Look out below: Auburn's Montravius Adams comes in for a landing against Alabama
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — And so there they were, in a close game heading to the fourth quarter. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said that's what he had wanted in the 80th Iron Bowl.
"We talked all week about getting the game into the fourth quarter, and finding a way to win. We were right there and just didn't make the plays to win the game, and they did."
And so it was that Alabama beat Auburn 29-13 Saturday in Jordan-Hare Stadium as the Tide pulled away with 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter. Malzahn said his Tigers played hard to the end. Indeed, Auburn was right there at significant signposts, leading 6-3 after the first quarter, trailing 12-6 at the half and trailing 19-13 after three.
Auburn stood with Alabama's vaunted defense well until the third quarter. It took Alabama 40 minutes off the game clock to score its first touchdown. Auburn scored a touchdown less than a minute later.
Auburn finished the regular season at 6-6 and with a bowl game still to be determined. The announcement will be a week from Sunday.
The game story
Big picture: Malzahn promised Auburn would "get better. I guarantee that."
"We have to get better and we are going to get better. That's how I view it."
Malzahn said the game turned on third downs. Auburn converted only three of 15 tries. The Tigers ran only 24 plays in the second half, seven of those in the final 2:46. The game featured seven field goals and two personal foul penalties on one play that gave Alabama 30 free yards on the way to its fifth field goal.
"It was one of the key moments," Malzahn said.
Still, it was a nine-point game until Derrick Henry scored on a 25-yard run with 26 seconds left.
"Like I said," Malzahn said, his Tigers "fought their guts out."
"Our fans were unbelievable. They helped us get to the fourth quarter, and they were there the whole time for us."
The highlight on offense came when Jeremy Johnson threw a 77-yard touchdown pass to Jason Smith, who tipped into himself on a memorable play.
"He made a really great play and had great concentration on it," Malzahn said.
Johnson played the whole way in his seventh start of the season. Sean White, who started the other five games at quarterback, was not available because of a lingering knee and foot injury.
"Sean isn't healthy and Jeremy had a good week of practice," Malzahn said. "Jeremy fought hard and he competed."
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine