75th Iron Bowl an instant classic
by Johnathan Bentley
Nov 27, 2010 | 2229 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Auburn's Antoine Carter (45) knocks the ball from the hands of Alabama's Mark Ingram (22) during the 75th Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium Friday. Auburn rallied from a 24-0 deficit for a 28-27 win. (Photo by Jason Clark)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Auburn had been down before -- but not like this.

Auburn had rallied before -- but not like this.

What the Tigers accomplished with their come-from-behind 28-27 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium Friday in the 75th edition of the Iron Bowl was the most unlikeliest win, well, maybe ever.

Alabama had never blown a 24-point lead…and I mean never. I’m talking about a program that started playing football in 1892.

That’s not all.

I’m also talking about a defending national championship Alabama team coached by Nick Saban and playing on a home field where they had won 20 straight games -- and it was Senior Day to boot.

That 24-0 lead in the second quarter looked more like 50-0 considering the uphill battle presented to coach Gene Chizik’s Auburn team.

But when you are a team led by quarterback Cam Newton, anything is possible.

Auburn, which kept its national title hopes alive and improved to 12-0 for only the second time in school history, got a touchdown with five minutes left in the second quarter and started chipping away at the lead in the third quarter. By the time the fourth quarter started, the Tigers’ were clicking on both sides of the ball and had silenced the biggest crowd in Iron Bowl history.

Newton rushed for one score and threw three touchdown passes, including what proved to be the game-winner to Philip Lutzenkirchen in the fourth quarter.

Before the Iron Bowl, Auburn rallies were as common as the Cam Newton smiles. They happened just about every week. The Tigers trailed by 17 against Clemson -- before coming back for a 27-24 overtime win -- and they were down 14 against Georgia -- before outscoring the Bulldogs 42-10 over the final three quarters for a victory.

There are a few differences between those two games and the Iron Bowl.

Both the Clemson and Georgia games were at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Also, the Tigers and Bulldogs are both hovering around the .500 mark.

The Iron Bowl was in Tuscaloosa where the Tide hadn’t lost a game since falling to Louisiana-Monroe in the 2007 home finale.

Added to that was Alabama’s quick start against Auburn.

Never in recent Iron Bowl history had a team dominated the opening quarter like the Tide did Friday.

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy’s stats looked like something from a video game. He was a perfect 10-for-10 for 156 yards and two scores in the opening quarter alone.

The Tide amassed 213 yards and three touchdowns on its first three possessions. Auburn had -3 yards and three punts. By the time the first half closed, McElroy had thrown for a career-high 335 passing yards.

The game turned on a few big plays in the first half that seemed nothing more than a slight stumble for Alabama at the time.

Auburn’s Antoine Carter thwarted an Alabama drive by smacking the ball out of Mark Ingram’s hands as he crossed the Auburn 20-yard line. The ball went through the end zone resulting in a touchback.

Late in the second quarter, and with Alabama at the Auburn 8-yard line, Nick Fairley forced a McElroy fumble and recovered the ball, ending another scoring opportunity for the Tide.

Earlier in the quarter, Alabama’s Trent Richardson dropped a sure touchdown pass and the Tide had to settle for a field goal to push the score to 24-0.

The Tigers, as they have all season, made adjustments on both sides of the ball heading into the second half and that proved to be the difference. McElroy threw for just 42 yards in the second half and the Tigers allowed just three points in the second half.

In the end, Newton added a new chapter to his Heisman Trophy campaign, leading the Tigers back from the abyss. He finished the game 13-for-20 for 216 yards and three scores to go along with 39 rushing yards and a touchdown.

This year's Iron Bowl was just the fifth in the series that was decided by a single point and the first since Auburn won 18-17 in 1997.

Friday’s game was a classic.

It belongs in the class with Leigh Tiffin’s kick in 1985, Punt, Bama, Punt in 1972 and Bo Over the Top in 1982.

A game has to be something special to join that group. The 75th Iron Bowl is one that won't soon be forgotten by either side.