There weren’t many bright spots for Auburn Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa.
Tua Tagovailoa accounted for six touchdowns — five passing and one rushing — as No. 1 Alabama overpowered the Tigers at every position, running away with a 52-21 Iron Bowl victory that sends the Crimson Tide to the SEC title game with momentum.
The loss dropped Auburn to 7-5 on the year and 3-5 in SEC play, with its bowl game destination still unknown.
Let’s hand out some grades.
Jarrett Stidham fell flat in Auburn’s biggest game of the year.
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The junior quarterback had his worst game since last year's loss at Clemson, completing only 13 of 30 passes for 127 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Stidham struggled most of the afternoon, missing open receivers and failing to elude pressure on second and third downs in the pocket.
He finished with a passer rating of 83.2, second only in his career to the Clemson game.
The Tigers found some early success in the ground game during the first half that kept the game within one possession, but eventually were bottled up down the stretch in the third and fourth quarters when they fell behind by double digits.
JaTarvious Whitlow looked as if he would be able to shoulder the load most of the game after Anthony Schwartz’s run capped a game-tying touchdown drive, but the Tigers failed to establish much of any rushing attack after halftime.
Auburn ran for 130 yards on the day, but managed only three yards per carry on average. Whitlow finished with 19 carries for 61 yards and two receptions for 27 yards. Malik Miller also added a receiving touchdown of his own on a trick play late in the first half that cut Alabama’s lead to single digits.
Stidham wasn’t as accurate as he should have been but his wide receivers, and some of the more reliable ones didn’t help him out. The Tigers dropped passes early and often, starting their first drive of the afternoon with back-to-back drops from Seth Williams and Ryan Davis. When your two best players at the position are dropping easy looks against a defense like Alabama, it’s going to be a long day at the office.
The lone bright spots were touchdowns by Schwartz and Darius Slayton. Slayton also led the team with two receptions for 63 yards.
No one expected the Auburn offensive line to put up much of a fight against Quinnen Williams and the Alabama defensive line. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Stidham was sacked three times, and was under pressure all afternoon.
The Tigers were simply overpowered by a team that is much better in the trenches. But the running lanes in the first half were bright spots.
FRONT SEVEN: C-
The Auburn front seven wasn’t perfect Saturday, but they kept the Tigers within striking distance for as long as they could against a loaded offense.
Although Auburn failed to sack Tagovailoa, they put the Alabama quarterback, for the first half at least, under enough pressure to bother some of his throws and held the Crimson Tide to just 123 rushing yards — their second-fewest of the season. Senior linebacker Darrell Williams led the Tigers with nine tackles.
Tagovailoa, along with the help of Henry Ruggs III, Jerry Jeudy and Devonta Smith, exposed the Auburn secondary all afternoon, torching the Tigers for 377 yards and six touchdowns. Tagovailoa completed 26-of-33 passes and had little trouble throwing over the Auburn cornerbacks, with four of the five touchdown passes going for over 20 yards.
Not only was the coverage loose, the Tigers were also undisciplined, finishing with nine penalties for 88 yards. Simply put, this was arguably the secondary’s worst performance of the year in a game where they needed to be at their best.
SPECIAL TEAMS: D-
Auburn special teams, after turning in solid grades the past few weeks, had a sloppy performance against Alabama. Javaris Davis had a costly penalty interfering with Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle trying to cover the punt downfield and Arryn Siposs, who was averaging 40.3 yards per punt coming into Saturday, had four punts under 40 yards, including ones of 32 and 33.
Anders Carlson was perfect on extra points and did not attempt a field goal try.
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