Auburn fades against No. 2 Alabama in 42-14 loss

Auburn coach Gene Chizik started taking stock of the season in

the immediate aftermath of the frustrating finale.

The review, predictably, was mixed.

The Tigers (7-5, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) couldn’t pull off

another magical Iron Bowl comeback or muster much offense in

Saturday’s 42-14 loss to No. 2 Alabama. Now, the defending national

champions wait for what will likely be a mid-tier bowl

destination.

”It’s been a lot of ups and downs this season for 12 games,”

Chizik said. ”We’ve had some really good games. We’ve had some

disappointments, and this is certainly one of the huge

disappointments. I’ve got a locker room full of guys right now and

coaches that are hurting and a lot of fans that are hurting as

well. So this is a tough day.”

Auburn hung in there against the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1), going

into the fourth quarter within 13 points. Then Clint Moseley had an

interception returned 35 yards by Dee Milliner for a touchdown and

Alabama added another TD.

”We wanted to keep the game close in the fourth quarter and

have a chance to win the game,” Chizik said. ”We got to the

fourth quarter and felt like we were somewhere in that ballpark,

and the fourth quarter got away from us. We kind of

self-destructed.”

Trent Richardson rushed for a career-high 203 yards and AJ

McCarron threw three first-half touchdown passes for the Tide in

what amounted to a statement game.

Alabama coach Nick Saban began taking a different kind of stock.

He said he thinks the Tide is one of the nation’s best two teams,

Richardson’s the top player and `Bama deserves a second shot at No.

1 LSU for a national title.

”This team lost one game in overtime to a very, very good team

who’s No. 1 right now,” the Tide coach said. ”And we lost in

overtime. Everybody’s got to make their choices and decisions about

that.

”But I think we’ve got a great football team and a great bunch

of young men who have done a wonderful job and played some really

dominant football on both sides of the ball. I think they deserve

an opportunity, the best opportunity that’s out there for

them.”

The Tide has a week before finding out if its resume is good

enough to secure a shot at a second national title in three years.

No. 5 Oklahoma State, fourth in the BCS standings, and No. 1 LSU

have big games remaining against No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 13

Georgia, respectively.

”That’s out of our hands but I think we’ve proven we should be

there without a doubt,” said Alabama tight end Brad Smelley, who

had six catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.

Richardson ran 27 times and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in

his final chance to impress Heisman voters. He had runs of 35 and

57 yards to set up second-half scores.

”To me, Trent’s the best football player in the country,”

Saban said.

The thousands of `Bama faithful in the stands seemed to

agree.

Fans began chanting first ”Heisman” and then ”LSU” in the

fourth, with a sizable contingent wearing crimson and white

remaining in the stands afterward clamoring for a rematch. By then,

there wasn’t all that much orange and blue left.

The Tide fell to LSU 9-6 in an overtime game that `Bama fans at

least feel didn’t settle the matter of which one is better.

Richardson said he’d already gotten a call from LSU star Russell

Shepard saying ”See you in New Orleans” for the title game.

Even if the national picture remains fuzzy, it’s pretty clear

which is the best team in the state.

Alabama entered the quarter with a 309-44 advantage in total

yards but also gave up touchdowns on Ken Carter’s fumble recovery

in the end zone and an 83-yard kick return by Onterio McCalebb.

McCarron completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards but only

attempted five second-half passes. Richardson handled the rest. He

gained 142 yards on 13 carries in the second half against a defense

ranked 98th nationally against the run.

”Any time you’ve got No. 3 in your backfield, a team’s going to

challenge you,” McCarron said.

The result was more than enough to end Auburn’s streak of 14

straight wins at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The Tigers’ biggest offensive weapons were mostly nonfactors.

Tailback Mike Dyer, the SEC’s No. 2 rusher, had three carries at

the half and finished with 13 for 48 yards.

Moseley completed 11 of 18 passes for a paltry 62 yards and the

pick-6. Freshman backup Kiehl Frazier played much of the game but

didn’t complete either of his two pass attempts.

”It was the best defense we’ve played against this year,”

Moseley said. ”I feel pretty confident saying that.”

The Tigers did threaten an offensive touchdown in the fourth but

stalled on downs after getting it to the 5. Then Richardson

scampered down the left sideline and sprinted to the other side of

the field for the 57-yarder.

Auburn managed to hang around for three quarters. Then Milliner

intercepted a badly overthrown pass by Moseley, who has now had

three passes returned for TDs in Auburn’s three biggest games

against LSU, Georgia and Bama.

All those were blowouts but Chizik said his team wasn’t having

flashbacks.

”It wasn’t here we go again,” he said. ”It was just let’s

keep fighting and let’s keep playing and let’s get this thing in

the fourth quarter and keep it close enough where we could win

it.”

The two-point play made it 35-14, and Auburn couldn’t come close

to a second straight huge Iron Bowl comeback.

Like last season, Alabama led 24-7 at the half. This time the

Tigers didn’t have Cam Newton pulling the trigger on a comeback en

route to a Heisman and a national title.

Auburn struck instantly in the second half. Onterio McCalebb

returned the opening kick 83 yards for a touchdown, the Tigers’

first score on a kick return in Iron Bowl history.

The Tigers then held Alabama to a field goal and converted a

fourth-and-1 near midfield but couldn’t sustain the momentum

change.

Auburn followed it up with a fumbled pitch for a 10-yard loss, a

penalty and a lateral to Frazier, who badly overthrew a receiver

deep.