Cam Newton’s heroics aside, this game turned on two plays made by Auburn’s defense in the first half which is somewhat ironic considering the Tide picked up 17 first downs, and amassed 379 yards and 24 points in the first 30 minutes of play.
Key Play #1: Already up 21-0, Alabama had the ball first and ten at their own 40. Greg McElroy hit running back Mark Ingram on a 41 yard pass play. With Ingram stumbling and going to the ground inside the Auburn 20, Senior Defensive End Antoine Carr, who never gave up on the play, was able to punch the ball loose at the 19. The ball rolled into the endzone where Auburn recovered it for a touchback. Instead of a first down in the redzone, Auburn instead got the football and kept points off the board. This was only the second fumble Mark Ingram had lost in his college career.
Key Play #2: Now leading 24-7 and with a 2nd and Goal at the Auburn 8, Junior Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley shot through the line and picked up the trifecta: sack the quarterback, force a fumble, and then recover it. At worst, the Tide were looking at a Field Goal. In what ended up being a 1 point win, this was the difference in the game.
Equally important was how the Tiger defense were able to completely turn things around in the second half. After throwing for a career high 335 yards in the first half, Greg McElroy was limited to 8/14 for just 42 yards the rest of the way. Wide Receiver Julio Jones who had 7 catches for 174 yards including a 68 yard touchdown strike in the first half was limited to 3 catches for 25 yards after the break.
First Half Totals: