Alabama’s opening drive of the second half against Auburn Saturday set the stage for an all-out shootout until the end. The Auburn defense, however, decided that would stand as nothing more than an anomaly.
The Tigers’ defense shook off the Tide’s impressive first possession of the second half, which went 79 yards in five plays and gave Alabama its first lead of the contest. Instead of letting the gut punch to start the third quarter stun them, the Tigers simply shook it off and surrendered no points and only 170 yards the rest of the way.
Thanks in large part to the Auburn defense, the Tigers handed Alabama a 26-14 defeat, its first double-digit loss in the regular season since South Carolina on October 9, 2010.
Linebacker Tre’ Williams explained the defense knew it was better than that opening drive. Alabama might have ran at will on the Tigers then, but if he had anything to say about it, the drive wouldn’t repeat itself.
“(The second half) started off, and that wasn’t us,” said Williams, who had five tackles in the victory. “That’s not what we do. We got our minds back right, refocused, went out there and played Auburn football.”
Williams explained those adjustments were centered on alignment and assignment. The Tigers had done a poor job of stopping the run on Alabama’s go-ahead drive, and Williams said the team concentrated in staying in its gaps more going forward.
As the Crimson Tide run game crawled to a near halt, Alabama did all it could to jumpstart its passing attack. That led to plays here and there, but it never featured the one moment big enough to bring Alabama back from the dead.
Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn praised his defense’s efforts in slowing down Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley, who finished with three receptions for 38 yards. Cornerback Carlton Davis had a lot of say in Ridley’s near silence, something Davis knew would be pivotal for his team to walk away victorious.
“We had some great play calls from our coaches, and we executed when we needed to,” Davis said. “Going into halftime, we knew the game was far from over and we had to fight. To come out the way the second half started and then finish the way we finished, it was amazing. It was a tremendous effort for our defense.”
Perhaps the most glaring evidence of how Auburn suffocated the Alabama offense came on third down. The Crimson Tide failed to convert any prior to the fourth quarter, while the Auburn offense ended the showdown by going 9-of-18.
Middle linebacker Deshaun Davis took pride in getting his teammates in the right spots throughout the game, though he did plenty of work, too. Davis ended the game tied with a team-high seven tackles.
Davis spoke about how important rivalry matchups such as Georgia and Alabama are to the program. Once again, his efforts helped the Tigers notch another victory in a highly-coveted game.
“I’m a mike linebacker at Auburn University, so these games are the ones I’ve got to step up in and be in my best,” Davis said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do these last few weeks, and I feel like I’ve been doing that.”
And like Auburn’s victory over Georgia, the Alabama game wasn’t an instance of the defense doing just enough to win. It was more to the tune of complete domination by the Tigers.
“We were the better team tonight,” Davis said. “If you watched this game and you know football, you would honestly say we were the better team.”
Jordan D. Hill: 770-894-9818, @lesports