By Barry Allen
UA Media Relations
AUBURN, Ala. With the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship and berth in the SEC Championship game already in hand, the University of Alabama football team wanted to end the 1999 regular season with its first-ever win at arch-rival Auburn.
With the Tide trailing, 14-6, in the closing minutes of the third quarter the defense turned in a big play resulting in a safety and then turned the game over to All-American running back Shaun Alexander, who posted one of the most impressive fourth quarter performances and school and Iron Bowl history.
The Florence, Ky., native put on a show in the final 15 minutes rushing 12 times for 101 yards and three touchdowns as he led Alabama to a 28-17 come-from-behind win and clinch the Tide’s first win on the Plains. Alexander finished the game with 33 carries for 182 yards and three touchdowns in the win.
The momentum shifted just after halftime as the Crimson Tide dominated the second half. After Auburn’s Damon Duval missed a 22-yard field goal attempt, Alabama took over at the 20 and moved to a first-and-goal at the Tigers’ 6-yard line.
Alexander and quarterback Tyler Watts did most of the damage on the 16-play, 75-yard drive. Watts completed 4 of 5 passes for 55 yards, including a 16-yard pass to Freddie Milons that gave UA the ball at the AU 6-yard line. Watts finished the game hitting 5 of 6 passes for 57 yards. Milons had six catches for 54 yards.
With the ball on the six, Alexander ran for four yards on first down. After two straight Alexander runs for no gain, the Tide went for it on fourth-and-goal and Alexander was again stopped by Kenny Kelly at the two.
On the next play, Auburn quarterback Ben Leard was sacked in the end zone by Kindal Moorehead for a safety. Alabama had cut the Auburn lead to 14-8 with 42 seconds left in the third quarter.
Duval’s free kick was taken by Milons as the UA 18 and returned 30 yards to the Tide 48. Alexander then ripped off a 15-yard run as the quarter ended. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Alexander ran 14 yards to the Auburn 23. Alexander picked up one yard on first down and Watts completed a two-yard pass to Antonio Carter. On third down, Alexander made four to the 16. The Tide went for it again and Milons ran for eight yards and a first down at the Auburn 8. Alexander scored on the next play to cap the 7-play, 52-yard drive. Ryan Pflugner’s extra point gave the Tide a 15-14 lead.
After an punt, Alabama took over at midfield following Milons’ 17-yard punt return. Alexander picked up14 on first down and then added 17 more yards on first-and-15 following an Alabama penalty. Dustin McClintock got three straight carries that netted 11 yards to the AU 13. Tyler Watts kept for five yards and Alexander did the rest, scoring on third-and-two from the Tigers’ 5-yard line with 7:02 left in the game. Pflugner’s kick made it 22-14.
Auburn cut the lead to 22-17 with Duval’s 35-yard field goal at the 2:58 mark. After an unsuccessful on-side kick, Auburn gave Alabama the ball at the Tigers’ 41-yard line with 2:58 left in the game.
The Crimson Tide needed only six plays to cover the 41 yards, with Alexander scoring from the six-yard line to cap the drive. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty went against Alabama for end zone celebration, Pflugner missed the 35-yard extra point attempt.
The Tide defense which started the scoring spree capped the game when Reggie Myles picked off Leard’s pass at the UA 47 and returned the ball to the Tigers 27-yard line. Auburn was charged with a personal foul penalty that moved the ball to the 13 where Watts took a knee and ended the game.
Alabama outgained Auburn 350-303 in the win. The Tide rushed for 226 yards, while Auburn managed only 66 yards on the ground. Auburn threw for 237 yards, while Alabama passed for 124 in the win.
Alabama took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter on two Pflugner field goals. His 33-yarder gave the Tide a 3-0 lead with 5:29 left in the first quarter. His 47-yarder made it 6-0 with 1:20 left in the first period. Auburn scored both touchdowns in the second quarter as Ben Leard threw touchdown passes to Lorenzo Diamond (7 yards) and Markieth Cooper (15 yards) to take a 14-6 lead into halftime. The two Auburn scoring drives accounted for 160 yards of offense. The Tide defense held the Tigers to 143 yards the rest of the game.
Saleem Rasheed had eight tackles to lead the UA defense, while Miguel Merritt, Darius Gilbert and Cornelius Griffin added seven tackles each. Moorehead had four tackles and two sacks, including a third quarter safety that gave the Tide momentum in the second half.