College Football: Alabama 42, Auburn 14
Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 26, 2011
AUBURN, Ala. ó Auburn coach Gene Chizik started taking stock of the season in the immediate aftermath of the frustrating finale.
The review, predictably, was mixed.
The Tigers (7-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) couldnít pull off another magical Iron Bowl comeback or muster much offense in Saturdayís 42-14 loss to No. 2 Alabama. Now, the defending national champions wait for what will likely be a mid-tier bowl destination.
ěItís been a lot of ups and downs this season for 12 games,î Chizik said. ěWeíve had some really good games. Weíve had some disappointments, and this is certainly one of the huge disappointments. Iíve got a locker room full of guys right now and coaches that are hurting and a lot of fans that are hurting as well. So this is a tough day.î
Auburn hung in there against the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1), going into the fourth quarter within 13 points. Then Clint Moseley had an interception returned 35 yards by Dee Milliner for a touchdown and Alabama added another TD.
ěWe wanted to keep the game close in the fourth quarter and have a chance to win the game,î Chizik said. ěWe got to the fourth quarter and felt like we were somewhere in that ballpark, and the fourth quarter got away from us. We kind of self-destructed.î
Trent Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards and AJ McCarron threw three first-half touchdown passes for the Tide in what amounted to a statement game.
Alabama coach Nick Saban began taking a different kind of stock. He said he thinks the Tide is one of the nationís best two teams, Richardsonís the top player and ëBama deserves a second shot at No. 1 LSU for a national title.
ěThis team lost one game in overtime to a very, very good team whoís No. 1 right now,î the Tide coach said. ěAnd we lost in overtime. Everybodyís got to make their choices and decisions about that.
ěBut I think weíve got a great football team and a great bunch of young men who have done a wonderful job and played some really dominant football on both sides of the ball. I think they deserve an opportunity, the best opportunity thatís out there for them.î
The Tide has a week before finding out if its resume is good enough to secure a shot at a second national title in three years. No. 5 Oklahoma State, fourth in the BCS standings, and No. 1 LSU have big games remaining against No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 13 Georgia, respectively.
ěThatís out of our hands but I think weíve proven we should be there without a doubt,î said Alabama tight end Brad Smelley, who had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
Richardson ran 27 times and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in his final chance to impress Heisman voters. He had runs of 35 and 57 yards to set up second-half scores.
ěTo me, Trentís the best football player in the country,î Saban said.
The thousands of ëBama faithful in the stands seemed to agree.
Fans began chanting first ěHeismanî and then ěLSUî in the fourth, with a sizable contingent wearing crimson and white remaining in the stands afterward clamoring for a rematch. By then, there wasnít all that much orange and blue left.
The Tide fell to LSU 9-6 in an overtime game that ëBama fans at least feel didnít settle the matter of which one is better.
Richardson said heíd already gotten a call from LSU star Russell Shepard saying ěSee you in New Orleansî for the title game.
Even if the national picture remains fuzzy, itís pretty clear which is the best team in the state.
Alabama entered the quarter with a 309-44 advantage in total yards but also gave up touchdowns on Ken Carterís fumble recovery in the end zone and an 83-yard kick return by Onterio McCalebb.
McCarron completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards but only attempted five second-half passes. Richardson handled the rest. He gained 142 yards on 13 carries in the second half against a defense ranked 98th nationally against the run.
ěAny time youíve got No. 3 in your backfield, a teamís going to challenge you,î McCarron said.
The result was more than enough to end Auburnís streak of 14 straight wins at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
The Tigersí biggest offensive weapons were mostly nonfactors. Tailback Mike Dyer, the SECís No. 2 rusher, had three carries at the half and finished with 13 for 48 yards.
Moseley completed 11 of 18 passes for a paltry 62 yards and the pick-6. Freshman backup Kiehl Frazier played much of the game but didnít complete either of his two pass attempts.
ěIt was the best defense weíve played against this year,î Moseley said. ěI feel pretty confident saying that.î
The Tigers did threaten an offensive touchdown in the fourth but stalled on downs after getting it to the 5. Then Richardson scampered down the left sideline and sprinted to the other side of the field for the 57-yarder.
Auburn managed to hang around for three quarters. Then Milliner intercepted a badly overthrown pass by Moseley, who has now had three passes returned for TDs in Auburnís three biggest games against LSU, Georgia and Bama.
All those were blowouts but Chizik said his team wasnít having flashbacks.
ěIt wasnít here we go again,î he said. ěIt was just letís keep fighting and letís keep playing and letís get this thing in the fourth quarter and keep it close enough where we could win it.î
The two-point play made it 35-14, and Auburn couldnít come close to a second straight huge Iron Bowl comeback.
Like last season, Alabama led 24-7 at the half. This time the Tigers didnít have Cam Newton pulling the trigger on a comeback en route to a Heisman and a national title.
Auburn struck instantly in the second half. Onterio McCalebb returned the opening kick 83 yards for a touchdown, the Tigersí first score on a kick return in Iron Bowl history.
The Tigers then held Alabama to a field goal and converted a fourth-and-1 near midfield but couldnít sustain the momentum change.
Auburn followed it up with a fumbled pitch for a 10-yard loss, a penalty and a lateral to Frazier, who badly overthrew a receiver deep.
The Associated Press