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GAME RECAP: #15 Auburn 48, #5 Alabama 45

Auburn wins the wildest Iron Bowl in history.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Auburn John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t really know how to describe what happened at Jordan-Hare Stadium today, but all in all it ended up with a 48-45 win for Auburn in the 2019 Iron Bowl, defeating rival Alabama in the wildest game in series history to finish the year at 9-3. Alabama finishes the regular season at 10-2 and can enjoy a regular old bowl game like the rest of us.

In the closing seconds, Gus Malzahn outcoached Nick Saban by using a trick substitution on a 4th and 4 situation, goading Alabama into a penalty for 12 men on the field. The Tide thought that Auburn would punt with about a minute to play, but the offense came back out on the field, and as punt returner Jaylen Waddle tried to get off the field, Alabama was flagged for having too many players. The infraction gave Auburn a first down and let the Tigers kneel down to run out the clock.

Someone didn’t like it very much.

This all came after Alabama’s final drive ended up in the potential game-tying field goal getting doinked off the left upright by Joseph Bulovas, and Auburn claimed the win in one of the wildest nights in Jordan-Hare history.

It all began with Auburn’s first drive resulting in a punt, and the Tide driving down for a short field goal to take a 3-0 lead several minutes into the first quarter. Both sides traded short drives on their next possessions, but Christian Tutt returned Alabama’s punt 36 yards, giving Auburn a short field. Bo Nix scampered into the end zone on the zone read three plays later to give the Tigers their first lead at 7-3 in the final minute of the opening period.

Alabama answered with one of their best drives of the day — a 14-play, 75-yard excursion that culminated in a Najee Harris touchdown run from 6 yards away. Now trailing 10-7, Anders Carlson, who was fantastic on the day, notched a 43 yard field goal after a 50-yard drive for the Tigers. That kick knotted up the score at 10-10, but then Auburn’s defense showed up.

On Alabama’s next possession, backed up into their own end, Mac Jones overthrew his intended receiver, and Smoke Monday zipped right in for the interception. He returned it 29 yards for the touchdown to put Auburn back on top at 17-10. However, Gus Malzahn elected to kick to Jaylen Waddle on the ensuing kickoff, and the Bama sophomore returned it 98 yards for the tying touchdown. With the crowd quieted momentarily, we were tied at 17 with 5:22 to play in the first half.

Disaster struck after that for Auburn, as Boobee Whitlow fumbled early on the Tigers’ next drive, and Alabama recovered at the Auburn 37. Four plays later, Henry Ruggs caught a 3-yard touchdown from Mac Jones and the Tide regained the advantage at 24-17. Never giving up on the day, Auburn’s offense meandered 75 yards to answer with a 14-yard toe-tapping touchdown from Nix to Sal Cannella. That came with 1:06 left in the half, but Alabama wasn’t done yet. Jones found Waddle on a mid-range pass that he turned upfield and outran the defense to the end zone for a 58-yard score to put Alabama up 31-24 with 33 seconds to play before halftime.

On Auburn’s final drive of the half, the Tigers appeared to have killed the clock on a little pass to Whitlow that he took down to the 35-yard line, but Malzahn appealed to the officials to review the play to see if Whitlow was down with a second left on the clock. They ruled that he was, and Auburn lined up for a 52-yard field goal. Snapping the ball on the referee’s ready for play signal, Carlson banged it through and cut the lead to 31-27 at halftime.

After the intermission, Alabama immediately went three and out, and Auburn whittled the margin down to a point after another Carlson field goal. This time he capped a 17-yard drive that was set up thanks to good field position, and Auburn trailed 31-30 with 11:49 to go in the third quarter. After that, the defense came back to make the biggest play of the day. Alabama took the kickoff and drove 74 yards in 11 plays, taking more than five minutes off the clock and reaching the Auburn 2-yard line. On a little outlet pass to Najee Harris, Mac Jones threw a little behind him, and Harris tipped the ball up to the trailing Zakoby McClain. McClain corralled the ball and returned it with a convoy 100 yards down the eastern sideline, giving Auburn a 37-31 edge.

Not one to sit idly by, Jaylen Waddle again made the next ensuing play for Alabama, catching a 12-yard touchdown from Jones with five minutes left in the third quarter, putting the Tide back on top by a point. Auburn notched Anders Carlson’s fourth field goal of the day in the closing minute of the third quarter to put Auburn back up 40-38, and we settled in for a tense fourth quarter.

Alabama answered yet again on their first drive, as Jones found Waddle for the third time through the air on a 28-yard looping pass to reclaim the lead. That drive covered 90 yards in just two minutes, and gave the Tide a 45-40 lead with 13:44 to play. Auburn needed to answer with a touchdown, and they’d go on their best offensive drive of the day when it mattered most. Down by five, the Tigers moved 77 yards in 11 plays, burning 5:32 off the clock, and getting an 11-yard Shaun Shivers run around right end, wherein he blasted the helmet off of Xavier McKinney on his way into the end zone.

That run and ensuing two-point conversion on a rollout pass from Nix to Shedrick Jackson gave Auburn a 48-45 lead and we entered the final drive of the game for Alabama. The Tide took more than six minutes off the clock on their last foray, and it ended with the field goal clanking off the crossbar in front of the student section. Auburn’s kneel down to victory followed thereafter, and the field was flooded with Tiger fans once again.

Auburn gained 354 yards on the day, and the offense posted 34 points against Alabama’s defense. It was a very effort, with 173 passing yards from Bo Nix to go along with 181 rushing yards. With the defensive touchdowns, the Tigers only held the ball for 24:08, but had 8 tackles for loss and they were perfect in the red zone, getting points at every opportunity. The defense allowed 515 yards to Alabama, and the 28 second-quarter points piled up in a hurry, but Kevin Steele’s halftime adjustments allowed just one touchdown in each the third and fourth quarters.

Bo Nix went 15-30 for 173 yards and the lone touchdown, while rushing for 44 yards on 6 carries. Whitlow had one of the best games of his career despite a fumble and a stupid penalty, as he ran for 114 yards on 16 carries. Seth Williams was Auburn’s leading receiver with 66 yards on 3 catches. Early on for Alabama, Najee Harris stole the show, but he was bottled up late and finished with 146 yards on 27 carries. Henry Ruggs led the receivers with 99 yards and a touchdown on 6 catches, while Waddle had 98 yards and 3 touchdowns on 4 grabs.

Auburn finishes the regular season at 9-3, Alabama at 10-2, and so now you can count 2019 as a success. War Eagle. Much more to come.