Tide takeaways — Iron Bowl postgame
The No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide fell to No. 15 Auburn on Saturday in the 85th edition of the in-state rivalry. Here are some quick postgame takeaways:
Big Picture: Not that anyone needed a reminder, but Tua Tagovailoa is a generational player. The two pick sixes thrown by quarterback Mac Jones were so big, even with Jones otherwise playing well. The talent Alabama trotted out on the outside is also collectively generational. However, Auburn never seemed to panic at any point in the game. The Tide lacked that sense of invincibility brought by a Tua-led team.
Player of the game: Mac Jones. We’re going to hand the player of the game nod to Jones over some other worthy candidates. Jaylen Waddle had 86,000 people holding their breath every time the ball was kicked to him. He totaled four touchdowns as part of a career day. That’s big time. Najee Harris had 146 yards on 27 carries and allowed Tide fans to reminisce about the old days of rushing domination. Nevertheless, someone had to get the ball to all those playmakers, and Jones was up to the task. He finished the day with 335 yards passing in his first real start — which happened to be the biggest game of the year. By no means was he perfect, but Jones never flinched under the brightest of lights.
Best decision: Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and his offense taking advantage of Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s propensity for playing man-to-man. The touchdown pass to Waddle in the fourth quarter was the result of Sarkisian seeing the matchup he wanted and taking advantage of it. There was no second read for Jones on that play. He had man-to-man on the outside and Sarkisian knew he had what he wanted. While not a specific play call, we saw also Alabama capitalize on Auburn playing man-to-man again on Jones’ fourth and seven scramble for a first down late in the game. Steele learned his craft from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who also employs a man-heavy scheme. So there’s no doubt Jones was coached in the week leading up to the game to take off when everyone’s backs were turned in coverage.
Worst decision: Greg Sankey. The commissioner of the SEC denied Alabama’s waiver asking for Tagovailoa’s presence on the sideline to not count toward the Crimson Tide’s 70-man limit for the game at Jordan-Hare. Sankey, an Auburn (New York) man, has taken heat this year for the decline in the quality of officiating. In response to the criticism of league officiating, Sankey issued a strange manifesto outlining the conference’s approach to the issue. Now this. With Tua on crutches and out of uniform, it should have been an easy decision to allow Tagovailoa to attend the game without hindering his team. Tua embodies everything one would think the SEC would want to represent. It should have been an easy decision for Sankey — until it wasn’t.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia