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No. 1 Crimson Tide completes perfect regular season with win over No. 13 Auburn (via Crimson Magazine)

27 Nov 2016 Stan J. Griffin

By Stan J. Griffin: November 26, 2016

A major storyline entering Saturday's 81st edition of the Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium was the question of whether the prolific running game of Gus Malzahn's No. 13 Auburn Tigers would be able to cope with the stifling defensive unit of Nick Saban's No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide, and vice versa.
But it was Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster and the rest of the UA stop unit that shined brightest on this day, even as the UA offense sputtered at times, as the Crimson Tide gained a 30-12 win over the injury-plagued Tigers in front of a loud capacity crowd of 101,821.
With its 24th consecutive victory dating back to the 2015 season, the Crimson Tide improved to 12-0 overall and finished with a perfect 8-0 mark in Southeastern Conference play. The Tigers fell to 8-4 overall and 5-3 in league play.
Alabama gained its third consecutive Iron Bowl victory and has now beaten Auburn in seven of their last nine meetings.
“This was a great win for our team and very proud of our team,” said Saban. “We didn’t always finish (offensively), but really executed a lot better in the second half. This is a game that means a lot to a lot of people in this state, and certainly happy for our supporters, our fans and the people who support the University of Alabama, that they can be happy about the victory that we had today. Auburn’s got a really good team and we knew this was going to be a tough game. I am really proud of the way our guys competed. I am really proud of our seniors for the careers they’ve had here. They’ll have ample opportunities to play, just not here (anymore) at Bryant-Denny Stadium.”
The Alabama defense once again held an opponent without a touchdown, limiting Auburn to 182 total yards and seven first downs. The Crimson Tide also had seven tackles for loss and an interception. The Tigers averaged only four yards per play.
"Our defensive players really play well together," said Saban. "Auburn presents some tough issues and challenges with personnel groups, motions, and formation adjustments, so I thought our guys did a really good job for the most part adjusting to those.
“The defense was put in some really tough spots in this game. I think there was a point in the game where they had only one or two first downs but had nine points because of turnovers, poor punts and poor punt coverage they had a big return on. So, we had some really challenging field positions in this game and our players responded well to it."
Alabama had to punt on its first series of the game, but the JK Scott punt, however, was returned 58 yards by Auburn’s Stephen Roberts to the Alabama 21.
Alabama was able to hold the Tigers, though to a 42-yard field goal by Daniel Carlson, putting Auburn up early 3-0.

