Alabama defeats Auburn in regular-season finale thriller 

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

Not every win is going to be pretty. 

Despite a lackluster performance from the Alabama offense, the Crimson Tide narrowly defeated the Auburn Tigers 24-22 in four overtimes. This was the first Iron Bowl to go to overtime. 

One week ago, Alabama put up an offensive clinic against the Arkansas Razorbacks. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young threw for 559 yards and five touchdowns. Wide receivers John Metchie III and Jameson WIlliams had 173 and 190 yards respectively. Running back Brian Robinson Jr. had 122 yards on 27 carries. 

Most people thought this would be the year that Alabama earned a decisive win over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn had struggled offensively in its previous two games — only nine total points in two second halves — and Alabama wanted to gain momentum heading into the SEC Championship Game. 

The opposite happened Saturday afternoon. Seven of the first eight Alabama offensive drives ended with a punt. Four of those seven were three-and-outs. One of the drives ended in 26 seconds.

For the first 40 minutes of the game, Alabama struggled to get points on the board. 

“They had a good scheme,” Young said of Auburn. “They have really good athletes.” 

Part of Alabama’s struggles was strong defensive play by Auburn’s pass rush. In less than 30 minutes of play, Young was sacked five times. Three of those sacks came from the right side of the offensive line. Young was also hit seven times. He had pressure in his face all night. 

The Crimson Tide had costly penalties. Williams was penalized and eventually ejected for targeting on a punt return five minutes into the second quarter. Alabama’s best deep threat was now lost for the game. 

No offensive rhythm and costly penalties led to plenty of short fields for the Auburn Tigers, and they took advantage. 

Starting on the Alabama 39-yard line, Auburn quarterback T.J. Finley took the Tigers into the end zone. Finley threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Hudson to put Auburn 7-0 midway through the second quarter. 

This was the first time Alabama had been shut out at halftime by Auburn since 2002 when Auburn led 17-0 at the half. 

“Yeah, we struggled offensively in the first half,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “A lot of pressure on the quarterback, played man-to-man.”

As Alabama’s offensive woes continued, Auburn began to find some rhythm. A successful 33-yard field goal attempt by placekicker Ben Patton extended the Tigers’ lead at 10 heading into the fourth quarter. 

That’s where Alabama found a spark. 

Alabama’s first points of the game came from a successful 30-yard field goal attempt by place-kicker Will Reichard. Down seven, the Alabama defense needed a stop for a chance to tie or win the game. 

“I just had a feeling that the way we were playing on defense, that we were gonna have some opportunities and be able to come back in the game,” Saban said. 

With just under two minutes left in regulation, Alabama safety Jordan Battle came up with the biggest play of the game for the Crimson Tide. Battle forced Auburn running back Tank Bigsby out of bounds after a 10-yard gain. 

That stopped the clock and stalled the Tigers’ momentum. The next play, Bigsby was tackled for a loss of 4 yards. This forced Auburn to punt with just 1:35 left on the clock. 

Alabama, without its best deep threat and their top running back, needed to go 97 yards for a score.

“This is gonna be our chance, and you’ve gotta make the most of it,” Saban said. “It’s what you work for all year. How many two-minutes have we had all year long?” 

The Alabama offense strung together its best drive of the game. 

Alabama converted two third downs and a fourth down en route to its only touchdown of the game. Young completed a 28-yard pass to wide receiver Ja’Corey Brooks. The once energetic and loud Jordan-Hare crowd was hushed. 

“For someone young like him, in a game as big as this, in a moment as big as this, for him to run the route and make that catch, it says a lot about him,” Young said. 

Somehow, Alabama pulled off a miracle drive to keep its playoff hopes alive, in Jordan-Hare Stadium of all places. The 97-yard scoring drive sent the game to overtime. 

Each team scored a touchdown, a field goal and a two-point conversion in the first three overtimes to tie the game at 22. 

The Alabama defense kept Finley and the Auburn Tigers out of the end zone on a two-point conversion attempt. All Alabama needed now was a two-point conversion. A game that was once out of its hands was suddenly within arm’s reach. 

Young completed a pass to Metchie. Metchie ran a route to create separation and found his way into the end zone. 

The game was over. Alabama snatched victory away from some hungry Tigers.