AUBURN, Ala. (WSFA) - Book the 2019 Iron Bowl as another one for the ages. In the end, someone had to win and someone had to lose and that winner was No. 15 Auburn (9-3, 5-3) and the loser No. 5 Alabama (10-2, 6-2).
This decade has seen its fair share of wild Iron Bowl matchups with almost all of them coming in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Saturday was more of the same concluding in the second highest-scoring Iron Bowl in history. After both teams combined to score just 10 points in the first quarter (Auburn leading 7-3), they combined to score 48 points in the second quarter to make this the highest-scoring first half in Iron Bowl history, Alabama leading the way 31-27 going into the break.
Auburn received the game’s opening kick and was able to make some noise pushing into Alabama territory but was ultimately forced to punt. Freshman quarterback Bo Nix, who did a little bit of everything in this game, pooch punted the ball into the end zone bringing out the Alabama offense.
The Tide took the field with Mac Jones at quarterback, but it was running back Najee Harris doing all the damage. Harris eclipsed nearly 100 yards in the first half alone. The Bama offense pushed down the field on their first drive and Jones nearly threw a touchdown to Montgomery native Henry Ruggs III, but the touchdown was called back due to offensive holding. The Crimson Tide would be forced to settle for a field goal, taking a 3-0 early.
Auburn’s offense would be forced into a three-and-out. Punting it back to the Crimson Tide who would also punt it back to Auburn.
Was it mentioned that Nix did a little bit of everything in this game? In the first half alone, Nix had punted a ball for Auburn and he’d take it in himself on the zone-read to give Auburn a 7-3 lead. It was Nix’s seventh rushing touchdown of the season, and the drive that was helped out by a 37-yard punt return from Christian Tutt followed by a 15-yard run from JaTarvious Whitlow to start the drive. Whitlow again ran it on the next play and was held to a 3-yard run, but a facemask penalty was enforced half the distance and the Tigers were in 1st and goal-to-go. Nix kept it on 1st and Goal and scored the touchdown to put the Tigers ahead.
The Crimson Tide would answer with a scoring drive of their own. 14 plays and 75 yards mostly featuring Harris. Harris carried the ball on five times on the drive for 32 yards and a touchdown to give Alabama 10-7 lead. On the score, Harris leaped over the Auburn defender for the score.
Not wanting to fall behind for long, Nix lead the Tigers offense on a successful drive that would result in points. Nix was able to lead an 11-play drive that resulted in an Anders Carlson 43-yard field goal to tie the game at 10.
Shortly after that, Auburn was back on the scoreboard, but it wasn’t the offense getting them the points. On third and long, Mac Jones’s pass sailed over the head of the intended Jerry Jeudy and was intercepted by Smoke Monday (an all-time sports name) and returned 29-yards for the pick six (this wouldn’t even be the most impressive pick six of the game). Auburn was back in the lead, this time with a 17-10 score.
By this point, it’d been the second quarter for nearly 10 minutes and the first half had just kicked off the craziness.
Enter Jaylen Waddle.
Waddle, with all the strength of an actual tidal wave (and elephant??) took the following kickoff and streaked 98 yards, making it look effortless as he entered the end zone and before anyone knew it, even the fans in attendance, the game was tied again. The game was channeling 2014 Iron Bowl vibes - the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in the history of the Iron Bowl.
The game was looking like it would be a track meet with both offenses scoring at will, but the Alabama defense had something to say. The Tide defense would force a fumble by Whitlow and recover to set the Alabama offense up near midfield.
Off of that, the Crimson Tide would go on to score in just four plays. This time, the Henry Ruggs touchdown would count and stand, putting Alabama ahead 24-17. 4:12 remained in the first half.
In classic Iron Bowl fashion, Auburn could not and would not be outdone. Nix led the Tigers 75 yards down the field and adding on to his busy day, fired a perfect pass to the end zone to receiver Sal Cannella, who made a spectacular catch with his toes near the boundary. Seth Williams had an incredible one-handed catch on the drive for 37 yards along with a Will Hastings 11-yard reception as Nix fired a pass up in the air on third down to help lead to the Cannella 14-yard touchdown reception.
The score was tied again at 24 with 1:06 remaining.
Alabama still had two timeouts to play with, but they only needed one. In just two plays, the Crimson Tide was back in the end zone. It was Waddle again, this time catching a simple pass from Jones and then streaking across the field and up the sideline to beat everyone else to the end zone. Alabama looked to be in position to set themselves up to take a multi-touchdown lead with them receiving the second half kick.
But, again, the 2019 Iron Bowl reminded us again early on why it would be remembered for years and years to come.
Auburn, trailing 31-24 with no timeouts and just 33 seconds remaining, made something out of seemingly nothing.
Somehow, the Tigers had moved the ball down the field and advanced into field goal range but on a controversial play, officials ruled JaTarvious Whitlow had been tackled and was down after the clock hit triple zeroes to end the half, but after review it was deemed Auburn had one second remaining. With that one second, the Tigers were able to get the snap off before the clock expired and Carlson banged through the 52-yard field goal to cut the Alabama lead to 31-27 going into the half.