The Tide also began its second possession at the 25, and a 17-yard run by Hurts moved the ball to the 42. On a 2nd-and-10 play from the Auburn 47, Stewart ran for 19 to the Tiger 28.
A pass interference penalty on the Tigers placed the ball on the 17, and then a nine-yard pass from Hurts to O.J. Howard moved the ball to the 8.
The series ended at the 5:40 mark of the first quarter as Adam Griffith hit a 29-yard field goal to tie things at 3-3.
On Auburn’s ensuing possession, the Tigers were forced to punt, and Alabama went back to work offensively on its 45.
Hurts hit Stewart on a 39-yard pass, and then connected with Damien Harris on a 17-yard scoring pass at the 2:49 mark to put Alabama up 10-3.
In the first 15 minutes, the Tigers were only able to tally one yard of offense, but Auburn’s defense continued to keep it in the contest,
Early in the second quarter, with Alabama still up 10-3, Hurts was intercepted by Daniel Thomas, with Auburn taking over at the Crimson Tide 41.
Auburn capitalized on the miscue as Carlson nailed a 52-yard field goal at the 13:38 mark to cut Alabama’s lead to 10-6.
The Tide went three and out on its next possession, and Auburn, very much with the momentum, took over in good shape at the Tiger 40.
Auburn, however, could not take advantage of the field position and were forced to punt, with the Tide getting the ball at the UA 19 after a 38-yard punt.
On a 3rd-and-11 play at the 38, Hurts was intercepted by Thomas again, and again he returned the pick to the Alabama 41.
Kerryon Johnson carried the ball for 13 to the 28 on first down, and the series ended with another Carlson field goal, this time from 39 yards, and Auburn had trimmed the Tide lead to a single point at 10-9.
Alabama took the ball for its next series at the 34, and on a third down play Hurts hit Calvin Ridley on a 25-yard pass play to the Auburn 39. Hurts then hit Howard for 13 yards to the 26, followed by a run of nine by the Tide signal caller to the 17.
Bo Scarbrough dashed up the middle for four to the Tiger 13, and Hurts hit a streaking Ridley to the 10.
On 3rd-and-4 at the seven, Hurts was unable to hit Stewart in the end zone, and Alabama had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Griffith. This made the halftime score 13-9 and capped the 11-play drive for Alabama.
At the half, the Tide had 263 yards to 31 for the Tigers and had 14 first downs to a single one for Malzahn’s team, but missed opportunities by UA led to the tight score at the intermission. Saban commented at the half that it was up to he and his team to find a way to execute better, especially on offense and special teams, in the second half.
Early in the third quarter, the Tide set up shop at its 43 after a quick three and out by the Auburn offense.
On the second play, Scarbrough rambled for 20 yards to the Tiger 36. The sophomore tailback then ran for six to the 30.
Hurts hit Ridley on a six yard pass to the 24, and a couple of plays later Hurts hit Howard for 14 yards to the 6. With just under 10 minutes left in the quarter, Hurts finished off the huge 57-yard drive himself on a four-yard run. This made the score 20-9 and gave the Tide a little bit of breathing room.
On Auburn’s next series, senior quarterback Jeremy Johnson, playing for injured starter Sean White, hit Will Hastings on a 27-yard pass play to put the Tigers into Crimson Tide territory, but the Tide defense held as Carlson was unable to convert a 52-yard field goal attempt.
Starting its next series on the Tide 36, the Tide struck for more points with just over five minutes left as Hurts hit Stewart for a 38-yard TD pass on a 4th-and-4 play to complete a 64-yard march. This made the score 27-9 as the Tide began to finally pull away from the gritty Tigers. Scarbrough also had a 15-yard run on the drive.
“It was like two reads in one," said Stewart of his scoring reception. "If the guy is playing press, I had to slant it out; if the guy is playing soft, it was like a regular hitch. He came up, and I saw he was playing outside, so I had to go out a little bit, cut in and get open. Jalen (Hurts) threw a perfect ball, and I just turned it up the sideline, tried to tight rope it, and it worked out.”
With just over three minutes left in the quarter, new Auburn quarterback John Frankin III hit Eli Stove on a 55-yard pass to the Alabama 12. Auburn had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Carlson at the 2:11 mark to complete the 65-yard drive, and this made the score 27-12. 
The Tide answered with an 64-yard drive of its own, leading to a 34-yard field goal by Griffith early in the final quarter to make the score 30-12.
Joshua Jacobs also had a 26-yard run on the drive and Hurts also hit Jacobs on a 30-yard gain.
The Tide’ Shaun Dion Hamilton came up with an interception of a Chandler Cox pass on the Tigers’ next series and Alabama took over at its 5. Led by the running of Scarbrough the Tide was able to run out the remainder of the clock, surviving yet another tough challenge from its archrival.
The Tide accumulated 501 yards of total offense, including 203 on the ground and 298 through the air.
Hurts completed 27 of 36 passes for 286 yards, along with two touchdowns and two interceptions.  He was limited to 37 yards rushing on the day.
Scarbrough led the UA rushing attack with 90 yards on 17 carries while Harris added 47 yards on nine carries.
Stewart, a week after missing the Chattanooga game due to a violation of team standards, came up big on Saturday, hauling in 10 passes for 127 yards and a score. Howard and Ridley had five receptions each.
Defensively, Hamilton and Foster led the Tide with eight tackles each while Ryan Anderson and Allen had six each. Anderson had a sack, and he and Allen had two tackles for loss each.
Scott averaged 39.5 yards on his two punts with a long kick of 43 yards.
The Crimson Tide returns to action next Saturday to face Jim McElwain's Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It will be the ninth meeting between the two teams in the conference title game since the game's creation in 1992.
Alabama defeated the Gators in last season's title game 29-15.
Game time is set for 3 p.m. CT and the contest will be televised by CBS.

Special thanks: Alabama Athletics Communications

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