Alabama 42, Auburn 13: Here's what we learned from the Iron Bowl

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Twenty-one unanswered points in 11 minutes of game time was the onslaught No. 1 Alabama needed to put 19th-ranked Auburn away for an Iron Bowl win.

Here’s what we learned in Alabama’s 42-13 victory over the Tigers:

Alabama’s run defense continues improving 

Alabama tight end Jahleel Billingsley scores a touchdown against Auburn defensive back Jamien Sherwood on Saturday during the Iron Bowl.

Auburn mustered all of 109 yards on 37 carries before the final three minutes of the game, numbers that would be boosted on a largely ceremonial final Auburn possession. Before that drive , the Tigers were averaging 2.9 yards per carry and produced just two runs of 10 yards or more. The performance comes after Alabama held Mississippi State to 2.47 yards per carry and Kentucky to 1.84 yards per carry, its worst rushing display since Sept. 30, 2017.

Recent opponents — in scheme, talent or both — have not presented Alabama with the same elements that proved to be too much to handle when it allowed 4.7 and 4.83 yards per carry in consecutive games against Ole Miss and Georgia. Auburn, however, comes as close as UA has seen since, and the Crimson Tide passed the test, even managing a couple of reverses and other typical difficulties of a Gus Malzahn offense.

The Alabama football teams leaves the tunnel for the Iron Bowl game with Auburn Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. [University of Alabama Photo]

This game will show up on Mac Jones’ Heisman reel

Jones’ fifth and final touchdown pass was a perfectly-placed ball over John Metchie III’s shoulder, taking him over 300 yards in the process. It was his second such touchdown of the game, after a similar touchdown throw to Jahleel Billingsley where he displayed some pocket mobility.

He ended the game with 18 completions on 26 attempts for 302 yards and five touchdowns.

Jones will likely get a chance to showcase his abilities against the other SEC quarterback in the Heisman Trophy race, Florida’s Kyle Trask, in the SEC Championship Game, but a performance like this one will stand out both in statistical substance and the flash that often attracts Heisman Trophy voters.

Furthermore, the performance puts Jones in reach of Alabama’s single-season records for both passing touchdowns and passing yards, either being additional feathers in the cap of a case for the Heisman Trophy.

Bend-but-don’t-break defending fits this team

Alabama’s defense had moments of prolonged dominance — such as the entire first quarter, when UA allowed 40 yards on 17 plays.

For most of the game, however, Alabama’s defense was bending without breaking. Five of Auburn’s eight possessions after the first quarter reached UA territory, but only one of them resulted in a touchdown.

A Malachi Moore interception stopped the threat of one Auburn possession in the second quarter; in the third quarter, a Will Anderson Jr. sack forced a failed 56-yard field goal attempt.

Given Alabama’s offense is a proven commodity — doing it again against Auburn with 445 yards — UA does not need a dominant defense. It needs one that will make critical plays in its own territory to prevent touchdowns, and that’s exactly what it had on Saturday.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson