Tuscaloosa, AL (SportsNetwork.com) – Blake Sims and Amari Cooper led Alabama
to a win in the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever, giving the Crimson Tide a new
memory in their fierce rivalry with Auburn.
The “Kick Six” was so last year.
Cooper had 13 catches for an Iron Bowl-record 224 yards and scored on three of
Sims’ four touchdown passes as second-ranked Alabama rallied for a 55-44 win
over No. 15 Auburn on Saturday night.
Sims overcame three interceptions to pass for 312 yards in the thrill-a-minute
game, which came almost a year to the day after Chris Davis’ 109-yard
touchdown return off a missed field goal gave Auburn an instant-classic win
over then-No. 1 Alabama to ruin the Crimson Tide’s national title hopes.
This year, Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) clinched the Western Division title and a
spot in the conference championship game before it even took the field after
Mississippi State lost to Ole Miss earlier Saturday.
The Crimson Tide, who are likely to retain their No. 1 spot in the College
Football Playoff rankings, will face Eastern Division winner Missouri next
Saturday in Atlanta.
Sammie Coates had four catches for a career-high 153 yards in the first half
and the Tigers (8-4, 4-4) scored 17 points off three Sims interceptions to
hold a 33-21 lead four minutes into the second half.
But Alabama outscored them 34-11 the rest of the way with Cooper catching
touchdown passes of 39 and 75 yards in the third quarter and Sims scrambling
for the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth.
Alabama snapped a six-game losing streak to ranked Auburn teams, winning such
a matchup for the first time since 2001.
Coates finished with five catches for 206 yards and two touchdowns and Nick
Marshall passed for 456 yards and three touchdowns, with the third one going
to Quan Bray.
Marshall’s 255 yards passing and two touchdown throws in the first half had
Alabama on its heels, but his third-quarter interception led to the Crimson
Tide’s go-ahead touchdown.
Alabama has won seven games in a row since losing to Ole Miss on Oct. 4. But
it took Nick Saban’s players more than a half to really get going in this one.
“We haven’t played a lot of games where we give up 44 points and win. That’s
not our style. We obviously have to do a better job,” said Saban, whose team
was out-gained 383 yards to 178 in the first half.
“Sometimes you can misplace your emotions in a rivalry game,” Saban said. “Our
team was as fired up as we’ve been but I think it was misplaced emotion. …
You have to be confident that’s the way to win a game. We had a lot of
emotions but we weren’t channeling them in the right way. We did a better job
of that in the second half.”
While the first half belonged to Coates and Auburn, the game belonged to the
Heisman Trophy hopeful Cooper and Alabama.
Auburn’s Daniel Carlson kicked his fifth field goal of the game with 3:30
remaining in the third quarter.
But Alabama struck on the next play from scrimmage when Cooper blew past
Jonathon Mincy on the right side for his 75-yard touchdown catch to get the
Crimson Tide within 36-34.
Cooper had seven catches for 164 yards in the second half.
Safety Nick Perry intercepted Marshall’s overthrown pass five plays into the
ensuing drive and Alabama took the lead for the first time since the second
quarter when Sims scored on an 11-yard run two plays into the fourth quarter.
Sims’ two-point conversion pass to DeAndrew White in the front of the end zone
gave the Crimson Tide a 42-36 lead. They pushed it to 12 points on White’s 6-
yard touchdown catch with 8:05 remaining and a good two-point try.
Derrick Henry added a 25-yard touchdown run for Alabama and Corey Grant scored
Auburn’s last points on a 5-yard run.
Earlier, three explosive catches by Coates in the first half helped Auburn
take its 26-21 lead at the break.
His second touchdown, on a 68-yard bomb from Marshall, after Alabama gambled
on fourth down at the 1-yard line and scored a touchdown to take the lead.
Now up 23-21, Auburn intercepted Sims for the second time with 37 seconds left
in the half. Johnathan Ford’s pick led to a 40-yard pass play to Coates from
Marshall, who lined up wide and got the ball on a pitch.
It set up Carlson’s season-high fourth field goal, a 20-yarder.
Jonathan Jones intercepted Sims two plays into the third quarter and Auburn
pushed its lead to 33-21 on Marshall’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Bray. Alabama
then pulled within 33-27 when Sims hit a wide-open Cooper down the middle for
a 39-yard touchdown, but the point-after kick was blocked.
Three hundred and sixty-four days after the “Kick Six,” Alabama began the 79th
Iron Bowl with a botched opening kickoff when Adam Griffith booted the ball 21
yards and out of bounds.
But Roc Thomas dropped what was ruled to be a lateral pass on Auburn’s first
play and Alabama recovered the fumble, leading to T.J. Yeldon’s 8-yard score
2:13 into the game.
Alabama also scored on Sims’ 17-yard pass to Cooper in the first quarter and
stopped Auburn three times inside the 10-yard line in the first 19 minutes of
the game, leading to three Carlson field goals.
“I think the name of the game was we got into the red zone and kicked field
goals,” said Auburn coach Gus Malzahn. “We didn’t score touchdowns.”
Sims completed his first five passes, but the sixth was intercepted by
Jermaine Whitehead, setting up Marshall’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Coates to
give Auburn a 16-14 lead with 10:16 left in the first half.
Later, Alabama’s gamble on fourth down paid off when Yeldon scored his second
touchdown through the right side of the line to make it 21-16.
Auburn’s D’haquille Williams had a team-high seven catches for 121 yards …
Yeldon rushed for 127 yards on 19 carries … Alabama’s last win over a ranked
Auburn team was a 31-7 victory over the No. 17 Tigers on Nov. 17, 2001 …
Punter JK Scott took over kickoff duties for Alabama after Griffith’s mistake
… Following the “Kick Six” last year, Auburn beat Missouri in the SEC title
game but lost to Florida State in the final BCS National Championship Game,
the first time in five years that the winner of the Iron Bowl didn’t also win
the national title.