Montgomery's Ruggs shines in battle against in-state rival

Alex Byington
Montgomery Advertiser
Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) is stopped by Auburn defensive back Daniel Thomas (24) in first half action during the Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday November 24, 2018.

TUSCALOOSA — Henry Ruggs III wasn’t going to be denied, not on either of his two touchdowns Saturday.

The Alabama sophomore receiver continued to pile up touchdowns in helping send the top-ranked Crimson Tide to a commanding 52-21 win over rival Auburn in Saturday’s 83rd Iron Bowl.

Ruggs, a Robert E. Lee High graduate, finished Saturday’s game with five catches for 62 yards, but it was how he made two of those catches that drew audible shock and awe from the sold-out Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd.

Ruggs’ first score came 45 seconds into the second quarter as Alabama sought to respond to Auburn’s first score of the night, when Ruggs caught a quick screen pass from sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and powered his way through a tackle at the 2-yard line and extended the tip of the football over the goal line for the score, which put the Tide up 14-7.

More:Tua answers Heisman-moment questions and then some in rout of Auburn

The speedy former basketball player once again turned heads with his second score when Ruggs leaped over Auburn defensive back Roger McCreary and caught a 22-yard strike from Tagovailoa as part of a 21-0 scoring run that gave Alabama a 45-21 advantage 31 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Ruggs now has 10 touchdowns on the season to go along with 675 receiving yards this season.

The scoring didn’t stop with Ruggs, though, as junior backup quarterback Jalen Hurts entered on the very next series and connected with freshman receiver Jaylen Waddle for a 52-yard touchdown to put the Tide ahead 52-21 with 9:29 remaining.

It was the eighth time this season that Alabama eclipsed the 50-point plateau in a game, and set a new program record for most points scored in a season at 588. The mark surpasses the previous record of 582 points set by the 2016 squad.

Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs, III, (11) celebrates his touchdown catch during the Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Alabama leads Auburn 17-14 at halftime.

Mayden to miss first half of SEC title game

Alabama junior safety Jared Mayden will miss the first half of next week’s SEC Championship Game against Georgia after being ejected for targeting early in the third quarter of Saturday’s 52-21 win over Auburn.

Mayden, who plays primarily as the Crimson Tide’s dime safety, appeared to lower his head on a hard tackle on Auburn senior receiver Ryan Davis’ 4-yard reception midway through the third quarter, making clear and direct helmet-to-helmet contact on the play.

More:Special teams, trick plays help and hurt Auburn in Iron Bowl loss at Alabama

Davis, Auburn’s all-time receptions leader, remained on the field for several minutes as trainers attended to him before walking off the field under his own power and heading to the locker room. Davis did not return to the field.

Per the targeting rule, any player ejected in the second half of a game must sit the first half of the following game, which for Mayden will be next Saturday’s SEC Championship Game.

Tua breaks another TD record

One week after surpassing AJ McCarron for Alabama’s single-season passing touchdown record, Tua Tagovailoa did it again, only this time to a more familiar face.

With a pair of first-half scores – a 7-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 4-yard pass to Ruggs early in the second quarter — Tagovailoa became the Crimson Tide’s single-season record holder with 37 combined touchdowns, surpassing the 36 total touchdowns junior quarterback Jalen Hurts accumulated as a freshman in 2016.

Tagovailoa’s scoring run put Alabama ahead 7-0 with 6:38 left in the opening quarter while his 4-yard quick pass to Ruggs — Tagovailoa’s 32nd passing touchdown of the season — gave the Tide a 14-7 lead 45 seconds into the second quarter.

More:Debate is done, Tua just won the Heisman against legit defense

Tagovailoa finished with six total touchdowns after tossing four more in the second half Saturday to end the game with 41 total touchdowns, including 36 through the air.

Jeudy continues to climb the record books

With his 46-yard touchdown reception 2:03 into the third quarter, Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy moved into a tie with fellow former South Florida product Amari Cooper with his 11th touchdown of the season.

Jeudy’s 11 receiving scores is now tied for second on the Tide’s single-season list with Cooper’s 2012. Cooper still holds the program’s all-time single-season record with 16 receiving touchdowns in 2014.

Jeudy finished the Iron Bowl with a team-high 77 receiving yards on five catches, as one of five Alabama receivers with more than 50 receiving yards on the day, joined by freshman Jaylen Waddle (73), sophomores DeVonta Smith (72) and Ruggs (62) and junior running back Josh Jacobs (53).

Senior day festivities

Running back Damien Harris, tight end Hale Hentges and center Ross Pierschbacher were among 19 Alabama seniors honored prior to Saturday’s Iron Bowl game, the last inside Bryant-Denny Stadium this season.

Joining them on the field during the pregame ceremony, along with each players’ families, were included redshirt junior defensive back Keaton Anderson, who is on track to receive a master's degree this summer and is not expected to return to the team for his final year of eligibility, as well as walk-on punter Mike Bernier, defensive linemen Isaiah Buggs and Johnny Dwight, offensive linemen Josh Casher and Lester Cotton Sr., running backs Ronnie Clark and walk-on Kendall Norris; kicker Austin Jones, receivers Derek Kief and Xavian Marks, walk-on defensive backs D.J. Lewis and Donavan Mosley, linebacker Jamey Mosley, and walk-on long snapper Ryan Parris.