For the third year in a row, Alabama has been victorious in the Iron Bowl, winning 49-27 on Saturday.
Despite having little hope of any playoff chances, the crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium was electric and played a huge role in rattling the Auburn offense into making multiple false start and delay of game penalties.
While Alabama out-gained Auburn 516-395 yards, the difference in the game was a pair of costly turnovers by Auburn and their lack of ability to stretch the field in the passing game.
Here are five takeaways from the 87th Iron Bowl.
In what is presumably his last game for Alabama, Bryce Young played like the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback that he is, slicing up Auburn’s secondary for 343 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Young also took advantage of an Auburn defense that has struggled against quarterback rushes, running the ball five times for 48 yards and a touchdown. Young’s potential final performance pushed him higher in the Alabama record books as he became the first player in school history to throw for over 3,000 yards in multiple seasons. He also surpassed John Parker Wilson, taking second place on Alabama’s all-time passing list with 8,035 yards for his career, joining AJ McCarron as the only two players in Crimson Tide history to throw for more than 8,000 yards during their careers. Young has accomplished just about everything at Alabama, and the home crowd gave him a huge ovation as he walked off the field to acknowledge what he has meant to this program.
All year long, the Alabama offensive line has been inconsistent, and unfortunately for Auburn, it was one of the Crimson Tide offensive line’s good days. In fact, it was probably their best performance of the season. Alabama’s front five dominated the line of scrimmage opening holes for the run game and most importantly keeping Bryce Young’s jersey clean, allowing just two quarterback hurries and zero sacks. For an offensive line that allowed seven sacks and eight quarterback hurries last year in the Iron Bowl, this year’s performance was the complete opposite.
Despite Auburn’s offense being one-dimensional, the Alabama defense couldn’t stop the Tigers from absolutely gashing them in the run game. Auburn racked up 318 rushing yards on 43 carries for an average of 7.4 yards per carry. Alabama hasn’t given up that kind of production on the ground since 2011 when Georgia Southern ran for 302 yards on 39 carries. The lone bright spot from the Crimson Tide run defense was DJ Dale recovering a fumble by Jarquez Hunter that was caused by running into his own teammate.
Outside of the offensive line, the Alabama receiver group has been the most inconsistent bunch all season, lacking the ability to stretch the field and create separation, but like the offensive line, the Crimson Tide receivers stepped up and had one of their best games as well. Bryce Young spread the ball around to nine different receivers, led by Jermaine Burton and Ja’Corey Brooks. Brooks had four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown while Burton had three catches for 87 yards. Burton has had great success in the Tide’s last three games of the season recording 15 receptions for 265 yards and three touchdowns. If only he could have found this success earlier in the season, the outcome of Alabama’s two losses could have been different.
For the first time all season, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien showed up with some creativity. Most of the season, the play-calling from O’Brien has been very vanilla, to say the least, leaving Alabama fans puzzled as to why he has been under-utilizing all the talent on the Crimson Tide offense. The Iron Bowl was probably his most impressive game, calling multiple deep shots and even throwing in a few creative wrinkles to keep the defense on its toes. Not sure where this version of O’Brien has been all season long, but better late than never. A parting gift to the Alabama fans as he will more than likely be on his way out in the offseason.
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