TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WCBI Sports/Alabama Athletics) – Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed field goal attempt 100 yards for a touchdown on the game’s final play to give fourth-ranked Auburn (11-1 overall; 7-1 in the Southeastern Conference) a 34-28 win over top-ranked Alabama (11-1 overall; 7-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 87,451 at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Quarterback AJ McCarron completed 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception on Saturday, connecting six times for 178 yards and one touchdown to wide receiver Amari Cooper. Running back T.J. Yeldon rushed for 141 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley led the Tide with 14 tackles (10 solos). Tide linebacker Trey DePriest had 11 tackles and a forced fumble. Despite outgaining the Tigers in total offense, 495 to 393, the Tide lost largely due to failures in the kicking game, missing four field goals. Auburn managed 296 rushing yards against the Tide, the second-highest yield by any Tide defense in the tenure of head coach Nick Saban. Alabama entered the game having a 47-0 record in the Saban Era when winning the turnover margin, but the Tide lost despite having a 1-0 turnover margin in their favor on Saturday.
Alabama won the coin toss and elected to receive. Christion Jones returned the opening kickoff 24 yards to the Tide 24. On first down, T.J. Yeldon took a handoff from McCarron and raced 31 yards up the middle to the Auburn 45. On the next play, McCarron spun and fired a wide receiver screen to Amari Cooper that gained 11 yards to the Auburn 34. A Yeldon run up the middle gained five more to the Auburn 29, and then Yeldon carried for three more over right tackle to set up third-and-two at the Auburn 26. A handoff to Yeldon at left guard was stopped for a loss of a yard to set up fourth-and-three at the Auburn 27. Cade Foster entered to attempt a 44-yard field goal. Foster’s kick sailed wide left and the game remained scoreless with 11:34 left in the first quarter.
Auburn took possession at its own 27. On first down, running back Corey Grant took a pitch to the right and gained 14 yards to the Tiger 41. Two consecutive three-yard runs by Tre Mason set up third-and-four at the Tiger 45. A deep pass from quarterback Nick Marshall to a wide-open Ricardo Louis was dropped by Louis at the Alabama 15-yard line and Auburn punted. Louis was behind the Tide secondary but could not handle Marshall’s underthrown pass. Alabama took over the ball at its own 20 after the punt into the end zone.
Alabama punted after three plays failed to gain a first down. Cody Mandell’s punt was partially blocked after he dropped the center snap, but the kick went 39 yards to the Auburn 34 where it was downed by Auburn’s Chris Davis with 8:31 left in the first quarter.
On first down, Marshall kept around left end for a solid gain but a holding penalty negated the play and created a first-and-18 at the Tiger 26. Marshall passed to Louis for two yards on first down. Auburn called timeout before the next play, and then Corey Grant was caught for a loss of two yards by Tide safety Landon Collins on a run to the left side. Auburn called another timeout. On third down-and-18, Marshall took a deep drop and had plenty of time, eventually passing to Sammie Coates for 21 yards on a crossing pattern for a first down at the Auburn 47. Tre Mason gained six yards on a run on first down, then two more on a rush on second down before Marshall faked a handoff and kept through a gaping hole at left tackle to race untouched for 45 yards and a touchdown. Cody Parkey’s conversion kick was good and Auburn had a 7-0 lead with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
Alabama took possession at its 25 after the kickoff sailed out of the end zone. The Tide was forced to punt after three plays gained nine yards. Mandell’s 50-yard punt was fair caught by Chris Davis at the Auburn 16. On first down, Mason gained eight on a run at right tackle, then Marshall kept for five yards and first down as Marshall recovered his own fumble at the Tiger 29. A carry by Mason gained three before Marshall was sacked for a 10-yard loss by A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen, setting up a third-and-17 at the Auburn 22. A two-yard run by Mason set up an Auburn punt, a 43-yarder by Steven Clark that Christion Jones fair caught at the Alabama 33 with 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Alabama offense embarked on a 67-yard touchdown drive in 11 plays to tie the game. McCarron threw deep for Cooper on a post pattern but the underthrown pass was batted away by Auburn’s Jermaine Whitehead at the Auburn 22. On second down, Kenyan Drake entered the game at running back and took a handoff at right tackle for 11 yards to a first down at the Alabama 44. On the next play, Drake carried for nine yards at right tackle to the Auburn 47 as the first quarter came to a close.
Drake opened the second quarter with a six-yard run up the middle to a first down at the Auburn 41. McCarron was sacked for a loss of six on first down, and then threw high to Christion Jones at the Auburn 33 to set up third-and-16 at the Auburn 47. A quick pass to DeAndrew White on a slant pattern gained nine to set up fourth-and-seven at the Auburn 38. Alabama called timeout with 12:54 left in the second quarter.
