Auburn's defense turns away AlabamaNov 19, 2006 - 12:22 AM TUSCALOOSA, Alabama (Ticker) - Alabama was not about to reverse history at Auburn's expense.
David Irons spearheaded a strong defensive effort in the final quarter as the 15th-ranked Tigers held off the Crimson Tide, 22-15, in the annual "Iron Bowl" matchup of Southeastern Conference rivals.
Auburn (10-2, 6-2 SEC West) improved to a perfect 6-0 here and beat Alabama for the fifth straight game for the first time since 1954-58.
"We didn't have a lot of style points, but when you play good defense and you cause turnovers, you have a chance," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "That is the way we have played all year long. We are not a great football team. We were put on a pedestal early in the year. We fought hard and kept our heads above water."
The Crimson Tide (6-6, 2-6 West) had plenty of chances to end the streaks, but were turned away on all three fourth-quarter drives, extending their record under Mike Shula to 0-19 when trailing entering the final 15 minutes.
A curious call late in the game came back to haunt the Crimson Tide. Trailing, 22-15, Alabama lined up for a 36-yard field goal attempt with 5:17 to play.
Shula called for a timeout and then decided to go for it on 4th-and-15 from the 18-yard line. It failed when Irons swatted away a pass in the right corner of the end zone.
"Whether or not to go for it is a tough call," Shula said. "You're down by whatever it was, with five minutes left. I eventually felt like that was the best thing to do, to try and go for it there, knowing that we could keep them down there if we didn't get it."
Alabama did get the ball back with 1:50 to play, but on second down Irons intercepted Wilson's pass and Auburn ran out the clock.
"We knew they had to score six," Tigers linebacker Will Herring said. "David (Irons) has made plays all year long. We call him 'Mr. PBU,' because he bats so many balls down. He made a great play on the ball and won the game for us."
Auburn capitalized on two turnovers by Wilson - both on sacks by Quentin Groves - in the second quarter to score a pair of touchdowns.
The Tigers took over at the Crimson Tide 27 after the first fumble and needed four plays to convert. Brad Lester carried the ball four times, scoring from 12 yards out to make it 7-3 with 11:12 left in the half.
On Alabama's next possession, Groves stripped the ball from Wilson again and Kenny Irons ran in from eight yards out on the next play for a 14-3 lead with 9:39 to go.
The Crimson Tide got one of those back late in the half when Wilson connected with Nikita Stover on a 52-yard scoring pass to cut the deficit to 14-9 with 1:23 left in the half.
Shula elected to go for the two-point conversion after a roughing-the-passer penalty put the ball at the one but the pass failed.
"The score was 14-9 at the time," Shula said. "They had the personal foul call and we didn't know what this game was going to be like offensively, so we just ended up deciding to go for it. They blitzed us and we didn't make a block."
The Crimson Tide went ahead, 15-14, when Wilson capped an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 13-yard pass to Travis McCall with 8:56 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers responded when quarterback Brandon Cox hit Prechae Rodriguez from 22 yards out with 1:28 left in the third. Cox also had a 37-yard pass to Stewart in the drive.
On the ensuing two-point conversion, Stewart connected with Lee Guess on the halfback option for a 22-15 lead.
"In 12 games, we stumbled twice," Tuberville said. "To win 10 games in this league is huge in any year. I am proud of our football players and how they hung with our coaches and understood what we needed to do.
"They learned each week and stayed positive. They weren't going to score a lot of points but we were going to play well enough to get possibly a one- or two-point victory.
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