for this game

Newton, ironclad Auburn erase 24-point deficit to beat Alabama

Nov 27, 2010 - 1:56 AM Tuscaloosa, AL (Sports Network) - Cam Newton and the second-ranked Auburn Tigers have been undeterred by double-digit deficits all season.

In the biggest game of what has been a magical season, the Tigers faced their biggest deficit yet: 24 points. So how did they respond? For the fourth time in as many attempts, Newton and his team were able to erase what seemed like an impossible hole -- this time in the most hostile territory known to the school.

Newton, who continued to shake off the financial distractions surrounding him, threw for 216 yards and three touchdowns and added one score on the ground, and the Tigers surged back in the second half for an improbable 28-27 victory over ninth-ranked Alabama in the 75th Iron Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

A national championship is now within reach for Auburn (12-0, 8-0 SEC) for the first time since 1957 after the program finished off its first perfect regular season since 2004.

That year, the Tigers were excluded from the national championship game after USC and Oklahoma both finished unbeaten. This season, the Tigers will likely advance to the title contest if they get past South Carolina in next week's SEC Championship Game.

"I couldn't be more proud of our football team," said Auburn head coach Gene Chizik. "That was a game that will certainly go down in history. It's hard to come back when you're down, 24-0. It was something that we had done before in terms of having to overcome a lot of adversity."

Auburn was able to surge back with the help of a defense that hasn't been heralded for much of the year. After surrendering 379 yards to the Crimson Tide offense in the first half, the Tigers held Alabama to 67 yards in the final 30 minutes of play.

"Our defense did a great job of holding them to three points in the second half, and that was off a turnover off a bobbled punt," Chizik added. "I couldn't be more proud of our defense. Obviously, it was ugly in the first half. I think everybody saw that, but they responded really well."

Greg McElroy threw for a career-high 377 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama (9-3, 5-3), which had won 20 straight games at home prior to Saturday, tied for the second-longest streak in school history. McElroy was knocked out of the game on the penultimate drive of the game when he was driven into the ground on his right shoulder during a sack. He suffered a concussion on the play.

Julio Jones caught 10 passes for 199 yards and a score in defeat.

Auburn trailed by 24 points midway through the second quarter, but found some comeback magic once again.

The Tigers answered an Alabama field goal with their first scoring drive of the game, an 80-yard march that took eight plays. Newton found Emory Blake wide-open down the left sideline after a play-action fake, and Blake held on to the ball for a 36-yard touchdown catch and 24-7 contest with five minutes left.

Alabama had a chance to tack on a touchdown just before halftime, but McElroy fumbled the ball away inside the Auburn 10-yard line.

On the second play from scrimmage of the second half, the Tigers climbed back into it on Newton's 70-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Zachery, who caught the slightly underthrown ball at the 35, broke two tackles and made it to the end zone easily for a 24-14 margin.

After forcing a pair of Alabama punts, Auburn rode its momentum to yet another score. Consecutive runs by Onterio McCalebb totaling 31 yards moved the Tigers to the Crimson Tide 12, and Newton finished off the 75-yard, eight-play series with a one-yard plunge into the end zone to cut the gap to 24-21 with 4:25 left in the third.

The Tigers looked to get the ball back after forcing a second consecutive three-and-out, but Quindarius Carr failed to call for a fair catch on the punt and fumbled the ball away. Alabama tacked on a 32-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley for a six-point lead with 1:05 to go.

Auburn was undeterred, however, and used some gutsy play-calling to score the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth. Facing a 4th-and-3 from the Alabama 47, Newton found Darvin Adams, who narrowly kept his feet in bounds for a nine- yard gain. Four plays later, Newton found Philip Lutzenkirchen wide open in the flat for a seven-yard touchdown and 28-27 lead with 11:55 remaining.

Alabama started the ensuing drive at its own 31 and got stuck near midfield. A four-yard completion to Marquis Maze put the Crimson Tide in a 4th-and-1 situation, and McElroy was able to dive just far enough to gain the first down at the 49-yard line.

After another first down, Mark Ingram rushed for a loss, McElroy threw an incompletion, and Auburn's T'Sharvan Bell came around the right edge to sack McElroy for a four-yard loss. On the sack, Bell drove the quarterback into the ground on his right shoulder, leaving McElroy on the ground in pain before walking off in a daze.

Cody Mandell then shanked the punt attempt from the Auburn 40 -- it went only 13 yards, leaving the Tigers at their own 27 with 5 1/2 minutes to go.

Auburn ran all but 51 seconds off the clock, and Alabama got the ball back at its own 19 with backup quarterback A.J. McCarron attempting to spearhead a game-winning drive. His inexperience showed immediately, however, as four straight incompletions sealed the Tide's fate.

Alabama came into the game without a first-quarter touchdown in the last 13 meetings with Auburn, but found the end zone three times in the frame Saturday to assert early dominance.

The Crimson Tide received the ball first and traveled 71 yards in seven plays. McElroy went 3-for-3 for 23 yards, and Ingram capped the series with a nine- yard burst up the middle for an easy touchdown 3 1/2 minutes into the game.

Auburn went three-and-out on its first drive, and Alabama doubled its lead on a big play.

McElroy threw a 13-yard completion to Preston Dial on the first play of the ensuing drive before finding Jones behind the defense all alone near the left sideline. Jones caught a deep pass in stride and raced untouched to the end zone for a 68-yard score and a 14-0 lead with 8:39 still to play in the first.

The Tigers continued to struggle, as Newton was sacked on the next two plays from scrimmage. Following an incompletion, Auburn punted again.

Alabama faced its first third down on its next touch -- 3rd-and-8 from the Auburn 36 -- and the Tigers sacked McElroy for an 11-yard loss; however, Nick Fairley, who recorded the sack, was whistled for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for an excessive celebration, and the Crimson Tide went for it on 4th-and-4.

Maze made a tip-toe catch on the sideline to prolong the drive, which ended on McElroy's 12-yard touchdown pass to Darius Hanks for a 21-0 lead with just under two minutes left in the opening quarter.

As Auburn continued to struggle, Alabama failed to put the nail in the coffin. Ingram had a screen pass go for 41 yards to the Tigers' 19 before fumbling the ball away into the end zone, and the Crimson Tide had to settle for Shelley's 20-yard field goal with eight minutes left in the half after having 1st-and- goal inside the five.

"The two scoring opportunities that we squandered were the difference," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "Those two opportunities were huge. Relative to the production we had, we didn't get as many points as we could have."

Game Notes

Alabama still leads the all-time series, 40-34-1. Nineteen of the last 23 meetings have been decided by 10 points or fewer. Saturday marked the first one-point victory for either side since Auburn beat Alabama, 18-17, in 1997...Tigers offensive lineman Lee Ziemba started his 50th consecutive game, setting a school record for starts and consecutive starts...The visiting team has won seven of the last 12 in the series...Jones broke the Alabama school record for single-season receptions. He now has 75...McElroy set the school record for most touchdown passes in a single season with 19...Auburn also overcame double-digit deficits against Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia...The Tigers have now beaten five teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25, the only team in the nation to do so.