By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.--In a game that saw four lead changes and 623 yards of combined offense, Alabama (6-6, 2-6) came up a touchdown short Saturday night as the Tide fell to Auburn (10-2, 6-2) 22-15 at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the 71st Iron Bowl.
It was a record-setting day for the Alabama offense despite the seven-point loss. Sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson was 18-of-33 for 252 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 2,539 yards for the year and setting the single-season Alabama passing record. The pair of touchdown passes gives him 16, tying him with former Tide quarterbacks Brodie Croyle and Mike Shula for most in a season.
Wilson is 198-of-346 on the season, breaking Croyle's 2003 record of 341 pass attempts.
Junior DJ Hall was limited to one reception for 15 yards, but the catch gave him 1,014 receiving yards on the year, breaking former receiver David Palmer's record of 1,000 yards for most receiving yards in a season.
"We had good chances, we had some good play calls that we felt gave us a chance to set the tone of the game and we just didn't execute," Wilson said. "We didn't make a play when we had to."
After the Tide took a 3-0 lead on a first-possession field goal, Auburn capitalized on consecutive Alabama fumbles deep in Tide territory, with defensive end Quentin Groves getting to Wilson twice to force the two fumbles. The turnovers led to Auburn touchdown runs by Brad Lester and Kenny Irons to give the Tigers a 14-3 lead with 9:39 left in the first half.
After an Auburn drive stalled on a missed field goal, the Tide took over possession at its own 36 with 1:55 left in the first half. Wilson hit sophomore Nikita Stover for 11 yards to the 48 and three plays later hit Stover again, this time over the middle for a 52-yard touchdown. The touchdown pulled the score to 14-9 at the half after a failed two-point attempt.
"I told them I was going to work hard for them," Stover said. "I had to go out there and do what I had to do because we had some players banged up. I had to go out there and step up."
Alabama reclaimed the lead in the second half when the Tide took the opening possession of the third quarter 80 yards in 11 plays, with Wilson converting two crucial third-downs Â-- a 12-yard pass to Stover and a 35-yard pass to sophomore Will Oakley. On 2nd-and-nine from the 13-yard line, Wilson hit sophomore tight end Travis McCall in the flat and McCall crossed the goal line for the 15-14 lead.
Auburn answered with a four-play, 54-yard drive that took 1:22 and ended with a 22-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Cox to Prechae Rodriguez. After a successful two-point conversion, the Tigers reclaimed the 22-15 lead.
Stover had a career day for the Tide, pulling in five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown. Junior Keith Brown had three catches for 39 yards and senior Le'Ron McClain had three catches for 25.
"Nikita was the guy that got a lot of one-on-one coverage and really stepped up," Shula said. "We thought that would be the case with their defense. If they're not blitzing they're playing zone and they like to try to take away your top players and he was going to get some one-on-one opportunities and it's good to see him make good on those."
The Tide was lead on the ground by senior Ken Darby, who carried the ball 16 times for 48 yards. Hall had two carries for 28 yards and sophomore Jimmy Johns had five rushes for 11 yards.