Nov. 27, 2009
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AUBURN, Ala. -
With 8:37 left in regulation the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide football team started what coach Nick Saban described as one of the best drives he had seen to preserve a perfect season and defeat rival Auburn, 26-21. Friday's victory over the Tigers in Jordan-Hare Stadium gave the Tide their second consecutive win over Auburn and the 40th overall in school history.
"I have never been more proud of my football team," said Saban. "I said it would be our most significant and our greatest accomplishment if we came down here and won this game. Under the circumstances, like the short week and a tough offense to prepare for, they had a good football team that we were playing, and then to get behind in the game 14-0, we never lost our poise and kept playing every play in the game."
After the Tigers held Alabama to three-and-out on the Tide's first possession, Auburn wasted no time striking first on the scoreboard when receiver Terrell Zachery scored on a 57-yard touchdown run off a reverse with 11:40 remaining in the first quarter.
Auburn would follow their first score with a 13-play drive after recovering an onside kick. Chris Todd connected with Eric Smith for a one-yard touchdown pass to put the Tigers up 14-0.
Alabama did not make a first down until Greg McElroy found Darius Hanks for a 15-yard gain with 2:45 remaining in the first quarter. The Tide continued to move the ball, eventually scoring on Trent Richardson's two-yard rush on the 10th play of the drive.
McElroy would join the action by connecting with Colin Peek on a 33-yard touchdown pass with 5:31 remaining in the second quarter. Leigh Tiffin's extra point tied the game at 14-14.
Auburn would regain the lead on its second offensive possession of the second half when Chris Todd completed a 72-yard pass to receiver Darvin Adams, putting the Tigers up 21-14 with 11:05 left in the third quarter.
The Crimson Tide began their comeback when Leigh Tiffin punched through a 27-yard field goal, closing the margin to 21-17. On the ensuing Auburn possession, safety Mark Barron came up big for the Tide, intercepting quarterback Chris Todd on the Auburn 41 and returning the interception to the 35-yard line. Alabama moved to within one point when Leigh Tiffin made his second field goal of the day, this time from 31 yards out, making the score 21-20 in favor of Auburn.
After the Alabama defense kept the Tiger offense off the board on its next two possessions, the Tide offense took the field for what will go down as one of the best drives in Iron Bowl history.
With 8:34 remaining in the fourth quarter a determined Alabama offense drove 78 yards down on 16 plays, four of which were first down passes completed to Julio Jones. On third-and-goal from the Auburn four, McElroy connected with Roy Upchurch on a play-action pass capping one of the most memorable of recent Alabama history.
"They called run and I didn't just want to play for a field goal," said Saban of the third down play call. "I guess I tried talking them into throwing a pass and then we got out there and lined up, I wanted to throw a pass, so we called timeout to throw a pass and that's the way it went."
The call for the pass ended up proving to be the right call and gave Alabama a 26-21 victory over Auburn and Alabama's second consecutive 12-0 regular season.