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Auburn falls to Alabama 24-22 in dramatic quadruple-overtime Iron Bowl thriller
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Auburn falls to Alabama 24-22 in dramatic quadruple-overtime Iron Bowl thriller

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Alabama Auburn Football

Alabama defensive back Kool-Aid McKinstry (1) celebrates after deflecting the ball from Auburn wide receiver Shedrick Jackson (11) during the fourth overtime of the Iron Bowl rivalry game Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Auburn’s final two plays Saturday night separated the Tigers from a stunning upset victory and left them with the sting of a painfully-close rivalry loss.

Auburn failed to convert a two-point play before Alabama quarterback Bryce Young hit John Metchie to leave the Tigers with a 24-22 quadruple-overtime loss. The loss was a shocking one for the Tigers, which seemed set to win in regulation before Young led a last-minute 97-yard touchdown drive to tie the game with 24 seconds to go.

“[Alabama] made plays at the end of the game,” Auburn head coach Bryan Harsin said. “They made one more play than we did. That’s the reason why they won.”

The Tigers (6-6, 3-5 SEC) and the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) found virtually no breathing room between them until the fourth overtime.

Auburn opened the fourth extra session with possession on the Alabama 3-yard line but wasn’t able to find the end zone. Auburn quarterback TJ Finley took the snap and fired toward the right corner of the end zone at wide receiver Shedrick Jackson, but the ball fell incomplete.

“I saw the front-side safety, he tried to jump Shed. I pump-faked at him, which allowed Shed to run by him a little bit more,” Finley said. “I’ve just got to throw a better ball to the back pylon and allow Shed to make a better play. I take all the criticism on that play. Shed did a good job running full speed across, and the defensive guy made a great play on the ball.”

With a chance to finish in front of them, Young and the Crimson Tide came through.

Young took the snap, looked to his left and spotted Metchie, who ran a route to his right then cut back to his left to create plenty of separation. Metchie made the catch then made his way into the end zone, leaving behind him a mad scramble on the Alabama sideline and a Jordan-Hare Stadium with the air taken totally out of it.

Young finished the game 25-of-51 passing for 317 yards with two touchdowns. Metchie had 13 receptions for 150 yards.

The NCAA’s new overtime rules forced a two-point conversion shoot-out between the teams starting with the third extra session.

Alabama began the third overtime promptly when Young connected with Metchie to take a 22-20 lead. Feeling the pressure, Auburn answered with Finley rolling to his right then throwing back to his left at tight end John Samuel Shenker, who hauled in the catch and fought forward into the end zone to force yet another overtime.

Auburn was forced to settle for Ben Patton’s 49-yard field goal in the second overtime before calling on its defense to get one more stop. The Tigers got that stop but saw Alabama answer back, this time in Will Reichard’s 38-yard field goal.

Alabama got the ball to open the first overtime, and though Auburn made it difficult, Young and his teammates made it happen.

The Tigers left the Crimson Tide searching for room to work with and facing a third-and-5 on the Auburn 7-yard line when Young made the home squad pay. Young took the snap and wasted little time in spotting Slade Bolden, who was wide open in the middle of the end zone and had little trouble making the catch.

Finley and the Tigers answered right back.

Finley moved the chains during the Tigers’ first overtime possession by hitting Kobe Hudson to reach the Alabama 4-yard line. Three plays later, Finley fired a rocket into the end zone to freshman tight end Landen King, who secured the catch for a dramatic five-yard touchdown reception.

Finley ended the night 17-of-26 passing for 137 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

The overtime hysteria followed a fourth quarter in which Young and the Crimson Tide worked their magic with the clock working against them.

Auburn pinned Alabama back on its own 3-yard line with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter. Instead of panicking, Young and the Alabama offense calmly went about making their comeback.

Young guided his squad diligently down the field with several big plays, including a 22-yard shot to John Metchie to get the drive going and a 14-yard pass to Jahleel Billingsley on a must-have fourth-and-7. The Crimson Tide still had time on its side when Young took the snap on third-and-10 and fired down the right sideline toward Ja’Corey Brooks, who found the ball and made the grab as he came crashing down in the end zone.

Brooks maintained possession as he fell, resulting in an Alabama touchdown and a tied contest with 24 seconds to go in the game.

“I felt like the last drive, it was really nothing big. It was really all my bad technique,” said Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary, who had seven tackles and four pass break-ups. “It was just one little mistake, and I felt like that’s what it all was, just little mistakes.”

The Auburn offense sputtered through most of the four quarters, but the Tigers won the field position battle again and again – including in an important sequence with 4:47 to go in the fourth. After the Tigers drove 36 yards on six plays, Auburn punter Oscar Chapman pinned Alabama back on its own 2-yard line, forcing Young and his teammates to drive 98 yards while trailing by seven.

Young got Alabama out of its own territory with a 27-yard strike to Metchie, but the Crimson Tide faced a critical fourth-and-1 on its own 46-yard line with just over two minutes to go. Young handed off to running back Trey Sanders, but linebacker Zakoby McClain led the charge to stuff Sanders and stop him short of the line to gain.

The celebration on the Auburn sideline and in the stands began as soon as the officials signaled Sanders short – though the game was far from over.

Auburn tried to drain the clock after its defensive stop, but running back Tank Bigsby’s second-down run ended with Bigsby going out of bounds, which saved valuable time for the Crimson Tide. The Tigers successfully milked 25 seconds off the clock and made Alabama use two timeouts, but the missed opportunity loomed large as the Crimson Tide began marching downfield.

Scoring opportunities were few and far between in the first half Saturday, but when one presented itself to the Tigers early in the action, they took advantage.

Alabama wide receiver Jameson Williams’ targeting penalty not only ended his day in the second quarter but gave Auburn ample field position on the Alabama 39. Finley took advantage on the drive’s third play by firing downfield toward wide receiver Demetris Robertson, who wrestled the ball from an Alabama defender and brought it down for a 29-yard gain.

On the next play, Hudson got his chance.

Finley took the snap and fired to his left and into the flats at the wide receiver, who hauled the pass in, ran past a fallen Crimson Tide player, shook off a would-be tackler then raced into the end zone for a 15-yard score.

Hudson’s catch not only ignited an already-boisterous Auburn crowd, but it helped the Tigers take a 7-0 lead with 6:50 to go until halftime.

Auburn’s stayed in contention Saturday because of its defense, which thwarted the Crimson Tide’s run game for most of the matchup and sacked Young seven times. Thanks to Auburn’s ferocious defensive effort, the Hudson score along with Ben Patton’s 33-yard field goal early in the third quarter was enough to keep the Tigers on top.

Alabama didn’t find manage any points until 8:44 to go in the game, when Reichard connected on a 30-yard field goal.

The Crimson Tide had other chances along the way – including a botched hold on a Reichard field-goal attempt late in the third quarter and Young’s dropped snap on a fourth down early in the fourth – but couldn’t truly get going until Young and his teammates had their backs against the wall in the final minutes.

While the ending Saturday night wasn’t what Auburn had hoped for, players like McCreary understood they gave their biggest rival all they had.

“There was some stuff I thought we could’ve done better. There’s always some mistakes. We ain’t perfect,” McCreary said. “I felt like at the end, we played our heart out.”

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