AUBURN, Ala. — So many times this season, it has come down to Auburn’s defense needing the offense to make a play, to finish a drive, to score a point. Something to make a typically standout effort worthwhile.
In Saturday’s Iron Bowl, the script was flipped. Auburn’s offense scored 34 points. A pair of pick-sixes from the defense made gave the home team 48.
But Alabama had the ball, down three points, with 8:03 remaining. This time, it was the defense that needed to win the game.
It did, with a little help from Alabama’s longstanding kicker placekicker and a well-placed upright in the south end zone at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn won the Iron Bowl, 48-45, ending the College Football Playoff hopes of the Crimson Tide. Alabama has appeared in the semifinals in all five editions years since the system started in 2014. But not this year.
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The Crimson Tide didn’t have much trouble getting into scoring range on its final drive. Mac Jones, in for the injured Tua Tagovailoa, led the offense 52 yards down the field in 12 plays. The drive got as far as the 9 yard line.
Nine yards from a possible victory in by far the biggest stage the sophomore had ever played on in his young career.
But Auburn’s defense held firm in that moment.
Marlon Davidson and Tyrone Trusdell stuffed Najee Harris for a loss of 1 on first down. Jones broke free and scrambled for 5 yards on second down, setting up third-and-10.
But Derrick Brown knocked down the quarterback’s third-down pass at the line of scrimmage. Jones caught it, but the play went for a loss of 1.
No matter, right? Alabama was on the 11-yard line. All Joseph Bulovas had to do was make a 30-yard field goal. The game wouldn’t have been over, but it would have been tied. Overtime was on the table.
Then, “Doink.” Off the left upright.
Auburn ran off the final two minutes of game time on offense.
And no, they did not keep them off the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium.