3:30 PM ET, November 19, 2005
Jordan-Hare Stadium, AUBURN, AL
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."
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Auburn jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Tigers clinched at least a share of the SEC West title.
Gameball goes to... Auburn's defensive line. The Tigers were relentless, sacking Brodie Croyle 11 times, including seven in the first half.
Stat of the game... 4: Auburn won its fourth straight game in the Iron Bowl.
The Fan Pick
64.9% of College Pick'em players picked Auburn to win the game.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||4-16||3-11|
|4th Down Conversions||0-1||0-0|
|TD||10:05||BEN OBOMANU 7 YD PASS FROM BRANDON COX (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 40 yards.
|TD||7:24||KENNY IRONS 8 YD RUN (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 31 yards.
|TD||4:01||BEN OBOMANU 45 YD RUN (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 55 yards.
|TD||13:33||TIM CASTILLE 1 YD RUN (JAMIE CHRISTENSEN KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 63 yards.
|TD||2:07||COLE BENNETT 5 YD PASS FROM BRANDON COX (JOHN VAUGHN KICK)|
Drive info: 8 plays, 61 yards.
|FG||10:12||JAMIE CHRISTENSEN 43 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 9 yards.
|TD||0:23||JOHN PARKER WILSON 1 YD RUN (D.J. HALL 2PT PASS FROM JOHN PARKER WILSON)|
Drive info: 7 plays, 46 yards.