High Tide

High Tide

Published Nov. 27, 2009 5:47 p.m. ET

AP Sports Writer
November 27, 2009; 6:36 p.m.

AUBURN, Ala. - No. 2 Alabama found its championship form in the nick of time.

most of the game, the Crimson Tide stayed unbeaten with a 26-21 victory
Friday over Auburn, taking the lead with a nearly perfect drive that
was capped by Greg McElroy's 4-yard touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch with
1:24 left.

Alabama (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) completed
a second straight perfect regular season in the Iron Bowl, but did it
the hard way against its bitter rival. The Tide fell behind in the
opening minutes, but came out ahead to do its part to set up 1 vs. 2
showdown with top-ranked Florida in the SEC championship game.

But forget the national and league championship, the state title almost slipped away.

(7-5, 3-5) pushed the ball to the Alabama 37 on the final drive, but
Chris Todd's pass to the end zone was batted down by the Tide defense.

The Tide survived a shaky effort by it's usually stellar defense and a sub-par game from Heisman Trophy contender Mark Ingram.

SEC's leading rusher was held to 30 yards on 16 carries and was on the
bench for most of the game-winning drive apparently having his left arm
checked out by trainers.

McElroy and Julio Jones took over
without him, aided by five runs and a 17-yard catch by freshman Trent
Richardson on the 15-play, 79-yard drive that consumed more than seven

McElroy, who has been criticized at times as a weak
link in an offense with a powerful running game, completed his final
seven passes for 62 yards on the climactic drive after opening with an
incompletion. Jones made four catches, three for first downs.

fans remained in the stands for several minutes when it was over, some
seemingly stunned and others applauding a closer-than-expected game,
while a sizable crimson-and-white contingent celebrated. A handful of
'Bama players later returned to the field briefly.

Until the
final minutes, Auburn had supplied most of the big plays and its
maligned defense largely outplayed the nation's top unit.

outgained Alabama 332-291 and, more surprisingly, dominated on the
ground 151-73. McElroy was 21 of 31 for 218 yards and a pair of
touchdowns. He was sacked three times.

The Tigers stunned the
Tide by rocketing out to a 14-0 lead in the first 9:18 when every trick
seemed to work. Alabama hadn't allowed a touchdown in the previous two

Alabama tied it up by halftime but then Todd pump faked
and hit Darvin Adams for a 72-yard touchdown on the Tigers' first drive
of the second half to make it 21-14.

Alabama had three straight
trips across midfield, ending with two field goals by Leigh Tiffin and
Ingram's failed fourth-and-1 run. Tiffin had earlier had a 42-yard
attempt fall well short, another unfamiliar sight this season for the
Tide season.

That left Auburn nursing a 21-20 lead going into the fourth.

Tigers had a solid chance to extend the lead after taking over at
Alabama's 44 following yet another defensive stand. But the Tide
defense tackled Ben Tate for a 7-yard loss and then buried Todd for
another 10-yard loss.

That set the stage for McElroy, who must
have won over even his most ardent doubters with the poise and
precision he displayed as the clock wound down.