Tiffin’s five field goals pace Crimson Tide victory over rival Auburn
By Joey Fairbanks (@fairbeezy)
As he had done all season, Cam Newton electrified the crowd on his first quarter touchdown run. He embarrassed would-be tacklers on a 41-yard jaunt to the endzone.
“I was so hype after that,” said Newton, “I thought we were going to roll from there, but we just couldn’t find the endzone for a while after that.”
The Alabama defense dropped Newton for a safety early in the second quarter, a play which served as the catalyst for the 19 unanswered points that propelled the Tide to a 31-17 “Iron Bowl” victory.
“A series of unfortunate events leads to a safety,” said Tigers coach Gene Chizik. “which gives them momentum that we cannot recover from. It’s a shame to see things end this way, but they were just more prepared than we were.”
A holding call on a punt return backed the Tigers up to their own seven-yard-line before Alabama made two consecutive stops for loss to push Auburn into their own endzone for the two-pointer.
Marquis Maze returned the safety punt to Auburn’s 37, and the Tide rushed their way to pay dirt, with Roy Upchurch scoring from 12 yards out. The score was 9-7 after the PAT, and Nick Saban’s club never looked back.
Maze got another big punt return two possessions later, leading to a Leigh Tiffin field goal to move Alabama ahead by five.
“I would have preferred seven instead of three there, but the was enough to get the job done” said Alabama boss Nick Saban. “Greg (McElroy) got the offense down the field quickly on the next drive, and I felt that was really where we seized control of the ballgame.”
McElroy went four-of-five on the Tide’s next drive, advancing the ball 83 yards in just seven plays. The junior found Mark Ingram in the endzone from four yards away to end the drive, and effectively, the game.
After trading field goals in the third quarter, Auburn pulled back within five when Newton hit Darvin Adams for a three yard score with just under six minutes to go. The play was set up by a 72-yard dash by freshman sensation Michael Dyer, who chipped in 98 of the 254 rushing yards rolled up by the Tigers on the afternoon.
“I don’t know how we plow up so much on the ground and lose,” said Newton, who had 122 rushing yards on his own. “Just couldn’t get the job done. I hate to lose, but I have to give Alabama the credit.”
Even with the late touchdown, the Auburn offense managed only 73 yards through the air. The play of the Tide’s secondary helped counteract the woes the offense experienced on third down; McElroy and company converted only three of 17 attempts on the afternoon.
The Tigers had plenty of miscues themselves, committing seven penalties that totaled up to 45 yards.
The Tide got three more Tiffin field goals in the final three minutes, leaving their kicker a perfect five-for-five on the day.
“Special teams were a major part of this victory.” said Saban after the game. “Marquis was huge in the return game, and Leigh came up huge in the kicking game.”
Alabama’s victory cements a trip to the finals, where they will tangle with the No. 1 seed Florida Gators.
“It’s going to be the ultimate showdown,” said McElroy of the impending battle with the Tim Tebow-led Gators. “It’s going to take the best effort of each one of us, but if we follow coach Saban’s lead and believe in the process, win every play, we can bring home the championship.”