3 Alabama late rally, survives 4 extra times to defeat Auburn
Auburn, Ala. – Alabama pushed to the limits, putting on plays to celebrate in a stadium that produced a few devastating plays.
The result was another unforgettable iron pot.
Jon Mitchie got a pass from Bryce Young in the fourth overtime to give third-placed Alabama a 24-22 victory over rival Auburn on Saturday, saving the Crimson Tide team’s national title hopes.
It was his first Iron Bowl overtime.
“Wow, what a match,” said Tide coach Nick Saban.
Freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry missed TJ Finley’s pass in the final OT and hit Young Metchie just as he did on the previous pass.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1 Southeast Conference, No. 3 CFP) moves on to face Georgia No. 1 in a league championship game with College Football Playoff’s hopes on the line. The Tigers (6-6, 3-5) lost their fourth game in a row after Young’s chokehold and prolific backing most of the way.
Saban said: “After the first half it was like everyone was all in and we were fighting like I hadn’t seen us fight all year. Our players were as happy as I saw them before after the match.”
Young capped the 97-yard run with a 28-yard touchdown for freshman Ja’Corey Brooks — his fourth catch and first touchdown of the season — with 24 seconds left in regulation.
Young converted 4th and 7th to Jahleel Billingsley, followed by a decrease under pressure for a foul that was suspended for 59 minutes.
“It was crazy. It was crazy,” Young, who passed for 317 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, said. “When you play in the Iron Bowl, what else are you supposed to expect? Throughout all the ups and downs, right up to that last drive, I have great faith in my buddies. My confidence has never wavered.”
There were times when it was easy to stand up to Auburn’s defense that yielded little.
The Tigers were trying to win their third straight Iron Bowl at Jordan Hare, and their fourth in five years. They could pull it off. Auburn won with Kick Six (2013) and Two Kick-Six (2019).
Fans were unable to storm the field this time.
“There was a lot of fighting from our team,” said first-year Auburn coach Brian Harsin. “I am proud of our guys. I told them I was proud of their fight. … Our guys played hard and put ourselves in a position to win the match. We just came short.”
The two teams exchanged touches and field goals in the first overtime and both provided scoring passes after lining up from 3 the first time.
Alabama was without two of its best offensive players in overtime.
Tailback Brian Robinson was on the line with an obvious leg injury he sustained earlier in the match. Star receiver Jameson Williams has been sent off for targeting over cover gambling in the first half.
Held at 70 yards in the first inning, Young finished 25 of 51, several completions for Michy.
Michi caught 13 passes for 150 yards.
Auburn’s TJ Finley, who started the last two games after the Bo Knics injured his ankle at the end of the season, was in 17 of 26 for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He left the match at some point with a left ankle injury and came back with a score.
“I really can’t move the way I want to,” Finley said. “I’m a big guy so I don’t move much anyway. When your ankle kind of bothers you… it forces you to stand in the pocket and deliver great balls.”
Kicker Ben Button, a replacement for injured Anders Carlson, kept Auburn alive with a 49-yard field goal in the second overtime.
Derek Hall had three bags for the Tigers.
“When you get down to the wire like that and you don’t finish, it’s bad,” Hall said. “It hurts.”
Alabama barely looked ready to take on the Bulldogs and the nation’s top defense most of the way. The Tide had 11 penalties for 129 yards and surrendered seven sacks a few days after Saban called the fans up for being crucial because his team wasn’t blowing opponents.
Auburn’s defense played superbly and carried on for the dear life of a team that blew two consecutive double-digit strings. The advantage of domestic stadiums is still enormous in this intense rivalry even if the Tigers fail in the end.
The repercussions of the opinion poll
Alabama had a chance to climb after second Ohio State fell 42-27 to Michigan in fifth. A prolonged struggle with an unranked team makes that less certain.
Alabama: Georgia faces #1 in the SEC Championship game.
Auburn: Waiting for the bowl’s destination.
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