On Saturday, Nov. 30, the No. 5-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (10-2, 6-2) and No. 16-ranked Auburn Tigers (9-3, 5-3) clashed in the annual Iron Bowl and the 83rd meeting between the two will likely go down as the most wild of them all as Auburn won 48-45 in a shootout.
With just over two minutes remaining – and trailing 48-45 – Alabama drove down to the Auburn 10-yard line. After three consecutive false start penalties put the Tide behind the chains, Alabama would eventually be forced to settle for a 30-yard field goal to potentially tie the game.
Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas – who hit a 43-yard field goal earlier in the game – bounced the football off the left upright as he missed the kick and Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium went wild.
The Alabama defense – who had not done much stopping of Auburn throughout the day – forced what looked to be a three-and-out that would give Alabama the ball back with around 1:00 remaining. That’s when disaster struck for the Tide.
Auburn sent punter Arryn Siposs onto the field as a wide receiver – on fourth-and-four –but left the rest of the offense on as Alabama substituted its entire defense for the punt return team. As Alabama players and coaches slowly reacted to the rest of the offense being on the field and attempted to substitute the defense back, the Crimson Tide was penalized for 12-men on the field giving Auburn a first down and the chance to run out the clock on a 48-45 win, and snuffing out Alabama’s chances at a sixth straight playoff appearance.
Alabama’s offense rolled up 515 yards of offense, even without star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, on one of the nation’s top defensive teams, while giving up 354 yards. Alabama also nearly doubled Auburn’s time-of-possession in the loss.
Backup quarterback Mac Jones completed 26-of-39 passes for a career-high 335 yards and four touchdowns and played exceptionally well, but despite that his most memorable plays were also critical errors.
Jones sailed a poorly thrown ball over receiver Jerry Jeudy’s head in the first half and Auburn defensive back Smoke Monday returned it 29 yards for a touchdown. Late in the third quarter, Jones was pressured and rather than throw the ball away he tried to force the ball to an un-expecting Najee Harris in the end-zone. The ball bounced off Harris’ back and into the arms of Tiger linebacker Zakoby McClain who returned it 100 yards for another touchdown.
Had Alabama won, sophomore receiver Jaylen Waddle would likely be remembered as the hero scoring four touchdowns and torching the Auburn defense and special teams.
After Auburn took a 17-10 lead following Jones’ first interception, Waddle returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards to tie the score up 17-17.
With the game tied 24-24 and just 33 seconds remaining in the first half, Waddle turned a short pass into a 58-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 31-24 lead.
Waddle scored on a 12-yard touchdown pass following Jones’ second pick-six and then scored again on a leaping 28-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Waddle finished the game with 98 yards and three touchdowns on four catches along with 132 yards on three kickoff returns for a career-high 230 all-purpose yards.
One of the more controversial moments of the game came following Waddle’s 58-yard touchdown, when Auburn quarterback Bo Nix managed to move the Tigers into field goal range as it seemed time expired.
Nix found running back JaTarvious “Boobie” Whittlow for 17 yards down to the Alabama 34-yard line as a gaggle of Tide defenders wrestled him to the ground with the clock ticking down to zero.
Officials reviewed the play and ruled that there had been one second remaining on the clock when Whitlow’s forward progress was stopped, meaning that one second would be placed back on the clock.
In a typical game situation, Auburn would have not been able to spike the ball to stop the clock or run the field goal unit onto the field with just one second remaining, but because of the play review the Tigers would able to have the field goal unit in place for a kick as the clock started.
Just as the game was whistled to restart, the ball was snapped and Auburn kicker Anders Carlson drilled a 52-yard field goal to cut Alabama’s lead to 31-27 at halftime. That field goal would loom large at the end of the game.
Nix completed 15-of-30 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown for the Tigers, but did even more damage with his legs rushing for 44 yards and another touchdown. Whitlow added 114 yards on 16 carries. Seth Williams led the Auburn receivers with 66 yards on three catches.
Najee Harris led the Alabama running game with 146 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, while Montgomery native Henry Ruggs III caught six passes for 99 yards and a touchdown. DeVonta Smith added five catches for 80 yards.
Alabama safety Xavier McKinney and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis led the Tide defense with eight tackles each. McKinney also had a pass breakup and a forced fumble, while Davis had one tackle-for-loss.
Auburn’s defense was led by McClain with 11 tackles, one tackle-for-loss and his interception return for a touchdown. Jeremiah Dinson added 10 tackles, while Derrick Brown had seven tackles and 3.5 tackles-for-loss.
For the first time since the implementation of the College Football Playoffs, Alabama will not be included. Both Auburn and Alabama will have to wait until after conference championships this weekend to find out their bowl destinations.