Nov. 25, 2017
By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - For the second time in three weeks, Auburn knocked off No. 1, claiming the SEC Western Division championship with a 26-14 Iron Bowl win.
"Extremely proud of our team," Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. "That's a huge challenge and our team did it. We're the SEC West champs. Couldn't be prouder of our team."
The Tigers are heading to Atlanta for a rematch with Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. Auburn beat the Bulldogs 40-17 at home on Nov. 11.
"Before the season, we put ourselves out there and we said that's our goal," Malzahn said. "Now we're one game away from that being a reality."
Trailing 14-10 after an Alabama touchdown on the opening drive of the second half, Auburn scored the game's final 16 points on touchdown runs by Kerryon Johnson and Jarrett Stidham, and Daniel Carlson's second field goal.
Johnson put Auburn ahead to stay with a 1-yard touchdown run with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
Stidham gave Auburn a two-score lead with a 16-yard touchdown run with 12:49 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Auburn's defense did the rest, holding Alabama to 314 yards. Auburn held Alabama without a third-down conversion until in the fourth quarter.
"Our defense was outstanding. Our crowd was unbelievable," Malzahn said. "Two weeks in a row, our crowd helped us."
Stidham and Ryan Davis teamed up 11 times for 139 yards, Davis' first 100-yard game. Davis set Auburn's single-season reception record with 69 catches.
Stidham completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards, adding 51 rushing yards and a touchdown on 12 carries.
Auburn scored first, driving 94 yards on 12 plays. Stidham began a streak of five straight completions with a 25-yard gain across midfield to Nate Craig-Myers.
On third-and-2 from the Alabama 3, Johnson's jump pass found Craig-Myers uncovered in the end zone for a 7-0 Auburn lead.
"It was something Chip's been saving," Malzahn said. "It was wide open."
"All week, my coach said it's going to come," Craig-Myers said. "When I made that play and the crowd got rowdy, I saw my teammates and felt like they fed off of it."
After Alabama answered with a 36-yard touchdown pass, Auburn regained the lead at the end of the half.
Auburn's defense forced a three-and-out. Stidham hit Davis on third-and-6 for 23 yards, setting up Daniel Carlson's 33-yard field goal. Tray Matthews led Auburn with eight tackles. Deshaun Davis added seven, including a sack. Nick Coe also registered a sack among his five tackles. With a robust resume, including two takedowns of top-ranked teams, No. 6 Auburn is poised to break into the top four in the College Football Playoff rankings. A second victory over Georgia would all but certainly secure Auburn's spot in the postseason tournament.
"We're going to keep the hammer down," Malzahn said. "That fourth quarter was fun. We're playing our best football right now. We've got to continue to do that."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer