When it was all said and done, the final score of the 85th Iron Bowl showed a 42-13 victory for the Alabama Crimson Tide. However, if you watched the game, you know that it wasn’t actually “that close”.
The Auburn offense labored in vain all day, only able to put together a touchdown drive when the score was 42-6 and there were only five minutes left on the clock. Auburn quarterback Bo Nix was unable to consistently connect with his receivers and the stable of Tiger tailbacks found there was nowhere to run in the ground game.
The Tigers defense more than had their hands full trying to slow down the nation’s best offense. Alabama scored 42 points on only 53 offensive plays and were able to get whatever they wanted in the passing game, especially.
Below we take a look at three numbers, two notes and one quote that provide details on what went wrong for the Tigers in their 42-13 defeat against Alabama.
Alabama quarterback Mac Jones averaged 11.6 yards per pass attempt on Saturday against Auburn. In fairness to the Tigers defense, that number is very close to what Jones averages on the season (which is an incredible number and a testament to how great he and the Alabama offense have been this year). So, in a way, Auburn’s defense “held” Mac Jones and Alabama to their average.
The issue is that if Auburn was going to have any chance at winning, the defense (and especially pass defense) needed to have their best game of the season and slow Alabama down considerably. Instead, Jones threw for over 300 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions. Alabama’s ability to pick apart Auburn through the air laid the groundwork for the Crimson Tide’s big victory.
Alabama attempted zero field goals against Auburn in the 85th Iron Bowl. Yes, one could insert “Bama kicker” joke here, but the point is that there was no need. The Crimson Tide offense marched up and down the field against Auburn, and straight into the endzone repeatedly.
There was no getting bogged down and settling for field goals for Alabama when they faced Auburn. The Crimson Tide struck for touchdowns on multiple big plays and also managed to find the endzone when in the redzone. Auburn needed to force turnovers and field goal attempts from Alabama to have a chance — they were unable to do either.
Auburn averaged 2.9 yards per rush in the loss to Alabama. That would be a problem for any team, but this Auburn squad must be able to run the ball effectively to have an opportunity to win games. The Tigers’ passing game is not polished enough to carry the team to victory, so the running attack has to be able to ease that burden.
Against Alabama, Auburn was unable to get any rushing game going until they were losing by 36 points with just a few minutes remaining in the game. Prior to the last two (largely meaningless) drives of the game, Auburn averaged even less than 2.9 yards per carry. Just like previously against Georgia this year, Auburn’s offense was unable to make anything happen on the ground, which led to nothing happening on offense period in a rivalry game on the road.
There’s no place like home
“There’s no place like home” is most famously attributed to Dorothy, the protagonist from The Wizard of Oz. However, it also has to be what Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn believes. Life has been very difficult for Malzahn away from Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. In the 2020 season Auburn has lost three games, and each of them have been on the road. There have been two blowout losses to rivals and an inexplicable defeat to South Carolina who later fired their coach during the season.
It would be one thing if this year was an anomaly. Unfortunately, Auburn fans know better. In Gus Malzahn’s tenure as head coach, Auburn is now 0-12 combined when playing in Baton Rouge, Athens and Tuscaloosa, and many of those losses have not been competitive. As hard as that is to believe, it has been even harder to watch.
Bama was just better
It would not have mattered where this iteration of the Iron Bowl was played, as Alabama was bound to win easily. The Crimson Tide, led by coach Steve Sarkisian, seemed to have a great plan of attack and executed it well for sure.
But what stood out more was simply that Alabama’s players dominated Auburn. Auburn’s defense had no answer for superstar receiver Devonta Smith and seemingly little desire to get in workhorse tailback Najee Harris’ way. Alabama’s defense completely stymied every Auburn offensive player other than receiver Anthony Schwartz.
This Alabama victory over Auburn was more dominant than any recent matchup in the series aside from the 49-0 drubbing in 2012.
“You look at the first quarter, and we came out flat. You can’t come out flat against a team like that on the road. “– Auburn coach Gus Malzahn on his team’s performance against Alabama.
Malzahn’s assessment of the situation seems accurate. Yet one wonders how it is possible. Surely the Tigers’ players knew what they were up against, but it is very unlike Auburn teams to be anything other than intense, aggressive and prideful. If that was not the case in Tuscaloosa last week against their biggest rival, then that raises questions that only people inside the Auburn athletic complex can answer.
Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @z_m_shaw