No. 16 Auburn upends No. 5 Alabama’s playoff hopes, 48-45
AUBURN, Ala. — Shaun Shivers scored on an 11-yard run with 8:08 left to put No. 16 Auburn ahead and another failed field goal by Alabama in the Iron Bowl wiped away the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes in a wild 48-45 victory for the Tigers on Saturday.
Auburn (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) survived a final, marathon Crimson Tide drive when Joseph Bulovas’ 30-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 2:00 left.
Auburn couldn’t get a first down on JaTarvious Whitlow’s three runs while Alabama (10-2, 6-2) burned its final two time outs. But the Tide was called for illegal substitution after the Tigers lined up for a punt, setting off a fist-pumping celebration for coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn fans stormed the field to celebrate another Iron Bowl thriller, filling it from end zone to end zone as they did in the 2013 Kick-Six game, when the Tigers’ returned a missed Tide field goal for a game-winning touchdown.
The Tide had made the first five College Football Playoffs fields, but its case was damaged with a 46-41 loss to No. 1 LSU. The team’s in-state rival delivered the final blow.
Alabama worked more than six minutes off the clock before settling for Bulovas’ attempt.
Quarterback Mac Jones, who replaced injured star Tua Tagovailoa, scrambled for 18 yards on fourth-and-7 to get the Tide into easier field goal range. The drive stalled at the 13 when Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown batted a third-down pass back to Jones, who threw a pair of pick-sixes.
Jaylen Waddle caught three touchdown passes and scored on a 98-yard kickoff return for the Tide, helping Alabama build a 45-40 fourth-quarter lead.
The 5-foot-7, 179-pound Shivers delivered on his only carry. Whitlow took the direct snap and handed it to him. Shivers smashed into Xavier McKinney, knocking the safety’s helmet off on the way to the end zone. Bo Nix’s two-point pass to Shedrick Jackson made it 48-45.
Auburn backup linebacker Zakoby McClain returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and a huge swing midway through the third quarter. The ball bounced off the back of tailback Najee Harris and into McClain’s arms, setting up a sprint down the sideline.
Alabama: Came in needing some help to make the playoffs, but wound up losing multiple regular-season games for the first time since 2010.
Auburn: The defense was uncharacteristically vulnerable but also delivered big plays. Whitlow ran for 115 yards. A huge win for a team that had fallen short against other top teams.
Emotions flared up a couple of times in the third quarter. Whitlow and Alabama were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for one altercation. Then Auburn receiver Seth Williams, who is from outside Tuscaloosa, was flagged for a push to linebacker Terrell Lewis’s head after tangling up with Trevon Diggs. That last one helped force Auburn to settle for the field goal.
Alabama awaits its bowl invitation with no title shot.
Auburn awaits a possibly better bowl destination than it expected coming into the game.