It didn’t take a miracle this time.
Auburn took down top-ranked Alabama 26-14 en route to claiming a spot in the SEC Championship Saturday night. The Tigers will play Georgia, and, with a win in Atlanta, Auburn will have a shot at the College Football Playoff.
Head coach Gus Malzahn attributes his team’s recent success, which includes two recent wins over top-ranked rivals, to a loss in Baton Rouge.
“We had to win five in a row to get here,” Malzahn said. “We took it one week at a time.”
Wide receiver Ryan Davis broke the Auburn single-season reception record with 11 catches in the win, surpassing an 8-year-old record set by Darwin Adams with 69 receptions.
Davis finished the game with a game-high 139 yards.
Auburn’s defense, which ranks as the No. 10 defense and No. 2 run defense in the country, held the Crimson Tide to just three third-down conversions on 11 attempts. Alabama’s first conversion didn’t come until the fourth quarter.
Alabama failed to score in the first quarter and trailed by more than a touchdown for the first time this season. Jalen Hurts finished with 112 yards and a touchdown through the air while leading the Crimson Tide in rushing with 82 yards on 18 carries.
Malzahn said that this team was better than the squad he rode to the BCS National Championship in 2013.
“This is different,” he said. “We’re looking more stable.”
Quarterback Jarrett Stidham finished the game completing 75 percent of his passes (21-for-28) for 237 yards. His efficiency was coupled with running back Kerryon Johnson, who had success both through the air and on the ground.
With increased carries throughout the season with an early injury to Kamryn Pettway, Johnson has proved his toughness to the coaching staff, Malzahn said.
“He wants to win, and he’s just as tough as it gets,” he said.
Johnson finished with 30 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. His jump-pass touchdown in the first quarter to Nate Craig-Myers gave Auburn its first lead.
“It’s something that [offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey] has been saving,” Malzahn said. “It was the perfect time to call it.”
The running back left the game late in the fourth quarter with a shoulder injury. Malzahn says Johnson has not been diagnosed with any injury, and will update later next week.
Auburn’s 408 total yards are the most allowed by Alabama since Colorado State earlier this season when the Rams had 391.
Successful play-calling abilities, and the offense’s ability to score against the nation’s best defense, is due to Lindsey’s hiring at Auburn, Malzahn said.
“[Lindsey] was the perfect guy for the job, and I think everyone can see that now,” he said.
With Auburn’s first win in the Iron Bowl since 2013, many fourth-year seniors felt the excitement of finally taking down the Crimson Tide at home.
For junior fullback Chandler Cox, the win was for everyone else, too.
“The whole nation was watching tonight,” Cox said. “Everyone wants to see ‘Bama lose, and we did that for the nation.”