Getty Images

No. 1 Alabama completes perfect regular season with Iron Bowl romp

5 Comments

While the story of this Alabama season will be written by what happens next month, the 2018 Crimson Tide has already accomplished something very few teams do — something even more rare than a national championship in Tuscaloosa. The No. 1 Tide handled Auburn 52-21 on Saturday evening, completing just the fourth perfect regular season of the highly successful Nick Saban era of Alabama football.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 SEC) will head to Atlanta to face No. 5 Georgia in what is essentially a College Football Playoff quarterfinal game. Saban’s first two unbeaten teams, in 2008 and ’09, headed to Atlanta with similar stakes. The 2008 team lost to No. 2 Florida, who went on to win that season’s national title; the ’09 team upended the No. 1 Gators en route to the first of five (and counting) national titles under Saban. This time, of course, it’ll be Georgia looking for vengeance after losing the 2017 CFP National Championship on the same field they’ll play on next Saturday.

But to play a game with such stakes, Alabama first had to win this one.

Alabama led this one throughout, though it did get dicey just before halftime. Leading 17-7, Alabama had just suffered its first three-and-out when a group of Tigers broke through to block Mike Bernier‘s punt, which Auburn’s Jamien Sherwood recovered at the Alabama 23-yard line. Two plays later, Ryan Davis completed a throwback pass to wide-open running back Malik Miller, pulling the visitors within 17-14 at the break.

Facing their first close game of the season, Alabama accepted the ball to open the second half and immediately erased any drama. Tua Tagovailoa hit Jerry Jeudy for a 46-yard touchdown pass to put the Tide up 10, then essentially ended the game with a 33-yard strike to Josh Jacobs, stretching the Alabama lead to 31-14 just over five minutes into the second half.

Auburn pulled back within 10 when Darius Slayton scored a 52-yard snatch-and-dash touchdown, but Alabama answered with a 3-play, 75-yard touchdown drive culminating in a 40-yard Devonta Smith touchdown catch.

Tagovailoa ended his day at the 14:27 mark of the fourth quarter, firing a 22-yard scoring strike to Henry Ruggs III that saw the Heisman front-runner polish his resume by going 25-of-32 for 324 yards and five touchdowns with another 26 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Jalen Hurts entered the game on Alabama’s next drive and immediately fired a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle.

Jarrett Stidham played nearly the entire game and battled throughout, hitting 13-of-30 passes for 127 yards with a touchdown and an interception while taking numerous shots.

The win moved Alabama to 8-4 in the Iron Bowl in the Saban era and dropped Auburn, a preseason top-10 team, to 7-5 overall and 3-5 in SEC play.

No. 1 Alabama leading a tight Iron Bowl at the break

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After blowing most opponents off the field in the first half, No. 1 Alabama heads to the locker room locked in a tussle. The Tide has not trailed, but finds itself leading Auburn just 17-14.

After a rare punt on its first possession, Alabama took advantage of good field position to draw first blood, scoring on a 7-yard Tua Tagovailoa run.

Auburn tied the game with a 10-play, 73-yard drive featuring mostly runs, including a 9-yarder by Anthony Schwartz to paydirt.

Alabama answered with an 8-play, 65-yard scoring jaunt, taking a 14-7 lead on a 4-yard Henry Ruggs III toss from Tagovailoa. Alabama threatend on its next possession, achieving a 1st-and-10 from the Auburn 11-yard line, but the Tide settled for a 30-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal.

After forcing Alabama’s first three-and-out of the game, Auburn forced a big play from a different kind of Alabama kicking blunder by blocking a Mike Bernier punt at the Alabama 23. The Tigers took advantage of the short field by scoring on a 23-yard throwback pass from wide receiver Ryan Davis to running back Malik Miller, pulling Auburn within 17-14 with 4:04 left in the first half. It was Davis’s third career touchdown pass.

Auburn forced a second straight three-and-out on Alabama’s next possession, but Gus Malzahn was content to run out the remainder of the first half rather than push for the lead.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

No. 5 Georgia out in front of No. 24 Auburn between the hedges at halftime

Getty Images
Leave a comment

No. 5 Georgia and No. 24 Auburn split their two meetings last season in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry but the rubber match in Athens this year might be a one-sided affair as the Bulldogs used a big third quarter to take a 20-10 lead into the locker room at halftime of a fun one between the hedges.

Tigers QB Jarrett Stidham threw for 108 yards in a solid performance for him given the hostile conditions (though JaTarvious Whitlow wound up with a touchdown throw off a trick play). That the signal-caller did it without getting sacked and without much a run game (27 yards total for Gus Malzhan’s squad) was a testament to just how sharp he was early. Senior Ryan Davis was not surprisingly on the other end of six of those passes (50 yards) and became the program’s all-time leader in career receptions early in the first quarter as a result.

Perhaps the biggest moment of the game for the visitors came on defense however. While that unit was quite stout in the first half against a team that can throw a number of playmakers at you, they did suffer a big loss when Big Kat Bryant was ejected for targeting on a third down play in a second quarter. The fairly obvious call on a hit to quarterback Jake Fromm will no doubt have lingering effects on the team as they allowed another long drive on their next defensive possession.

