TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — For a pair of drives, Auburn's defense had the answer.
Before halftime, the Tiger defense forced back-to-back three-and-outs from Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama offense. After the first stop, freshman Smoke Monday blocked the punt.
Auburn went fancy with the next play, calling a double pass to Ryan Davis, who found Malik Miller for a 23-yard touchdown.
That gave the Tigers confidence at halftime as they were down just 17-14 at the break.
From there, Tagovailoa snapped and couldn't be contained.
The sophomore became the first player in Alabama history to account for six touchdowns in a game as No. 1 Alabama cruised to a perfect regular season (12-0) with a 52-21 win over Auburn in Saturday's Iron Bowl.
Tagovailoa connected with eight different receivers for 324 yards and five scores through the air.
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"He’s an excellent quarterback and he’s got excellent receivers," said Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. "They made some really good plays and got over the top of us. We haven’t let a whole lot of people get over the top of us this year and they got over the top of us a couple of times.”
After Auburn (7-5, 3-5 SEC) prevented the Tide from scoring on their opening drive for just the second time this season (LSU, Nov. 3), Tagovailoa tallied the game's first score on the ground with a 7-yard designed run.
While Tagovailoa was his usual Heisman-favorite self throughout (his worst stretch was three straight incompletions), the third quarter is when the 'Bama offense drove in the dagger.
Up just a field goal at halftime, Alabama scored quickly out of the break thanks to a pair of long touchdowns — a 46-yarder to Jerry Jeudy and a 33-yarder to Josh Jacobs, who finished second to Tagovailoa in yards from scrimmage with 81.
In the third quarter alone, Tagovailoa went 9-for-10 for 176 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham hasn't thrown three touchdowns in a game this season.
"I tip my hat to him," Auburn linebacker Deshaun Davis said. "In the second half, they made some great adjustments. They tried to push the ball down the field a lot more, that’s what they did, and they won the 1-on-1 battles. He’s a good quarterback. I respect him."
Alabama's passing scheme was so successful that when backup Jalen Hurts entered in the fourth quarter, his first pass was a 53-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Jaylen Waddle.
Davis said the halftime adjustments were primarily in the playcalling.
"(Tagovailoa) took his 1-on-1 shots on the sideline deep and they completed their pass," Davis said. "It was just a matter of we didn’t stop the bleeding in time. It kinda became a snowball effect and the rest is history."
With his six-score performance, Tagovailoa continued his record season at the helm of a deadly Alabama offense and finds himself at the top of the Heisman race with Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray.
Davis saw enough in Bryant-Denny to seal his vote.
"Yeah," Davis said when asked if Tagovailoa can win Alabama's third Heisman trophy. "Definitely."
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