Getting the best of the Alabama football team while under the leadership of Head Coach Nick Saban hasn’t been easy.
Last Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the 82nd meeting, Auburn did just that after registering a 26-14 win over the top-ranked Crimson Tide in a Southeastern Conference matchup and also claimed the Western Division banner.
Auburn’s next game will be Saturday against former No. 1 and current No. 7 Georgia (11-1 and 7-1 in conference), the Eastern Division champ, for the SEC title with the winner most likely getting a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.
‘This is just so surreal,’ -Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham
“I’m just so proud of this team,’’ said Auburn Head Coach Gus Malzahn, whose squad knocked off two No. 1 teams over the last three weeks. “We won this one handily.’’
Saban has won four national championships at Alabama, one at LSU and his teams are predicated on a potent running game, a hard-hitting and fast defense and a dependable passing attack.
Though these elements were on display, the Tigers (10-2 and 7-1 in conference) were better.
Alabama (377 total net yards) tied it at 7-7 when sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts (13 of 23 for 177 yards) unleashed a 36-yard spiral to freshman wide receiver Jerry Jeudy for his only reception and 8:31 left in the second quarter.
The No. 6 Tigers (408 total yards) clawed ahead 7-0 after junior running back Kerryon Johnson, who injured his shoulder late, tossed a three-yard “jump pass’’ to sophomore wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers (28 yards on two catches) with 4:38 showing in the opening frame that ended a 95-yard, 12-play march.
Auburn’s advantage swelled to 10-7 on a 33-yard field goal from senior Daniel Carlson as time expired before halftime.
When Hurts (80 yards on 17 carries) directed the Crimson Tide 79 yards on five plays and saw junior running back Bo Scarbrough (46 yards on six carries) cap the excursion with a 21-yard burst and 13:22 left in the third quarter, Alabama (11-1 and 7-1 in conference) seized control 14-10.
Behind the leadership of Jarrett Stidham, Auburn scored the next 16 points that included Carlson’s 44-yard boot and 10:12 left in the third period that shaved the lead to 14-13.
“This is just so surreal,’’ said Stidham, a sophomore signal-caller who hit 21of 28 for 237 yards. “This is even better than what I thought it would be like.’’
When Johnson (game-best 104 yards on 30 rushes) found the end zone on a one-yard run and 3:02 left in the same frame, the Tigers dashed ahead 20-14 after a 12-play, 69-yard drive.
The icing on the cake came when Stidham (51 yards on 12 carries) scampered in from 16 yards and 12:49 left in the final period that finalized a 74-yard trek.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.