Speaking of which, while the Bulldogs could move the ball between the 20’s, their red zone offense left much to be desired with three trips inside the 10 yard line resulting in just one touchdown. Fromm was 10-of-13 with 148 yards and tossed a beautiful throw across the field to Tyler Simmons in the end zone for a touchdown. The quarterback added another scoring toss when he found a streaking Terry Godwin on fourth down, who promptly took it 38 yards to the house just before the halftime break.

Georgia’s tailbacks were also heavily involved in the first half, as is typical, with Elijah Holyfield recording 50 yards rushing while D’Andre Swift was a typical multipurpose threat with 53 yards on the ground and 33 more through the air.

Both games last season were actually somewhat close at the break before one of the two sides pulled away starting in the third quarter. We’ll see if that is the case once again in 2018 or if Georgia was already starting to assert their dominance in the second quarter and will keep things rolling from there.

No. 20 Texas A&M blows 10-point lead in fourth quarter as Auburn stuns Aggies

Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images
4 Comments

No. 20 Texas A&M was not able to close out Auburn on the road on Saturday afternoon. The Aggies failed to protect a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter and lost to Auburn, 28-24, on the road in the SEC West Division matchup.

Texas A&M had some chances to slam the door on Auburn but could not do it. With a 24-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Texas A&M missed a field goal from 36 yards and Kellen Mond was intercepted on Texas A&M’s next offensive series. That set in motion the rally for Auburn that turned a double-digit deficit into a big division win for the Tigers.

After Auburn cut the Texas A&M lead to 24-21 in the fourth quarter, the Aggies moved the ball to midfield when their drive stalled. A 41-yard punt was returned by Christian Tutt for 28 yards and immediately followed by a short pass from Jarrett Stidham to Ryan Davis that turned into a 47-yard gain. With the ball suddenly at the Texas A&M 11-yard line, Stidham connected with Seth Williams for a go-ahead score.

With the ball one last time, the Aggies failed to get into a position to get a better shot at a game-winning touchdown and relied on Mond to toss it deep in the final seconds. His deep Hail Marry pass fell out of bounds as time seemingly ran out, but officials cleared the field to put one second back on the clock for one more play for the Aggies. The one second added merely gave Nick Coe a chance to get a sack on the final play of the game to seal the win for Auburn.

Stidham passed for 239 yards while completing 18-of-29 attempts with two touchdowns. Darious Slayton was Auburn’s leading receiver with eight catches for 107 yards, but Seth Williams led all players with two touchdown receptions in the Auburn win.

Texas A&M let a solid performance by running back Trayveon Williams go to waste. Williams rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns on 17 rushing attempts and he added five receptions for 74 yards and a score in the game. Williams was the star of the first half but Auburn played him better defensively in the second half.

Texas A&M will finish up the regular season with three home games beginning next week against Ole Miss. The Aggies are 3-1 at home this season, with the only loss coming back in Week 2 against Clemson by just two points. If Texas A&M can clean up the schedule at home, the Aggies will have a chance at their first 9-win season since 2013, the school’s second season in the SEC. The Aggies need to win out and win a bowl game in order for that to happen.

Although the win feels good and can be a confidence boost, it won’t get much easier for Auburn down the stretch. Auburn travels to Georgia next week and ends the regular season on the road against Alabama with a home game against Liberty sandwiched between. Auburn beat both Georgia and Alabama in the regular season last year, but they also got the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide at home. This year could be a different story with both games being played on the road.

Trayveon Williams scores two touchdowns to give Texas A&M halftime lead at Auburn

Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
1 Comment

If you are not already familiar with Texas A&M running back Trayveon Williams, perhaps he has grabbed your attention this afternoon. Williams has rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown and added a 14-yard touchdown reception off a screen pass to push the Aggies to a halftime lead at Auburn, 17-14. With both teams jockeying for position in the SEC West standings and for the opportunity to clinch bowl eligibility, Auburn’s defense will have to find a way to clamp down on Williams in the second half.

Texas A&M picked up a field goal off the leg of Seth Small from 35 yards on their first offensive series of the game, capping a 13-play drive that was fueled by running the ball but ultimately stalled when attempting to throw the ball. A fumble by Kellen Mond on the next offensive series for the Aggies gave Auburn a short field to work with from the Texas A&M 20-yard line.

Sal Cannella gave Auburn a 7-3 lead by hauliong in a 20-yard pass from receiver Ryan Davis immediately following the A&M fumble, but Texas A&M responded with a Trayveon Williams touchdown run of 38 yards on the ensuing possession.

Texas A&M headed to halftime with an advantage in offensive yards, 233-127, and the Aggies have been averaging 6.8 rushing yards per attempt while Auburn is struggling with just 1.5 yards per rushing attempt. This one is still upfor grabs, but the Auburn offense needs to find a spark to counter what Williams has been capable of providing for Texas A&M.