mark of the fourth quarter.
Alabama started to press making mental mistakes low snaps, a high snap that flew over Jalen Hurt’s head like a missile. They committed three fumbles for the game and uncharacteristically fell apart going down the stretch.
Jalen Hurts: on the confusion during snaps…
“The center snapped the ball when he was not supposed to a few times, but it all comes down to execution, and that we did not do today. I have to take some of the blame for it. I have no problem doing it, but we are going to learn from this. We don’t really lose, so it will really humble us. We will bounce back.”
Former #1 Alabama’s undefeated streak comes to an end (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
Former #6 Auburn finishes the season (10-2, 7-1)
The only question remaining is where Alabama will end up in the final CFP Poll. Nick Saban said,
“I think this team deserves the opportunity to get into the playoff by what they have been able to accomplish and what they have been able to do. Certainly not in this game, but I think the team we played tonight is a very good football team, probably one of the best teams in the country. We have won 11 games, and not many teams have been able to do that. I really don’t know what all the scenarios might be where we would have an opportunity to do it. I certainly would like to see this team get the opportunity to do it. I think they deserve it.”
Stay tuned for the REMATCH Auburn against Georgia for all the Marbles Dec, 2nd in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Interesting Facts about the Game
Auburn converted 9-18 third downs to Alabama’s 3-11
Auburn continued their outstanding Red Zone Performance scoring 4-5 times.
Kerryon Johnsons season totals 250 carries for 1276 yards with 17 touchdowns
Jarrett Stidham 202-295 for 2682 yards, 16 touchdowns, 4 interceptions, with a QBR rating 161.5
Bo Scarbrough had only 6 carries the entire game making some Alabama fans scratch their heads about the play calling.
Calvin Ridley 3 catches for 38 yards
Jalen Hurts completed 13 of 23 passes for 177 yards and ran for another 80 yards on 17 carries.