The game was there for the taking….11th ranked Alabama just failed to take it.
After holding a commanding 24-0 lead in the second quarter, ‘Bama watched rival Auburn outscore it 28-3 over the remaining two plus quarters to escape with a 28-27 win in the 75th edition of the Iron Bowl in Tuscaloosa.
For Auburn (12-0), the wins keeps it in the national title hunt.
For defending champion Alabama (9-3), the loss highlights a season of what could have been following a 14-0 campaign last year.
Not only did the loss mark Alabama losing for the first time in 20 home games, but it allowed Auburn to defeat its arch-rival after losing and being outscored 62-21 in the last two encounters. ‘Bama still leads the all-time series 40-34-1, with Auburn holding a 7–1 record in games played in Tuscaloosa (5-1 at Bryant-Denny Stadium).
Alabama raced out to the early lead behind senior QB Greg McElroy (career-high 377 yards passing, 2 TD’s), who would leave the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. Meantime, Julio Jones had 10 catches for 199 yards and a score.
“First of all you have got to give Auburn’s team a lot of credit for coming back in the game and doing a great job in the second half,” Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban commented afterward to www.rolltide.com. “This team’s been challenging all year in terms of the progress that they have made and the maturity that they’ve gained. I’m pleased with the progress that we made, but we didn’t finish the game today. These kinds of teams [Auburn] don’t go away and there are a lot of lessons to be learned out there about how important finishing is and continuing to do things correctly.”
Trailing 24-7 to start the third quarter, Auburn’s Terrell Zachery snagged a 70-yard TD pass from Newton, then Newton ran it in for another touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-21. The Tigers grabbed the lead for good when Newton found Philip Lutzenkirchen uncovered in the end zone early in the final quarter.
‘Bama had one last chance after getting the ball back with just under a minute remaining, but backup QB A.J. McCarron was unable to get the Crimson Tide down the field, throwing an incomplete pass on a 4th and 10.
On defense, ‘Bama held Heisman Trophy favorite Cam Newton to 39 yards on 22 carries, his second-lowest output of the season.
Courtney Upshaw paced Alabama with 10 tackles, including a career-high three sacks in addition to three tackles for a loss, while freshman DeMarcus Milliner tallied a career-high nine tackles.
While Auburn showed in the second half it is capable of winning the national title this year, Alabama demonstrated once again this year that it doesn’t have that killer instinct that led it to its 13th national crown a season ago.
‘Bama fans will now wait to Dec. 5 to see where the Crimson Tide will be sent for a bowl game.
The toughest question to answer for ‘Bama will be which team will show up? Hopefully it is the one who wants to build positive feeling going towards the 2011 season.
We all remember what happened just two years ago when ‘Bama lost a heartbreaking game to Florida in the SEC title game, then forgot to show up against Utah in the Sugar Bowl.
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Written by Dave Thomas