Posted by Jerry Hinnen
In an Iron Bowl for the ages, Auburn roared back from a 24-0 first-half deficit and defeated Alabama 28-27 this afternoon to remain on track for an undefeated season and BCS title game berth.
That sentence does only the barest minimum of justice, however, to an instant nominee for college football's game of the year and one of the greatest games ever played in what could be the sport's bitterest rivalry. Alabama didn't just dominate the game's first 25 minutes; they owned them lock, stock, and barrel, outgaining Auburn at one point 314 to 2. Greg McElroy had surpassed his career high in passing yards before the first half was out while Julio Jones simply did whatever he wanted to against Auburn's undersized and sloppy secondary. The comeback from 24 points ranks as the largest in Auburn history, and it still doesn't accurately represent how big a hole Auburn was in. To pull it off virtually guarantees Cam Newton the Heisman Trophy (provided the NCAA doesn't make a ruling against him in the next seven days) and Auburn's title as 2010's most distinguished comeback artists.
But that's also why as thoroughly as Auburn outplayed the Tide in the second half (the Tigers eventually pulled within 120 yards of Alabama on the total yardage ledger), the comeback truly began in the first. After scoring touchdowns on their first three drives, the Tide appeared well on their way to a fourth when Mark Ingram -- who hadn't fumbled in more than 400 touches -- was stripped from behind by Antoine Carter and saw the ball (unlukily, it has to be said) fly through the back of the end zone. The Tide's next possession ended at the 2-yard line after a first-and-goal. Another first-and-goal on the Tide's next possession ended in a McElroy fumble. Auburn trailed 24-7 at the half; they could have been down by 24, 27, 30 points with the game entirely over.
The blown opportunities continued in the second half. Late in the third, with Auburn looking to seize full control of the game, Quindarius Carr fumbled a punt to set Alabama up at the Tiger 27 and it took McElroy and Jones one play to move to Auburn's 12; they still settled for a field goal that loomed even larger once Auburn answered with the winning score on their ensuing drive. Alabama then drove inside Auburn's 35 over the course of 11 plays (and more than six precious minutes of clock), but punted after a Ingram loss and McElroy sack pushed them all the way out of field goal range. They would not threaten again.
So the headlines will discuss Newton's mental toughness, and Auburn's resilience, and Gene Chizik 's coaching staff's precision halftime adjustments, and they will have earned every one of those headlines. If there's been a bigger single-game accomplishment in college football this season than coming back from being 24 points down at Alabama, we're not aware of it.
But that doesn't mean Alabama didn't play a large role in their own demise, and that they won't be kicking themselves over letting this game get away for years (or in this rivalry, decades) to come.
For a video recap of the game, see below: