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Auburn welcomed Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend for the eighty-eighth edition of the Iron Bowl, one of college football’s most storied rivalries. Despite having momentum late in the game, the Tigers were unable to hold on and lost 24-27. Video by Vince Wolfram Article:

Auburn Loses the Iron Bowl in Heartbreaking Fashion

AUBURN, Ala. (EETV) -- Auburn welcomed Alabama to Jordan-Hare Stadium this weekend for the eighty-eighth edition of the Iron Bowl, one of college football’s most storied rivalries. Despite having momentum late in the game, the Tigers were unable to hold on and lost 24-27.

Auburn began the game with the ball, but was forced to punt after a quick three-and-out. On the ensuing Alabama possession, the Crimson Tide moved the ball down the field with ease, with five of their eight plays on the drive gaining nine yards or more. The drive was capped by a two-yard rushing touchdown by Alabama running back Roydell Williams to put the Tide up 7-0 just over four minutes into the game

The next Auburn drive resulted in yet another three-and-out, but the Auburn defense was able to stall the Alabama attack, forcing the Tide’s first punt of the game. Starting at its own 32-yard line, Auburn wasted no time getting its offense in gear. 

Jarquez Hunter rushed for an 11-yard gain on the first play of the drive, and then broke off a 42-yard dash to bring Auburn down to the Alabama 15-yard line. Damari Alston took it from there, getting into the end zone on the third of three consecutive rushing plays from four yards out to tie the game at seven with five minutes left in the quarter.

Alabama ended the quarter with possession of the ball, in the midst of a long, methodical march down the field. In the first minute of the second quarter, Jalen Milroe found a wide open Sawyer Deerman in the end zone. However, Milroe threw the pass after crossing the line of scrimmage, and as a result, the play was called back due to the illegal forward pass, forcing Alabama to settle for a 32-yard field goal from Will Reichard to retake the lead 10-7.

The next drive of the game for each team resulted in punts, as both offenses struggled to get across midfield. However, Auburn would have no such trouble on its next possession, as Damari Alston ripped off a 56-yard rush, a career-long for the sophomore running back, down to the Alabama 24 yard line, and a facemask penalty on Alabama’s Jaylen Key moved the ball to the twelve-yard line, and from there the Auburn offense only needed one more play. 

Ja’Varrius Johnson took a reverse handoff 12 yards into the end zone to give Auburn their first lead of the game 14-10 with just over two minutes left in the half. However, the Auburn defense was unable to hold up, giving up a 68 yard passing touchdown from Milroe to receiver Jermaine Burton just 40 seconds later, giving Alabama a 17-14 lead heading into halftime.

Alabama received the ball to start the second half, and led a sustained drive down the field until the Tide were facing a first and goal from the Auburn eight-yard line. Short runs by running back Roydell Williams and quarterback Jalen Milroe set Alabama up with a third and goal from the four-yard line. Milroe targeted receiver Isaiah Bond in the end zone, but the pass was broken up by D.J. James, holding the Tide to yet another short field goal from Will Reichard, this one from 22 yards out to increase the Alabama lead to 20-14 with nine minutes left in the quarter.

Auburn responded by targeting senior receiver Ja’Varrius Johnson. Payton Thorne connected with Johnson on the third play of the drive for a 37-yard gain, and then again two plays later for a 27 yard touchdown strike to give Auburn the lead again 21-20. Johnson led Auburn in receiving by every metric on the evening, recording four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, and also became the first Auburn player with a rushing and receiving TD in the Iron Bowl since Ben Obomanu in 2005.

Alabama tried to respond, driving down into Auburn territory once again, but were stopped on third and twelve after D.J. James broke up Milroe’s pass, which was intended for receiver Malik Benson. Will Reichard was sent out to attempt a 42 yard field goal, but missed, leaving Auburn in the lead 21-20, as the would be at the end of the third quarter.

Auburn began the fourth quarter with a methodical drive, highlighted by a 22-yard rush from Payton Thorne on 2nd and 17 to set up the Tigers with a first and goal from the Alabama eight-yard line. However, Auburn was unable to punch it into the end zone and was forced to call on Alex McPherson for a 21-yard field goal, which the redshirt freshman drilled to extend the Auburn lead to 24-20 with ten minutes left in the game.

For the next five minutes, each team alternated punts until Auburn’s Koy Moore muffed a punt from Alabama punter James Burnip, which was recovered by Alabama’s Jihaad Campbell with 4:48 left in the game at the Auburn 30-yard line. Alabama used all four downs and two and a half minutes of clock to set up first and goal from the Auburn seven-yard line with just over two minutes remaining. 

However, from there, things looked to be falling apart for the Tide. Roydell Williams was tackled for a loss of one on first down, and Milroe fumbled the snap on second down to set up a third and goal from the 26. On third down, Milroe threw yet another illegal forward pass, after which Alabama was left with a 4th and goal from the 31-yard line, 43 seconds left on the clock, and just two timeouts. 

It would be heartbreak for the Auburn crowd in Jordan-Hare Stadium, though, as Milroe found Isaiah Bond in the back of the end zone for the touchdown over cornerback D.J. James to give Alabama a 27-24 lead with just 32 seconds left on the clock. The Auburn offense was unable to muster any answer in the final seconds, and the Tigers lost in brutal fashion to the Tide, extending their Iron Bowl losing streak to four games.

After the game, Coach Freeze addressed a seemingly defeated press conference room about his team’s performance.

“It really came down to those few plays in a game like this,” said Freeze. “But man, there’s a lot of hurt in that locker room, and it stinks. Kids gave themselves the chance to win the Iron Bowl tonight, and it’s going to stick with us for a while.”

However, Freeze was by no means down on his team after the loss.

“Proud of the way our kids fought and prepared,” he said. “That’s the way an Auburn Tiger should do it, every single week. I’m proud of the way that they fought and bounced back. I thought they executed our plan pretty well. They gave us a chance to win the game.”

After the devastating loss, Auburn ends its season on a two-game losing streak that sees it finish 6-6, one better than its 5-7 mark of last season. This year, though, the Tigers are bowl-eligible, and n will wait to find out who they will face in a bowl game in a few weeks’ time to round out the 2023 season.

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