The Tide lined up to go for the first down on fourth-and-seven, but Auburn’s Dee Ford jumped offside to set up a fourth-and-two play at the Auburn 33. Alabama burned another timeout after lining up. On fourth down, McCarron passed to tight end O.J. Howard for 12 yards and a first down at the Auburn 21. McCarron found Howard again on the next play, gained 11 yards to a first-and-goal at the Auburn 10. Drake took a handoff on first down at right tackle and gained seven yards to the Auburn 3. McCarron then play-faked a handoff to Drake and passed to running back Jalston Fowler on a swing pass for a touchdown. Foster’s conversion kick was good and the game was tied at 7-7 with 11:00 left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Auburn took over at its 21 following the kickoff return. The Tigers converted a third-and-eight play on a pass from Marshall to C.J. Uzomah, a nine-yard gain to the Auburn 32. A rush by Mason gained four yards, but Tide safety Landon Collins forced a fumble and recovered it at the Auburn 36 with 9:09 left in the second period.
On first down, McCarron passed to Yeldon in the right flat for nine yards to the Tiger 27. Yeldon was stopped for a loss of one at left guard by Cazzanova McKinzy to set up third-and-two. Yeldon took a handoff and gained eight yards and a first down at the Tiger 20. With the Tigers blitzing their linebackers, McCarron passed deftly over the Tiger defense to Kevin Norwood, who hauled in the pass behind two Auburn defenders at the goal line and fell into the end zone for a touchdown with 7:12 left in the second period. Foster’s kick was good and Alabama held a 14-7 lead.
The Tide defense forced a three-and-out by the Auburn offense on the next possession, a 40-yard punt by Clark that was downed at the Tide 44 with 5:29 left in the second quarter.
On first down, Yeldon took a handoff at left tackle for 13 yards to the Auburn 43. A pass for Cooper was incomplete on first down. On second down, McCarron’s pass was tip by an Auburn defender and caught by Norwood who took the ball and gained 14 yards to the Auburn 29. On the next play, McCarron handed off to Cooper on a reverse and the sophomore wide receiver took it 28 yards to within inches of the goal line, ruled out of bounds after an officials review inside the Auburn 1. Yeldon took a handoff on the next play for a one-yard touchdown run up the middle with 3:48 left in the second quarter. Foster’s kick was good and Alabama had a 21-7 lead over Auburn.
Auburn rallied on its next possession. Mason carried for eight, and then popped loose on a 40-yard run to the Alabama 33. Mason then ripped for 10 more to the Tide 23, then six more to the Tide 17 before he was stopped for a one-yard run. Marshall then faked a handoff and kept for 15 yards around left end as he was ruled out of bounds at the Tide 1 with 1:44 left. Mason took a handoff on the next play for one yard and the touchdown. Parkey’s kick was good and Auburn had narrowed the Alabama lead to 21-14 with 1:40 left in the first half.
A short Alabama possession reached the Tide 41 before the half ended with Alabama holding a 21-14 lead.
Auburn took the kickoff to start the second half and moved 69 yards in nine plays to tie the game. Marshall started the drive with a pair of seven-yard runs to the Tiger 45. Mason took a carry at left end for 10 yards to the Tide 45. A pass from Marshall to Quan Bray gained nine more to the Tide 36. Mason gained six on a run up the middle to the Tide 30. Marshall and Bray connected for nine yards to the 21. Mason ran for six to the Tide 15 and a first down. Marshall rushed for two yards to the Tide 13, before Marshall passed to C.J. Uzomah in the right flat for 13 yards and a touchdown. Parkey’s kick was true and Auburn had tied the game at 21-21 with 11:56 left in the third quarter.
The Tide was forced to punt after failing to gain a first down. Cody Mandell drilled a punt 52 yards to the Auburn 23 where return man Chris Davis was immediately tackled by a diving DeAndrew White. Marshall started the possession with a keep up the middle for 12 yards to the Auburn 34, and then sprung loose for 11 more around left end to the Tiger 45. After a Corey Grant rush failed to gain on first down, Marshall eluded a tackler in the backfield and gained nine on a keeper to the Tide 46, and then Mason carried up the middle for four to the Alabama 42 and a first down.
A run by Mason gained five yards on first down, but a screen pass from Marshall to Bray lost four to set up third-and-nine at the Tide 41. The third down play, a screen pass to Grant, lost two yards as Denzel Devall and Geno Smith wrapped up Grant at the Tide 43 to set up a punt. Davis’s punt was downed on a roll at the Tide 1 where Alabama took possession with 6:07 left in the third quarter.
Alabama’s offense embarked on a 14-play, 83-yard drive that consumed 7:03 of clock but ended in futility.
McCarron hit Cooper on a streak pattern for 54 yards on a third-and-nine from the Tide 2. That play reached the Auburn 44. McCarron scrambled for a first down two plays later, then passed to Jones for seven yards to the Auburn 26. After Yeldon gained four yards on a carry around right end at the Auburn 22, a pass from McCarron to Cooper in the end zone was knocked out of Cooper’s hands by Jonathon Mincy. Facing second-and-15 following a false start penalty, a short pass under duress was complete to Norwood, who shed a tackler and gained 11 to the Auburn 16.
