TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The second-ranked Auburn Tigers erased an early 24-point Alabama lead as quarterback Cam Newton led the Tigers back in the second half for an improbable 28-27 victory over ninth-ranked Alabama in the 75th Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Auburn was able to surge back with a stifling defense. After surrendering 379 yards to the Crimson Tide offense in the first half, the Tigers held Alabama to 67 yards in the final 30 minutes of play. Greg McElroy threw for a career-high 377 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama (9-3, 5-3) but he was knocked out of the game on the penultimate drive of the game when he was driven into the ground on his right shoulder during a sack.
Alabama came into the game without a first-quarter touchdown in the last 13 meetings with Auburn, but found the end zone three times in the early going to assert dominance. The Crimson Tide received the ball first and traveled 71 yards in seven plays. McElroy went 3-for-3 for 23 yards, and Ingram capped the series with a nine- yard burst up the middle for an easy touchdown 3 1/2 minutes into the game.
Auburn went three-and-out on its first drive, and Alabama doubled its lead on a big play. McElroy threw a 13-yard completion to Preston Dial on the first play of the ensuing drive before finding Jones behind the defense all alone near the left sideline. Jones caught a deep pass in stride and raced untouched to the end zone for a 68-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 8:39 still to play in the first.
The Tigers continued to struggle, as Newton was sacked on the next two plays from scrimmage. Following an incompletion, Auburn punted again. Alabama faced its first third down on its next touch – 3rd-and-8 from the Auburn 36 – and the Tigers sacked McElroy for an 11-yard loss; however, Nick Fairley, who recorded the sack, was whistled for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for an excessive celebration, and the Crimson Tide went for it on 4th-and-4. Maze made a tip-toe catch on the sideline to prolong the drive, which ended on McElroy’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Darius Hanks for a 21-0 lead with less than two minutes left in the opening quarter.
As Auburn continued to struggle, Alabama failed to put the nail in the coffin. Ingram had a screen pass go for 41 yards to the Tigers’ 19 before fumbling the ball away into the end zone, and the Crimson Tide had to settle for Jeremy Shelley’s 20-yard field goal with eight minutes left in the half after having 1st-and-goal inside the five.
The Tigers answered the field goal with their first scoring drive of the game, an 80-yard march that took eight plays. Newton found Emory Blake wide-open down the left sideline for a 36-yard touchdown catch and 24-7 contest with five minutes left. Alabama had a chance to tack on a touchdown just before halftime, but McElroy fumbled the ball away inside the Auburn 10-yard line.
On the second play from scrimmage of the second half, the Tigers climbed back into it on Newton’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Zachery, who caught the slightly underthrown ball at the 35, broke two tackles and made it to the end zone easily for a 24-14 margin. After forcing a pair of Alabama punts, Auburn rode its momentum to yet another score. Consecutive runs by Onterio McCalebb totaling 31 yards moved the Tigers to the Crimson Tide 12, and Newton finished off the 75-yard, eight-play series with a one-yard plunge into the end zone to cut the gap to 24-21 with 4:25 left in the third.
The Tigers looked to get the ball back after forcing a second consecutive three-and-out, but Quindarius Carr failed to call for a fair catch on the punt and fumbled the ball away. Alabama tacked on a 32-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley for a six-point lead with 1:05 to go. Auburn was undeterred, however, and used some gutsy play-calling to score the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth. Facing a 4th-and-3 from the Alabama 47, Newton found Darvin Adams, who narrowly kept his feet in bounds for a nine-yard gain. Four plays later, Newton found Philip Lutzenkirchen wide open in the flat for a seven-yard touchdown and 28-27 lead with 11:55 remaining.
Alabama started the ensuing drive at its own 31 and got stuck near midfield. A four-yard completion to Marquis Maze put the Crimson Tide in a 4th-and-1 situation, and McElroy was able to dive just far enough to gain the first down at the 49-yard line. After another first down, Mark Ingram rushed for a loss, McElroy threw an incompletion, and Auburn’s T’Sharvan Bell came around the right edge to sack McElroy for a four-yard loss. On the sack, Bell drove the quarterback into the ground on his head and right shoulder, leaving McElroy on the ground in pain before walking off in a daze.
After a short Alabama punt, the Tigers took over at their own 27 with 5 1/2 minutes to go. Alabama held and got the ball back with 51 seconds left in the game but it was too late. The 24-point lead lost is the largest lead lost by Alabama in a game.