Auburn's Quentin Groves, right, sacks Alabama's John Parker Wilson during the first half of a football game Saturday, Nov. 18, 2006 in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Todd J. Van Emst)
Nov. 18, 2006
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -Brandon Cox threw a 22-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter, David Irons had a crucial interception and No. 15 Auburn beat Alabama 22-15 Saturday for its fifth straight win in the bitter rivalry.
Irons picked off a John Parker Wilson pass with 1:17 left to preserve the Tigers' victory.
Auburn (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) hadn't won five Iron Bowls in a row since 1958, Bear Bryant's first year with the Crimson Tide (6-6, 2-6). Alabama coach Mike Shula is winless in four tries against his team's biggest rival.
Desperately seeking an end to that string of futility, the Tide went for it on fourth-and-15 from Auburn's 18-yard line with 5 minutes left. Wilson's pass to Nikita Stover fell incomplete in the end zone.
Alabama had initially sent the field goal team in but Shula called time out and reconsidered. His team had driven from its own 11 largely on passes of 21 and 25 yards by Wilson, but he couldn't come through again.
The Tide outgained Auburn 364-261, but also had three fumbles and the interception in yet another close loss to a ranked team.
Alabama had the ball at its own 41 with 1:50 to play. Wilson completed a short pass across the middle to Stover - who had a 52-yard touchdown earlier - but Irons picked off his next attempt downfield.
Alabama finished the regular season 0-5 against ranked teams - all of them fairly close - though this was the first of those games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Tide players had fumed all week over photos of Auburn players and coach Tommy Tuberville waving four fingers after last year's game and appearing at the bowl game in a "Fear the Thumb" T-shirt. That slogan became popular with Auburn fans and a symbol of Alabama's frustrations.
Cox finished just 6-of-14 for 137 yards, 97 of them coming in the third quarter.
The Tigers used two big pass plays from a suddenly hot Cox to retake the lead with 1:28 left in the third. He hit fullback Carl Stewart for a 37-yard gain down the left sidelines. On third-and-15, he lofted the pass to Prechae Rodriguez in the end zone. Stewart then heaved a pass to Lee Guess for the two-point conversion.
Intercepted four times last week in a 37-15 loss to Georgia, Cox's first five passes fell incomplete and he was 2-for-9 in the first half.
Alabama had taken the lead on Wilson's 13-yard pass to Travis McCall midway through the third. Then, the Tide missed its second straight two-point try.
Wilson finished 18-of-33 for 252 yards and two touchdowns in his first Iron Bowl start.
The Tigers' blitzing defense forced him into two fumbles in the first half, both jarred loose by Quentin Groves to set up touchdowns. Then Wilson made them pay on another blitz, hitting Stover for the 52-yarder with safety Tristan Davis racing toward him.
That touchdown made it 14-9 with 1:23 left before the half, but Jonathan Wilhite intercepted the pass on a two-point attempt.
The Tide's season-long troubles with finishing drives continued on its opening possession. Alabama set up first-and-goal at the Auburn 3, but the Tigers stopped three consecutive running plays up the middle to force a Jamie Christensen field goal.
Auburn didn't come close to its school record 11-sack performance of a year ago, but kept constant pressure on Wilson.