The Auburn Tigers came into the 83rd Iron Bowl with a record of 7-4 hoping to upset the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. It seemed like the Tigers could make it happen during the first half, but ultimately Tua Tagovailoa played like the Heisman contender that he is.
Auburn opened up the game with the ball and three straight drops. From there, the defense became only the second team to prevent Alabama from scoring on their opening drive. Then, on a first and 10 from their own 25-yard line, Shaun Shivers busted open a 75-yard touchdown run which was called back due to a holding.
Gus Malzahn did not agree with the call and was called for unsportsmanlike conduct. This pushed Auburn back to their own eight-yard line facing first and 27. They went three and out from there and Arryn Siposs’s punt only traveled 40 yards to give Alabama starting field position at the 34-yard line. This proved to be costly as Alabama scored with ease on a Tua Tagovailoa seven-yard touchdown run.
Auburn answered right back though. JaTarvious Whitlow accounted for 50 of Auburn’s 75 yards on a touchdown drive capped off by an Anthony Schwartz nine-yard touchdown run. Alabama would drive down to Auburn’s 15-yard line before the end of the first quarter.
Three plays into the second quarter, Tua Tagovailoa dumped a pass off to Henry Ruggs for an easy four-yard score. Auburn’s next drive resulted in a two-yard loss, two incompletions, and a false start. Alabama would take over at its own 32-yard line and drive all the way down to the 11-yard line. Following an intentional grounding penalty, Alabama faced a third and 20. Tagovailoa completed a 10-yard pass which set up a 30-yard field goal by Joseph Bulovas to extend Alabama’s lead to 17-7.
Auburn was then only able to gain a first down after a facemask penalty on Alabama’s Quinnen Williams. Alabama was able to get pressure on third and seven and force a bad throw from Stidham to Darius Slayton. This all preceded a shift of momentum. An Arryn Siposs punt pinned Alabama inside their own 20 where the Auburn defense would force a three and out. On the ensuing punt, Smoke Monday got through the punt protection for Auburn’s fourth blocked punt of the season.
This set the Auburn offense up in a prime spot to score. Jarrett Stidham tossed a backwards pass to Ryan Davis who threw to Malik Miller at the opposite pylon for a 23-yard touchdown. This reduced Auburn’s deficit to three. The defense would come up with another three and out on the next possession. The Auburn offense was content with the deficit and took it to halftime with the momentum.
Alabama came out of the locker room firing though. Josh Jacobs broke a 12-yard run to the 46-yard line to give Alabama a first down. Two plays and eight yards later, Tagovailoa floated a perfect pass down the left sideline to Jerry Jeudy for a huge touchdown pass to get the Crimson Tide crowd right back in it.
Auburn followed that up with a three and out. The Alabama offense picked up right where they left off from the previous drive. Tagovailoa floated a perfect pass down the seam to Josh Jacobs to cap off a four play, 69-yard drive. On Auburn’s next drive, Alabama committed two personal foul penalties to give Auburn the ball at the 29-yard line. They were forced into a fourth and four situation where a trick play pass from Malik Willis to Anders Carlson came up short of the line to gain.
The Auburn defense stepped up big time to force a three and out. This led to a Jarrett Stidham 52-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton. Every time Auburn landed a punch though, Alabama got right back up. They cruised down the field in a minute and nine seconds where DeVonta Smith caught a pass on a deep crossing route and took it to the house. Auburn’s ensuing drive ended with a Jarrett Stidham sack. Arryn Siposs’s punt only traveled 33 yards and Alabama took over at Auburn’s 43-yard line. Alabama ran one play before the third quarter ended with Alabama leading 38-21.
Henry Ruggs made a circus catch in the end zone to make the score 45-21 and essentially put the nail in the coffin. Auburn had a sustained drive going, but Anfernee Jennings came up with a big interception on a throwback play. With the game well in hand, Alabama sent out backup quarterback Jalen Hurts who threw a 53-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle on his first play. This gave Alabama a 52-21 lead which turned out to be the final score.
The story of the game was Tua Tagovailoa and his five touchdown passes against only seven incompletions. Auburn was able to make big stops at times including two consecutive three and outs which led to a touchdown at the end of the first half to keep the game close.
Ultimately, the big plays in the third quarter doomed Auburn and they were unable to keep up with the potent Alabama offense. "Our goal was to get us to the fourth quarter. The game got away from us in the third quarter. That was very disappointing," Coach Gus Malzahn said. Auburn’s record fell to 7-5 and will await their bowl fate next Sunday.