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Alabama Beats Auburn in a Nail Bitter in Four Overtimes 24-22!

Jordon Hare was literally a war zone during the 85th Iron Bowl—the greatest rivalry game in college football. While it might be a cliché that you can throw the record books out when Auburn and Alabama play; its always true.

Alabama was a 20-and-a-half-point favorite going into Saturday’s contest. Which proves again why we play the games. The “experts” are not always right, and this one was a game that redefines “the stuff of which legends are made.” As an impartial and rabid fan, I sensed all week that little more than 10 points would decide this rendition of the Iron Bowl.

I settled in to watch the game with my mother-in-law, yes my mother-in-law. I’m her favorite (and only) son-in-law; she is a Bama fan through and through. Such is the exciting life of your Sports Editor, living on the wild side!

The game started with an exchange of punts. This jostling for field position continued throughout the first quarter, winding it up with no score. It’s no wonder my mother-in-law wanted to keep turning the TV off. I wondered where in the world “that” Auburn defense came from. Had Auburn secretively smuggled in the Buffalo Bill’s top rated defense and no one noticed? The Auburn defensive prowess was something to behold. They owned the line of scrimmage for most of the game, and it looked as if Alabama was a lost cause.

At halftime, Auburn led 7-0, and their defense held the Bama offense to 68 yards. While on the other side of the ball, Alabama held Auburn to 159 total yards. Now this is big news no matter who you pull for. A David and Goliath matchup and the War Eagles have blanked the Crimson Tide at halftime! The last time Auburn held Alabama scoreless in the first half was 19 years ago in 2002.

Truly both defensive units played lights out until the very last minute and 26 seconds.

The second half began with what I was sure to include some offensive adjustments made by Bill O’Brien and the staff. However, nothing worked much to slow down the Auburn defense. And by the way, Alabama became their own worst enemy with penalties. A 20-plus-yard run by Brian Robinson, Jr., was called back as a penalty flag dropped for holding. That placed the Tide with a first down and 20 deep in its own territory. As a matter of fact, Bama incurred 11 flags for a total of 129 yards. Auburn, likewise, had just seven for 52 yards. The third quarter ended, during which Auburn kicked a field goal: score Auburn10-0. Yet another astonishing outing for the War Eagles defense.

During the third quarter, T.J. Finley, Auburn’s quarterback, was sacked by the Bama defense, resulting in a 13-yard loss, and, more devastating, an injured ankle for the Auburn play-caller. Finley appeared to be in a lot of pain. I watched as he limped off and, as the punting team ran onto the field, saw him enter the medical tent. It looked bad enough that I began searching for who the third quarterback would be on the Auburn depth chart.

Amazingly, Finley returned to the game on Auburn’s next offensive possession but was walking with an unmistakable limp. T.J. Finley played on in pain—one of the many heroes of the game. As the end of the third quarter ended, Auburn was still up 10 to zip.

During the fourth quarter, Bama started making progress. The team was getting some adjustments and wrinkles worked out and beginning to mount an offensive threat, which was quashed at times by mistakes resulting in penalty flags. However, the Tide was staying on the field long enough that it began to fatigue the War Eagles defense some. Alabama moved the ball and finally got on the board with a 38-yard field goal and 8:44 left to play.

A rejuvenated Auburn defense took the field and got several stops. The Auburn offense took the field with 2:47 left to play, which at the time I thought would be the final possession of the game; Auburn leading the game 10-3. Auburn moved the ball. Tank Bigsby ran the ball looking for a first down but was tackled and dragged down short of the first down. A lot had been said about this play by the Auburn partisans, “Why didn’t he run out of bounds and stop the clock?” It’s not that he didn’t realize he needed to get out of bounds, he was angling that way, he just got stopped, just a good play by the Tide defense. That’s it, no conspiracy here.

Auburn punted and Bama received the ball at their own 3-yard line with 1:11 remaining in the game. The Tide offense drove the ball 97 yards in 12 plays and scored their first touchdown with a 28-yard pass play to Ja’Corey Brooks, the replacement for Bama’s leading wide receiver Jameson Williams. Williams, who also plays on special teams, was ejected for targeting in the first quarter.

The point after attempt was good, and we were all tied at 10 at the end of the fourth quarter. Alabama was able to pull together and become an irresistible force that could not be stopped nor repelled—as a marching army laying siege to a fortified citadel.

It took four overtimes for this game to produce a winner. The fourth OT is sudden death, and the Tide scored their two-point conversion with Bryce Young passing to John Metchie III for the game winning play. The Tide 24: Auburn 22.

This was a game in which neither team lost hope. The players are all winners in this Iron Bowl. There are commonalities in the life lessons learned by every participant in this hard-fought game. From the players, coaches, and equipment men, and for us as fans. A few that stand out to me are that adversities will invariably come, and when they do, faith and strength are required to survive them. Secondly, focusing on a goal and achieving it under the most adverse circumstances is paramount, rather than moving the goal. I fear we’re teaching our kids that when the going gets tough, just set an easier objective.

The Tide prevailed on the scoreboard and all credits are due to this team. They did what they have done for so many games: they just got it done. However, the War Eagles fought tooth and nail on every play, a defense extraordinaire. The Tide offense cobbled together success when they had to have it and kept the Auburn defense on the field for an astonishing 87 plays. Just watching it was exhausting, seeing each team play hard on every snap of the ball. Auburn played way above anything they have been able to produce defensively during the entire season.

The Crimson Tide never gave up. And most certainly, the Tide defense got the stops when Auburn looked like they were going to bulldoze over Bama with their running attack. Frankly, I thought it was an impossibility for them to win. They had their collective backs against the wall the entirety of the game. They refused to lose. They came to play and beyond that, they possessed a collective will to win far beyond what would seem reasonable to we, the spectators. I’ve never seen coach Saban smile so broadly.

Now I’m sure there will be the group of what-ifers, the folks saying “if only” on social media. Calling for firings of coordinators, second-guessing play calling. Disparaging the officials, and rumors of players wanting to move through the transfer portal. Why? I guess that’s just the way we are these days. But only the game matters, the players spoke with their actions on the field, and this game, this Iron Bowl, well it just speaks for itself.

These are college kids. Young men putting on a great show for us, the fans. Nothing can take away from the effort and tenacity they put on display for us. But most of all they did it for themselves these young men care nothing about their teammates skin color, for these are truly a band of brothers and they deserve all the respect that is due them.

They make me smile! ... Next Time …


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