His team called, and he answered. It called and it called and it called again, and every time he answered. Derrick Henry rushed 46 times for 271 yards to lead No. 2 Alabama past Auburn 29-13 Saturday evening in the Iron Bowl. The win sends Alabama to the SEC Championship for the second consecutive year and fifth time under head coach Nick Saban.
After a field goal exhibition in the first half, Alabama found paydirt first on a 34-yard scoring strike from Jake Coker to ArDarius Stewart, pushing the lead to 19-6 with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter.
Auburn immediately responded when Jeremy Johnson hit Jason Smith for a Ricardo Louis-style tipped 77-yard touchdown pass.
Alabama pushed the lead back to two scores with another Griffith field goal — his fifth of the day — from 47 yards out with 10:04 remaining.
The Tide forced a punt after Griffith’s field goal, then consumed more than five minutes in a 10-play, 51-yard drive that was mostly all Henry. Auburn eventually forced a turnover on downs on a 4th-and-1 at the Auburn 31, but immediately gave the ball back when Johnson threw a three-yard completion to Peyton Barber and three straight incompletions to Melvin Ray, the final a drop that hit an open Ray right in the hands with 2:09 remaining.
The win sends Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) to the SEC Championship for the second consecutive year, the third time in their last four years and fifth time since 2008. Overall, this will be the Tide’s 10th SEC Championship appearance and eighth time opposite East champion Florida. Alabama is 3-4 in the previous seven meetings.
Auburn closes its regular season at 6-6 and a dead-last 2-6 in the SEC West. No team has see-sawed this decade like the Tigers, with their two SEC championships in the last six seasons but two last place finishes in the SEC West since 2012. The loss drops the Tigers to 2-9 in their last 11 games against SEC competition.
At the beginning of the season it was thought Saturday’s game between Auburn and Georgia could serve as a preview of the SEC Championship Game. That, obviously was not the case and we saw the latest exmaple of why in the afternoon’s early slate of games. Georgia (7-3, 5-3 SEC) scored 17 striaght second-half points to hand Auburn (5-5, 2-5 SEC) a 20-13 loss and drop the Tigers to .500.
Georgia’s Isaiah McKenzie returned a punt 53 yards for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. Moments earlier, on Georgia’s previous possession, the Bulldogs offense got caught going the wrong way with penalty after penalty setting up a 3rd and 41. It was the second touchdown of the half for McKenzie after rushing for a four-yard score in the third quarter to tie the game at 10-10. Georgia later added a field goal to pad the lead.
Auburn lost two fumbles in the second half, including one by Ricardo Louis on 3rd and 2 at the Georgia five-yard line. With the Tigers down 10 points, the Tigers had their most promising drive of the half until Louis pushed up the middle and lost the football as he reached for a touchdown. He may have already had the first down if he held on to the football. There was a certain bit of irony in Louis being the one to lose the fumble, of course. It was Louis who caught the deflected pass from a pair of Georgia defenders two seasons ago that handed the Bulldogs a loss.
Neither offense did much to deserve a win. Auburn had three turnovers, but the Tigers outgained Georgia 275-243. Neither team eclipsed the century mark througfh the air. Greyson Lambert of Georgia completed 12 of 17 passes for 97 yards, and Auburn’s Jeremy Johnson completed 14 of 22 passes for 61 yards. Neither threw a touchdown pass.
This was Georgia’s final SEC game of the season, with Georgia Southern at home on the schedule next week and the regular season finale against rival Georgia Tech in Atlanta the following week. The Bulldogs won five games in SEC play in all but just three seasons since Mark Richt has been the head coach of the program.
Auburn was a popular preseason pick to make a run for the SEC, playoff and perhaps the national championship. The reality of this season is now that Auburn must beat Idaho next week to become bowl eligible, because a win against Alabama is probably not very likely in this year’s Iron Bowl the way Alabama has been playing.
Georgia’s offense has, at times, found ways to move down field against an Auburn defense that tends to have plenty of holes, but the Bulldogs have managed to sneak just three point son to the giant scoreboard at Jordan-Hare Stadium this afternoon so far. Auburn leads Georgia 7-3 at the halftime break.
Auburn took the game’s opening drive right down the field for an early touchdown. The 11-play drive spanning 75 yards featured a couple of big runs by Ricardo Louis and Jovon Robinson, and quarterback Jeremy Johnson completed all four pass attempts along the way before Kerryon Johnson capped the drive with a seven-yard touchdown run.
Georgia had one drive stall just shy of the end zone when Mark Richt opted to go for a first down rather than kick a field goal from inside the two-yard line. Keep that in mind if this thing is a tight game later on in the second half.
At the half, Auburn and Georgia have combined for 91 passing yards between Johnson and Georgia’s Greyson Lambert. Johnson started in front of an injured Sean White, who has not seen the field. He has also been picked off once.