If you couldn’t breathe after the first half (really the second quarter), take a quick breath because the next 30 minutes were a whirlwind.
The Tide opened the third with a three-and-out.
Auburn then cut its deficit to 31-30 on another field goal from Carlson.
Alabama looked like they were ready to answer Auburn field goals with touchdowns but then the Auburn defense stepped up and made big play after big play in the game and that included with their backs literally against the wall. After a mixture of runs to Najee Harris and Mac Jones passes down the field had moved the Tide into the red zone, several defensive penalties looked to set Alabama up to increase its lead, but then came yet another big play by the Auburn defense.
The Auburn defense brought the blitz on the edge forcing Jones to throw the ball before he was ready, his intended receiver, Harris, reached back for the ball but knocked it into the arms of the defender covering him. That defender was Zakoby McClain and McClain was GONE. 100 yards down the sideline for the score and Jordan-Hare was rocking, the Auburn Tigers were back in the lead 37-31.
Jones responded with poise and confidence. The Alabama coaching staff put the ball into Jones’ hands to make a play and he would, completing 4 of 5 passes on the drive for 63 yards and his second touchdown pass to Waddle. Waddle, this time caught a 12-yard pass to give the Tide the lead again, 38-37.
Neither offense would be able to budge after that, both punting the ball.
Auburn then took a 40-38 lead, again on the foot of Carlson.
Alabama responded with a drive that crossed into the fourth quarter. It took just six plays to go 90 yards and it was Waddle again coming up big for the Crimson Tide. On a jump ball in the end zone, Waddle brought down his third receiving touchdown and fourth overall touchdown in the game, fueling Alabama and providing the Crimson Tide with another lead at 45-40.
Jones was now in the groove, but so was the freshman Nix for the Tigers.
Unfazed by being down in the fourth quarter to the No. 5 team in the country, Nix kept the Auburn offense on track, leading them down the field in 11 plays. It was Shaun Shivers who capped the drive in the wildcat, taking the snap around the right end and breaking into the end zone to put Auburn back out front 46-45. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn decided to go for the two-point conversion to try and extend the lead to a field goal. On the attempt, Nix rolled out to the right and fired a seed to Seth Williams to convert and the Tigers had a 48-45 lead with 8:08 to play in the game.
Alabama looked ready to answer but penalties set them back. First, a penalty on the first play made it 1st and 15. Ruggs dug them out of it with a huge 28-yard reception. Later on the drive the Crimson Tide faced a 2nd and 1 but was tackled for a loss of three to bring up 3rd and 4. On 3rd and 4, another false start made it 3rd and 9. On that third down, Jones took the shotgun snap but couldn’t find anyone down field and scrambled for just a 2-yard gain to bring up fourth down at the Auburn 37. With a decision to make, Alabama called a timeout.
The Alabama offense would stay on the field and nearly held Jones to a coverage sack but with the middle of the field wide open, Jones scrambled for 18 yards and a first down.
Approaching 4:30 to play, the Tide were in field goal range and had enough time to run any play they wanted.
The Tide had moved into a goal-to-go situation but more false starts backed them up. Facing 3rd and Goal from the Auburn 10, Jones wanted to dump off a pass but had it deflected back to him. He caught it and fell down. Joseph Bulovas now had an opportunity to tie the game at 48 with 2:04 remaining.
Bulovas’ attempt banged off the upright and the Tigers had the lead with two minutes to play. Alabama had just two timeouts to stop the clock.
The Tigers ran the ball on first down to force Alabama to use its second of three timeouts. On second down, Auburn lined up in the wildcat and were stuffed to bring up third down and forcing Alabama to use the last of its timeouts. On 3rd and 7 with 1:48 to play, the Auburn offense lined up again in the wild cat and Whitlow jogged around the left end like he was going to pass and tried to run but slipped to bring up fourth down, but the clock was running.
Auburn kept its offense on the field on 4th and 4, confusing the Alabama defense and caused an illegal substitution, securing an incredible 48-45 win for the Tigers.
For the first time since 2011, the winner of the Iron Bowl will not advance to the SEC Championship Game, but the win for Auburn effectively knocks Alabama out of the running for the College Football Playoff.
Mac Jones finished the 2019 Iron Bowl passing for 335 yards on 26 of 39 passing with the four touchdowns and costly two pick-six interceptions. Harris finished with 146 rushing yards on 27 carries and a rushing score. Ruggs led the way in receiving for the Crimson Tide with 99 yards on six receptions. Waddle had 98 receiving yards on four receptions.
For Auburn, Nix held his own passing for 173 yards and a score. He also set a new single-season Auburn freshman quarterback passing yards record in the game. Whitlow finished with 114 yards on 16 carries. Seth Williams led the way in receiving with 66 receiving yards.