From the shotgun, McCarron carried up the middle for five yards and a first down at the Auburn 11. A pass to the end zone as McCarron scrambled to his left was incomplete intended for White on the final play of the third quarter. A pass to Cooper was stopped for no gain. On third-and-10, McCarron was flushed from the pocket and moved to his left, but his pass to Christion Jones in the back of the end zone was high and out of bounds. From the Auburn 11, Foster’s 28-yard field goal attempt was good, but a false start prior to the snap negated the kick. Moved back five yards to the 16, Foster’s 33-yard attempt was wide left with 14:04 remaining.
Taking over at their 20, the Auburn offense cranked up another drive. Grant rushed over left end for 16 to the 36. Marshall gained eight on a run up the middle and Mason gained a yard up the middle. On third and one at the Auburn 45, Mason gained two yards over right guard for a first down. A run by Mason gained three to the 50, then Marshall kept for three more to the 47, setting up third-and-four for the Tigers. Marshall’s pass was deflected by the Tide’s Ed Stinson and the Tigers were forced to punt with 10:52 remaining.
Davis’s punt rolled to the Tide 1, the second consecutive Auburn punt to do so, and the Tide offense again took possession backed up to its end zone, this time with 10:42 showing on the clock. With Cooper in single coverage McCarron play faked and threw deep to Cooper on a streak pattern. Cooper beat the Auburn cornerback, caught the pass, absorbed a hit by a Tiger safety and broke free to race untouched to the end zone on a 99-yard touchdown pass. Foster’s kick gave the Tide a 28-21 lead with 10:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Auburn faced fourth-and-one at its own 35 and elected to try to convert the first down. Marshall kept over left guard but was stopped for no gain by the Tide’s Adrian Hubbard, giving Alabama the ball at the Auburn 35 with 8:28 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Blessed with tremendous field position, the Alabama offense went to the running game. Yeldon gained 13 on a run up the middle to the Auburn 22. Yeldon then carried for seven yards up the middle and two more in the middle of the line to set up third and two at the Auburn 13. Yeldon was stopped for no gain on the play, setting up a fourth-and-one. Alabama chose to go for the first down on fourth down and Yeldon was stopped at left guard for no gain by Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
Auburn took possession at the Tiger 14 with 5:34 left. On first down, Marshall was sacked for a loss of nine yards by Tide linebacker Trey DePriest. On second-and-19 from the Tiger 5, Marshall passed incomplete under pressure. On third-and-19 at the Tiger 5, Marshall’s pass for Ricardo Louis fell incomplete. Louis had beaten Tide defensive backs and was in the clear but Marshall’s pass was just too long at the Tide 43. Forced to punt, Clark’s kick sailed 39 yards to Christion Jones who returned it 19 yards to the Auburn 25.
Alabama took over at the Tiger 25 with 4:26 showing on the clock. A run by Yeldon at left tackle failed to gain a yard. On second down, McCarron passed to Cooper at the left sideline for eight yards to set up third-and-two at the Tiger 17. Yeldon took a pitch sweep left for 11 yards to the Tiger 6 but a holding penalty negated the play and set up a third-and-12 play at the Tiger 27 with 3:06 showing on the clock. McCarron’s third down pass fell short and incomplete as he was hit while throwing by Auburn’s Gabe Wright. Foster’s 44-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Auburn and the Tigers’ Ryan Smith recovered at the Tiger 17 and he returned it to the Auburn 20.
A 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was called after the play on Alabama’s Walker Jones set up the Tiger offense at the Auburn 35. Mason gained seven on a rush up the middle on first down, then gained one on another run up the middle. That set up third-and-two at the Tiger 43. Alabama called timeout with 1:43 left on the clock. On third down, Mason took a handoff at right guard and gained five yards to a first down at the Tiger 48.
On first down, a run by Mason gained five, then another Mason run gained three on second down. Mason carried for four more and a first down at the Tide 39. On first down, Marshall faked a run to his left, pulled up and threw a pass to a wide open Sammie Coates, who had drifted behind the Tide defense. Coates ran untouched to a touchdown to complete a 39-yard play with 32 seconds showing on the clock. Parkey’s kick was good and the game was tied at 28-28.
Kenny Bell returned Auburn’s kickoff to the Alabama 29, McCarron passed incomplete on first down. Yeldon carried for nine yards on second down and the Tide called timeout with seven seconds left on the clock. A 24-yard run by Yeldon reached the Auburn 38 with one second showing on the game clock following an official review.
Adam Griffith entered the game for Alabama to attempt a 57-yard field goal. His kick was short, caught by Auburn’s Chris Davis. Davis took the ball about eight yards deep in the end zone and returned it to the left sideline, breaking clear around the Auburn 40 and racing the length of the field for a 100-yard field goal return for the winning touchdown.