TUSCALOOSA - It was indeed sweet home Alabama as the No. 1 team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide, defeated the No. 13 Auburn Tigers in the 2016 Iron Bowl by a score of 30-12.
It was the 81st time the in-state rivals have met with Alabama improving to 45-35-1 in the series including winning the last three. Alabama improves to 12-0 heading into next week’s SEC Championship clash with the Florida Gators. Auburn falls to 8-4 on the year and awaits bowl selection day on Dec. 4 to see where they will play their post-season game.
The 81st Iron Bowl was a nip and tuck defensive battle in the first half with Auburn drawing first blood with a 42-yard field goal off the foot of Daniel Carlson. Alabama tied the game on their next possession. Bama QB Jalen Hurts found Travon Digs in the flat for a 7-yard pickup. Three plays later on third-and12, Hurts called his own number and busted up the middle for 17 yards and the first down. The Crimson Tide continued to move the ball down the field, but the Tigers’ defense kept them out of the end zone, forcing a 29-yard field goal from Adam Griffith to knot the score at three each.
Auburn was unable to get anything going on their next dive and was forced to punt the ball after a three and out. The punt off the foot of Kevin Phillips only traveled 39 yards, which set Alabama up with great field position on their own 45. On second-and-11, Hurts found ArDarius Stewart on a crossing route to the tune of 39 yards. He followed that up with a 17-yard strike to Damian Harris for the game’s first touchdown and Alabama’s first lead, a lead they held on to for the rest of the game. Griffith hit the PAT and Alabama was up 10-3.
Another punt after another three and out gave Alabama the ball back on their own 13, after a targeting penalty disqualified Bama’s Tony Brown and backed the Tide up half the distance to the goal. Starting the second quarter with a 2nd-and-7 from their own 35, Hurts flung the ball down field but it was a white jersey who ended up with it as Daniel Thomas intercepted the pass at the Bama 41. Kamryn Pettway picked up 9 yards on the first two carries of the drive but Ryan Anderson brought him down in the backfield on 3rd-and-1 to force another Auburn field goal. Carlson’s 52-yard boot was good to make the score 10-6.
After trading punts, Alabama again had the ball and again were driving, but it was, again, Thomas who intercepted a Hurts pass to end the drive. Kerryon Johnson picked up 16 yards on two carries, but a penalty put Auburn behind the sticks and forced them to settle for their third field of the half. Carlson hit the 39-yard attempt to pull the Tigers to within one, 10-9.
With 3:30 left before the half, Alabama marched down the field, relying on the arm of Hurts. He was three of four for 41 yards, moving the Crimson Tide down to the Auburn 7 where Griffith hit a 25-yard chip shot to give Bama the 13-9 lead going to the half, keeping Auburn within striking distance in spite of the Tigers having just 31 total yards of offense on 20 plays.
“Look, they got one first down and nine points,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said at halftime. “Other parts of the game like special teams, turnovers, how we’re consistently playing on offense and executing on offense is not what it needs to be. So, we’ve got to do a better job in the second half and it starts with me and all of us in terms of getting our plays to execute better.”
Whatever Saban said to his team at the halftime break worked, as the Crimson Tide came out if the locker room with a purpose and controlled the second half of the game. Bo Scarbrough got the Alabama offense moving in the right direction to start the Crimson Tide’s first drive of the second half. On 2nd-and-9, he found a lane over left end for 20 yards and the first. He picked up 10 more yards before Hurts took the drive over with his legs, capping the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run. Bama added the PAT to take a 20-9 lead.
Auburn started their next drive on a positive note when Johnson found Will Hastings for 27 yards, but incomplete passes in 2nd-and-7 and 3rd-and-7 forced a 52-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide left and gave Bama the ball on their own 36.
Hurts and Scarbrough took turns methodically moving the ball down the field and into Auburn territory. From the Tiger 38, Hurts found an open Stewart for the score and after the PAT; Alabama had a comfortable 27-9 lead.
Auburn added another Carlson field goal, his fourth of the night, with just more than five minutes left in the third. However, it was the last score for the Tigers. Bama added another 34-yard field goal in the waning minutes of the fourth to put the 81st Iron Bowl in the books with a final score of 30-12 in favor of the Crimson Tide.
Alabama heads to Atlanta next week to take on the Florida Gators in the 2016 SEC Championship game. Auburn will be idle as the await their bowl assignment.
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