The No. 19 Ole Miss Rebels (7-2, 4-1 SEC) put together a strong second half on the road to keep their SEC championship game hopes alive Saturday afternoon at Auburn (4-4, 1-4). A pair of explosive scoring plays off the arm of Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly to Derrick Jones and Laquon Treadwell led Ole Miss to a 27-19 victory.
This was a special game for Treadwell of course. Last season Treadwell’s season came to a painful end against the Tigers when he broke his leg trying to reach for a score. He has had some time to think about his next game against Auburn, and it may have been worth the wait. Treadwell hauled in six passes for 93 yards before delivering the knockout blow, in the fourth quarter, on a 21-yard touchdown catch. He ended his game with seven catches for 114 yards, his fourth consecutive game with at least 100 yards receiving.
Kelly completed 33 of his 51 pass attempts for 381 yards and two touchdowns, with two intercepted passes. Damore’ea Stringfellow caught eight passes for 71 yards to serve as a nice complement to Treadwell’s production. The leading receiver in the game though played on the losing side of the football. Ricardo Louis led all players with 137 receiving yards, including a 47-yard touchdown catch that slipped by the Ole Miss defense over the middle of the field in the first half. That gave Auburn a 10-3 lead at the time, but the Rebels regained some momentum later in the first half and continued using it to their advantage in the second half.
Ole Miss has now won two straight games since tripping up on the road at Memphis a few weeks ago. The Rebels are still also in position to win the SEC West, although it must finish strong and take care of their own schedule to continue making a trip to Atlanta a possibility. That backend of the schedule still includes a game against LSU after a bye week and a road trip to rival Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl. Still, Ole Miss holds a head-to-head tiebreaker over Alabama, which could come in handy. Alabama faces LSU next week in a game Ole Miss fans will be paying very close attention to.
Auburn is now faced with a rather difficult path to the postseason, which would be a shocking development to those who hyped the Tigers leading into the season. The Tigers make a visit to Kyle Field next Saturday to take on the Texas A&M Aggies and then return home the following week to face Georgia. Assuming a win in either would be unwise, but the next-to-last game against Idaho should be a win. That could, hypothetically, mean Auburn will have to beat Alabama in the Iron Bowl in the final game of the season in order to clinch bowl eligibility. Auburn needs to win two of their final four games in order to meet the NCAA minimum victories to qualify for a bowl game.
Auburn’s offense has a long way to go to put the Tigers in position to score an upset of No. 19 Ole Miss this afternoon, but the defense has more than done enough to make it a possibility. Auburn held a 10-3 lead on the visiting Rebels in the second quarter, but the Rebels may be swinging the momentum back in their favor at the half after a 25-yard touchdown run by Akeem Judd up the middle of the Auburn defense has tied the game at 10-10 heading to halftime.
the half ended on a crazy note when it appeared Jeremy Johnson fumbled the football and Ole Miss recovered to return for a possible touchdown, but SEC officials ruled Johnson was down with possession as the clock expired. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze challenge the call on the field before the teams left the field. After a video review, SEC officials ruled the play on the field was actually confirmed, although the video replays shown on TV would suggest otherwise. Remember that if Ole Miss loses by a single score, because at the very least Ole Miss may have had a chance at a field goal before the first half ended.
Ole Miss was forced to try a field goal at the end of a 12-play, 72-yard drive on their first possession of the afternoon. The drive, which stalled at the Auburn nine-yard line when Akeem Judd was stuffed for no gain on third down. Gary Wunderlich‘s 27-yard field goal was the first score of the game. The Rebels defense then came up with a big play on Auburn’s next possession when Tony Bridges picked off a pass from Sean White at the Ole Miss 20-yard line. Auburn’s defense would respond though, forcing a three-and-out after Chad Kelly‘s first two pass attempts fell incomplete and then the Tigers defense sacked the quarterback for a loss of eight yards.
Auburn would tie things up with a field goal four plays later with a 52-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson. Auburn took its first lead of the afternoon the next time the offense got its hands on the football. A 23-yard pass from White to Roc Thomas put the Tigers at midfield and on 3rd and five from the Ole Miss 47-yard line, White completed a pass down field over the middle to Ricardo Louis, who had nobody in front of him on his path to the endzone.
Both teams have played well defensively, although Ole Miss seems to be getting more on offense at the break. Auburn may need the win more than Ole Miss if you are wondering about bowl scenarios. Despite a winning record of 4-3, Auburn needs to win two more games to become bowl eligible and still has this game against Ole Miss, a road game at Texas A&M, home game against Georgia and a home game agains t Alabama (and a home game vs. Idaho). Picking up two more wins could be difficult. Can they get one today?