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Alabama defense unravels as Auburn pounds out upset in Iron Bowl

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- No. 11 Auburn felt like the wrong team was
getting all the hype in this state, and the Tigers set out to prove
it Saturday.

Unleashing a relentless pass rush, No. 11 Auburn upstaged one of
the nation's stingiest defenses and remained dominant in the Iron
Bowl with a 28-18 win over No. 8 Alabama.

By halftime, the Tigers (9-2, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) were
up 28-7 against a team that was drawing national title buzz two
weeks ago. By the end, they had sacked Brodie Croyle 11 times and
shut down any hint of a comeback.

"I think they got full of themselves," Auburn linebacker
Travis Williams said. "They won some games this year by the skin
of their teeth. We were watching it all year and we were like,
'Man, these guys keep escaping.'

"We really wanted them to be undefeated coming into this game
so we could really make them look bad."

Auburn clinched at least a share of the Western Division title
for the fifth time in six seasons with its second straight win over
a top-10 team and fourth in a row over the team's chief rival. LSU,
which beat Mississippi 40-7 Saturday night, would play for the SEC
title if it beats Arkansas next week.

With an anemic offense, Alabama (9-2, 6-2) continued a
season-ending tumble with its second loss in a row after riding the
nation's top scoring defense to a No. 4 ranking.

"Two weeks ago, we were 9-0 and we felt like we were knocking
on the door," Tide coach Mike Shula said. "Now we feel like we
are trying to find the right address."

The Tigers sacked Croyle seven times for minus-51 yards in the
first half and cashed in on three short touchdown drives in the
opening 11 minutes. Brandon Cox threw two touchdown passes and Ben
Obomanu scored on a 7-yard catch and a 45-yard reverse before
halftime.

"We didn't have our poise in the first half and that is
something that if you don't have it against a good football team at
home, it is going to be ugly," Shula said.

Alabama's offense couldn't muster any comeback, allowing Auburn
fans to comfortably gloat with chants of "Overrated!".

"There was no doubt who was going to win this football game
after the first 5 or 6 minutes," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville
said. "Our guys came out and made a statement."

He made a push for the Tigers to get a BCS bowl bid, SEC
champions or not, "because we will bring a lot of folks."

The game hardly lived up to its billing. The teams entered the
game with the best combined record since coming in 19-0-1 in 1994,
but it was a mismatch from the outset.

Auburn's defense bullied a young offensive line so badly, the
Tide handed off to Kenneth Darby on three consecutive plays down 18
points in the final minutes of the third quarter.

"It was a beautiful sight," Tuberville said of the defensive
performance that limited Alabama to 188 yards.

This is the first time since 1986-89 that Auburn has won four
Iron Bowl games in a row. Several players rushed straight to the
student section to celebrate and defensive end Quentin Groves
plunged into the stands. Tuberville waved a white towel toward the
fans as he took a brief victory trot behind the end zone.

The Tigers were coming off a 31-30 win at Georgia and have now
won six of their last seven games against top-10 teams.

Croyle was just 13-of-25 passing for a season-low 109 yards,
many of those coming on a late drive that fell short.

"I think after we started hitting him a few times he got a
little rattled," defensive tackle T.J. Jackson said. "Every time
we hit him and picked him up we told him, 'Hey, we'll be back."

Making his first Iron Bowl start, Cox was 13-of-15 for 120 yards
in the first half. After that, he mostly handed off to Kenny Irons
or threw it away under pressure to avoid mistakes.

"We put up 28 points and kind of coasted from there," Cox
said.

Irons gained 103 yards on 28 carries, including an 8-yard
scoring run, for his sixth consecutive 100-yard effort.

Alabama drove deep into Auburn territory twice in the closing
minutes, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by backup quarterback John
Parker Wilson with 23 seconds left after a long pass to DJ Hall
took it to the 1.

The Tigers got three touchdowns after starting near or across
midfield on its opening possessions. The Tide was pushed back for a
loss of 35 yards on its first four series.

The Tigers had been overshadowed all season by the Tide,
building the league's top offense despite the loss of three NFL
first-round draft picks from the backfield.

Alabama had built a 9-0 record before injuries to receiver
Tyrone Prothro and center JB Closner took away their main big-play
threat and the offensive line's lone senior.

"We're obviously not as good as we thought we were two weeks
ago," Croyle said. "We thought we were going to go undefeated and
play for the SEC championship. We were almost there.

"They just came out and got on us early, and we never
recovered."

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