Despite lacking head coach Nick Saban, who was out due to COVID-19 protocols, the Crimson Tide had no problem locking up yet another win to continue their perfect season. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones continued showing the nation why he’s in the running for the Heisman Trophy with his dominant performance in the 42-13 Alabama victory in the 85th Iron Bowl.
“He was very accurate,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said of Jones. “He threw some very good balls for explosive plays.”
The junior quarterback torched the Auburn defense, completing 18-of-26 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns. Five touchdown passes in a game is a career-high for Jones, who now has thrown nine touchdowns and two interceptions in his career against Auburn.
The 29-point loss marked the second-largest margin of defeat for Malzahn throughout his seven-year tenure at Auburn. The largest defeat was suffered on the same field two years ago when Auburn lost by 31 in Tuscaloosa.
It’s the fifth consecutive home win against Auburn by Alabama.
Jones was able to spread the ball out to five receivers on the night, the most notable being senior DeVonta Smith. It was the Amite, Louisiana, native who caught the first of many Alabama touchdowns.
In the first quarter, Jones pump-faked and then connected with a wide-open Smith for a 66-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 7-0 lead. Big plays were an issue for Auburn, who allowed seven plays of 20-plus yards.
“If you look at the whole deal the explosive plays are what stand out to me,” Malzahn said. “We didn’t play our best, that’s obvious. I think [Alabama] played very well.”
Smith added another touchdown reception in the third quarter, this one from 58 yards out. He finished the night with seven receptions, 171 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
“He’s a dynamic player,” Malzahn said of Smith. “There’s no doubt he did a very good job on the perimeter. They have talented receivers.”
Alabama had scoring plays of 66, 58, 39 and 24 yards.
Unlike the Crimson Tide offense, the Tigers could not get anything going on offense all evening. The defensive front for Alabama controlled the battle in the trenches, consistently putting pressure on Auburn quarterback Bo Nix.
Nix was sacked a total of three times and the Alabama defense forced eight tackles for loss. It’s the most sacks and tackles for loss allowed in a game by Auburn this season.
Controlling the line upfront also allowed the Alabama defense to slow down the Auburn rushing attack. Traditionally the Tigers have been able to move the ball on the ground with rushers like Tank Bigsby, D.J. Williams and Shaun Shivers, allowing the offense to open up the passing game. But with Bigsby not at 100% and Williams leaving in the first quarter, the run game never got going and neither did the passing game.
“I think it just put us in some third and long situations,” Nix said. “We moved the ball okay at times but at other times we just got behind in the chains.”
Auburn’s offense produced just 153 total yards and only three points in the first half, tying its season-low.
Meanwhile, the Alabama offense jumped out to a 21-3 halftime lead behind 220 yards of offense through the first 30 minutes of play and never looked back. The Crimson Tide are now one win away from heading back to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game for the first time since 2018.
It’s an odd season, with the Iron Bowl not being the final game of the regular season for both teams. However, for Nix and company, it’s an opportunity to put the loss behind them and flip the page to next week.
“I think it’s important to just get back to work tomorrow,” Nix said. “This one hurts, it is what it is. You never want to lose, especially to your rival. We just have to get back, keep going, put this behind us and have a positive mentality heading into next week.”