When Oscar Chapman sent a punt to the Alabama three-yard line with 1:35 remaining in the game, all of the momentum was at the Tigers' backs as the defense needed one more stop to pull off the upset. Instead, Bryce Young took control and marched the No. 3 Crimson Tide down the field in 12 plays, tying the game with a 28 yard touchdown pass to Ja’Corey Brooks.
Alabama took back all the momentum and eventually won in the fourth overtime, with Young finding John Metchie III to win the game.
Auburn came into the game as 20.5 point underdogs, losers of three straight and with backup quarterback T.J. Finley getting his second career start for the Tigers.
With a struggling offense, the Auburn defense stepped up to the plate and shut down the Crimson Tide offense.. They held Alabama scoreless in the first half, giving up just 68 yards, including -2 rushing yards and sacking Bryce Young 4 times. This was the first time Auburn has held Alabama scoreless in the first half since the 2002 Iron Bowl.
“They were being aggressive and we couldn’t run the ball very well,” said Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
The Auburn offense nearly equaled Alabama’s, with the Tigers finishing the first half with -3 rushing yards and 95 total yards. However, Auburn was able to find the end zone on a drive that began on the Alabama 39-yard line. Finley found Demetris Robertson for 29 yards and a big third down conversion then Kobe Hudson took a screen pass 15 yards and into the end zone to give the Tigers the lead midway through the second quarter, their only points in the first half.
Auburn’s defense came out of the locker room for the second half and continued to dominate the Alabama offense, forcing a quick three-and-out with two sacks. Auburn finished the game with seven total sacks after tallying up 27 in the first 11 games this season.
“I thought our pass rush was really good tonight. Some of that was just individual effort, beating their one-on-one matchup. Some of that was a little bit of pressure that we brought within our schemes,” Harsin said.
JaVarrius Johnson took the ensuing punt to the Alabama 21-yard line but Auburn’s offense stalled again and settled for a Ben Patton field goal to extend the lead to 10.
Alabama found some rhythm against the Auburn defense in the third quarter, getting two long drives back-to-back, but a botched hold cost them a chip shot field goal and a fumbled snap by Bryce Young on fourth down gave Auburn the ball with 11:54 remaining in the game.
Finley gave it right back with an interception on the first play of the ensuing drive, setting up Alabama at their own 42 yard line. Finley had suffered an injury earlier in the third quarter on an awkward looking sack and was in clear pain for the remainder of the game with limited mobility.
"I really couldn't move how I wanted to,” Finley said. “I'm a big guy, so I don't really move as much anyway, but when your ankle is bothering you... it forces you to stand in the pocket and deliver great balls."
Alabama took advantage of turnover and got on the board behind a Will Reichard field goal with over eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The Auburn offense could not get anything going for the remainder of the quarter and gave the ball back to Alabama one more time with 1:35 to play. After a near perfect defensive game plan and performance from Auburn, The Tigers gave up a 97-yard drive to the Crimson Tide and the game went to overtime.
The teams traded a pair of touchdowns in the first overtime, with Landen King’s one-handed touchdown grab on third down being the highlight, and a pair of field goals in the second overtime to make it 20-20 heading into the third.
This is where the recent NCAA rule change came into effect as both teams would now get the ball at the 3-yard line with one chance to execute a two-point conversion. Both teams succeeded in the third overtime, with Young finding Metchie III and Finley rolling to his right before throwing back to his left for John Samuel Shenker to tie it at 22.
Auburn started first in the fourth overtime and Finley tried to hit Shedrick Jackson in the end zone but the pass was broken up and then Young found Metchie III again on a great cut back route to win the game for the Crimson Tide.
“They made plays at the end of the game. They made one more play than we did. That’s the reason why they won it,” Harsin said.
Alabama found a groove in the second half, finishing the game with 388 total yards of offense, including 71 on the ground.
Bryce Young completed 25 of his 51 pass attempts for 317 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. John Metchie III led the way in receiving with 13 catches for 150 yards.
The Auburn offense never found rhythm in the second half as T.J. Finley’s lack of mobility due to his injury forced them to be more one-dimensional.
The offensive line issues continued tonight with AUburn managing only 22 yards on 40 carries. Tank Bigsby led the way with 63 yards on 29 carries.
Finley finished the game with 17 completions on 26 attempts for 137 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Alabama will be back in action next Saturday to take on the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game while Auburn will prepare for their bowl game.