TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – – Bryce Young and Alabama need to win No. 10 even if No. 7 title is not in sight.
Young rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns and scored another in what might be his last home game for No. 8 Alabama when he led the Crimson Tide 49-27 past Auburn in Saturday’s Iron Bowl.
Alabama (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 7 CFP) has had double-digit wins for its 15th straight season, but will almost certainly fall short of those ever-present national title aspirations.
The Tigers (5-7, 2-6) were trying to secure bowl eligibility and salvage a disappointing campaign that included the Oct. 31 firing of coach Bryan Harsin.
Tide coach Nick Saban said the criticism following his team’s two losses in recent games has “really united the players”.
“I think one of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that this team didn’t give up when everyone thought they had it – when there were a lot of naysayers out there at each other and won some tough games, to end the season,” said Saban.
Young, a junior, completed 20 of 30 passes with an interception and rushed for 48 yards. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, whose season was marred by a shoulder injury, is predicted to be a high NFL draft pick if he leaves early. So was Tide All-America linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who had a few sacks in the fourth quarter.
Both talked about their time in Alabama without discussing their plans.
“It was my pleasure,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Young added, “It means the world to me.”
Auburn rushed for 318 yards, the most against Alabama since he won 355 in 1983. But the Tigers’ passing game was all but non-existent. Quarterback Robby Ashford became the first Auburn player to run for two touchdowns in the Iron Bowl since Carnell Williams – now the Tigers’ acting coach – in 2003.
Ashford gained 121 yards on the ground but only passed for 77, although that included a pretty perfect 20-yard touchdown pass to J’aVarrious Johnson in the right corner of the endzone.
“He tried to get us to win this,” Williams said.
Jarquez Hunter ran 11 times for 134 yards but also lost a fumble. It was his third straight 100-yard game.
“We’ve been stressing all week that they’re going to fight and give us everything they’ve got,” Williams said. “They believed. They knew these coaches believed in them.”
Auburn settled for two field goals in the fourth quarter, giving up a late touchdown run by Jahmyr Gibbs.
For Auburn, the week was marked by speculation over who athletic director John Cohen would hire to replace Harsin. The most talked about candidate, Lane Kiffin of Mississippi, said he was staying. Liberty’s Hugh Freeze said after his team’s season finale on Saturday he had not been offered the job but confirmed his interest.
“The part that’s wrong is that I wasn’t made an offer, nor was anything accepted,” Freeze said.
THE TAKE AWAY
Auburn: Finished 2-2 under Williams, who was the running backs coach. Errors on Saturday included a muffed punt and a fumble when Hunter ran into a teammate in downfield. Both assisted Alabama touchdowns.
Alabama: Won fairly easily but still didn’t look like college football playoff caliber and got hurt defensively on the ground. The Tide had a couple of big downfield passes, a weak spot for much of the season.
Saban made it through the game after sustaining a laceration on his cheek when he was hit by a player on the touchline. “Before you ask, you should see the other one,” he joked.
Auburn is waiting for its new head coach.
Alabama is awaiting its bowl goal and hoping to make a New Year’s Six game while clinging to low playoff hopes.
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