AUBURN — The University of Alabama football team is now 5-10 all-time in Iron Bowls played in Auburn, after the rivalry’s move from Birmingham to campuses began in the 1980s and became full time around the turn of the millennium. A 48-45 loss Saturday made Nick Saban 3-4 in his trips to Jordan-Hare Stadium as Alabama’s coach.
Tweet length review of the game
A wildly entertaining Iron Bowl is now a sour memory for Alabama for all the reasons we expected one might come: defensive miscues, penalties, offensive imperfections in Tua Tagovailoa’s absence and more. Even in a game as wild as this one, much of the root of it was predictable.
Did you know?
– Saban brought up offensive red zone failings as a, “difference in the game.” UA’s five trips ended in three touchdowns, a field goal and a turnover, thus 60 percent touchdown percentage and 80 percent scoring percentage. On the season, UA scored touchdowns on 67.8 percent of its red zone trips and scored on 83.05 percent of its red zone trips, and both of those numbers are pretty consistent with the three previous seasons.
– The 93 combined points in the game were the second-most in Iron Bowl history, behind only the 55-44 2014 game (99 points), and by far the most scored in an Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The previous high in 14 meetings before was the 62 points in 2013. The second quarter was also the highest-scoring quarter in Iron Bowl history (28 for Alabama, 20 for Auburn, 48 total), beating out the 34-point fourth quarter in 1977.
– This year’s team is, by almost any measure, the most penalized UA team under Saban. Its 90 penalties committed is the most among Saban UA teams — despite just through 12 games — and its 69.16 penalty yards per game is also the highest. Its 830 penalty yards is just five yards behind the 2015 team.
– This was just the eighth time UA has lost under Saban after leading at halftime. The last time UA lost with a halftime lead was Jan. 9, 2017, in the national championship game against Clemson.
– The 2019 team was 7-0 in games in which it got seven tackles for a loss and 3-2 in games in which it got fewer than seven. It had four tackles for a loss against Auburn.
– Saban will have to wait another year to make himself tied for second in Iron Bowl history in coaching wins. Paul “Bear” Bryant’s 19 wins seem unlikely to be challenged in the foreseeable future, but Shug Jordan’s nine Iron Bowl wins is just one ahead of Saban’s eight, which is one ahead of Tommy Tuberville’s seven.
What about this game will be remembered in January?
On the macro scale, as in the sport at large, it will be the game that sealed the sport’s first College Football Playoff without Alabama.
How this game is remembered on a hyperlocal level, within the UA community, is an intriguing proposition. I will remember it as a grand rendering of all of this team’s weaknesses in one 60-minute window, but some may get more specific than that, be it with the defense, penalties or the odd officiating instances in pivotal moments.
Quoting Nick Saban
– “We came here with the idea that we needed to play with a lot of discipline, not get a lot of penalties, do a great job of executing and doing our job on a consistent basis. People holding and being accountable so that we can get the kind of execution that we’d like to get; people making decisions, through their discipline, that’s going to put the team first and help the team enhance its chances of being successful. I don’t think we did that great. We got way too many penalties, put ourselves in a lot of bad situations.”
– “I don’t think anybody feels worse than (Joseph Bulovas) does about missing the kick. He works hard, he’s a very conscientious guy, he’s done a good job for us this year in taking over. I mean, nobody feels worse than him. We all feel bad, and we all should. We all should. I should feel bad, that we didn’t do a better job with our team. The players, it’s OK for them to feel bad, too.”
Quoting the Crimson Tide
– Xavier McKinney: “We didn’t get no stops. They scored. We didn’t get no stops.”
– Mac Jones on false start penalties: “It was definitely pretty loud, but we had to have a better system in terms of how we were going to go about it. We really gotta learn from it and got to fix it so it doesn’t come up in future games.”
– Jared Mayden on a postseason outside of the College Football Playoff: “You just got to look forward to the next team we play, we got to dominate. You don’t want to be known as the Alabama team that lost three games. It’s been a team that’s lost two, it’s multiple teams that lost one. I’m a senior: it doesn’t feel good not going to the Playoff, but it’ll feel worse if we become one of the first Bama teams to go 10-3.”
Quoting the opponent
– Auburn coach Gus Malzahn: “When you look at this whole season, we knew it was going to be a gauntlet. We played the toughest schedule in college football. Our guys hung in there. At times it was tough, they never flinched.”
– Malzahn on quarterback Bo Nix: “I’ve said it all along, he’s got something special to him. He’ll win a championship before he gets out of here. His leadership, the moment’s not too big for him.”
– Kicker Anders Carlson on the kick at halftime: “That is something we practice so much. We call it the whistle kick. We are ready for it and I am glad we got the chance.”
– Linebacker KJ Britt: “We own the state for 365 days. There is nothing better than that.”
One man’s very arbitrary top four players of the game, in no particular order
– Jaylen Waddle: Four catches for 98 yards and three touchdowns, 132 kickoff return yards and a touchdown. There is officially zero doubt at just how electric Waddle can be for the 2020 offense when he becomes an every-down fixture. For some reason, opponents continue to kick to him.
– Anders Carlson: Four field goals of 43, 52, 43 and 44 yards. Auburn clearly needed every field goal it could get in this game.
– JaTarvious “Boobee” Whitlow: 16 carries for 114 yards, two catches for 29 yards. Those 7.1 yards per carry were crucial for the Auburn offense, considering the Tigers completed just 48 percent of their passes and averaged 5.58 yards per attempt.
– Najee Harris: 27 carries for 146 yards and a touchdown, four catches for 26 yards. Harris played so well in this game that 31 touches had the feel of being too few for him.
Against the spread
Naturally the loss means UA did not cover the spread as a favorite, and the game shot well over the over/under line of 50 1/2.
A long break between now and UA’s bowl game. The result of the SEC Championship Game heavily impacts where UA could go, as well as its standings in the next College Football Playoff rankings.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson