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A look at every third down during the Iron Bowl

Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today
Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today

By now, Alabama fans need no reminder of how abysmal the Crimson Tide was on third down during its 26-14 loss to Auburn in the Iron Bowl.

On offense, Alabama converted on just 3 of 11 third-down tries, not picking up a first down until 11:35 left in the fourth quarter. Defensively the Crimson Tide was unable to get off the field, allowing Auburn to convert on 9 of 18 third-down opportunities.

“I think one of the biggest differences in the game was third down,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said following the game. “We could not get off of the field on third down, and that allowed them to extend drives and it led to several scoring opportunities for them. We didn’t do a very good job on third down, so we didn’t sustain drives because of that, and that affects time of possession and a lot of other things. That was probably the biggest difference in the game.”

As painful as it might be to relive, here’s a look at every third down that occurred during the Iron Bowl to better understand Alabama’s struggles on the afternoon:

When Auburn had the ball: 9 of 18

Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) reaches for the pylon as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Ronnie Harrison (15) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today
Auburn Tigers running back Kerryon Johnson (21) reaches for the pylon as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Ronnie Harrison (15) during the third quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today

First quarter

13:02 — Third and 11 from the Auburn 36: Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham dropped back in the pocket before seeing an opportunity to tuck the ball and run for a first down. He would have made it if not for an athletic play from Alabama defensive back Tony Brown who chased him down from across the field, bringing Stidham down 2 yards short.

7:59 — Third and 9 from the Auburn 27: Stidham dropped back and hits receiver Nate Craig-Myers over the middle for a 25-yard pass. Brown was beaten in coverage, allowing Stidham to hit Craig-Myers before safety Rodney Harrison could break up the play. FIRST DOWN.

6:02 — Third and 6 from the Alabama 21: Stidham dumped off a screen to running back Kerryon Johnson for a 10-yard gain. It was a perfect play call as Alabama was caught blitzing, easily allowing Johnson to beat Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson to the edge. FIRST DOWN.

4:38 — Third and 2 from the Alabama 3: Johnson hit a wide-open Craig-Myers for a 3-yard touchdown on a jump pass out of the Wildcat formation. It was a flawless trick play as Alabama was expecting a run. Johnson sold the keep on the option before running up two steps and dumping the ball in for the score. FIRST DOWN.

1:21 — Third and 4 from the Alabama 27: Stidham rolled to his left and hit a wide-open Ryan Davis for a 9-yard gain. Davis ran a wheel route behind Craig-Myers. FIRST DOWN.

0:04 — Third and goal from the Alabama 4: Alabama caught a break as Stidham mishandled a snap out of the shotgun, allowing defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne to jump on the loose ball.

Second quarter

12:04 — Third and 5 from the Auburn 27: Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick applied pressure and knocked Stidham’s arm to cause an incompletion.

5:05 — Third and 12 from the Alabama 47: Under pressure, Stidham tried to tuck it and run, but nothing was there.

2:07 — Third and 6 from the Alabama 45: Stidham hit Davis on a crossing route over the middle for 23 yards. Harrison was late to pick up Davis which led to him being wide open across the middle. FIRST DOWN.

0:38 — Third and 8 from the Alabama 20: Stidham hit Davis across the middle, but this time Harrison was there to stop the play 4 yards short of the first. Auburn kicked a field goal the next play to take a 10-7 lead into the half.

Third quarter

11:59 — Third and 3 from the Auburn 28: Receiver Will Hasting slipped a block from Wilson allowing Stidham to hit him over the middle for a 20-yard gain. FIRST DOWN.

10:17 — Third and 8 from the Alabama 27: Alabama’s pass rush got to Stidham, forcing him to throw the ball away. Auburn settled for a field goal.

6:57 — Third and 5 at the Auburn 36: Stidham dropped back and threaded in a nice pass to Davis for 25 yards. Defensive back Levi Wallace was in coverage. FIRST DOWN.

5:56 — Third and 7 at the Alabama 36: It looked like Alabama would get to Stidham for a sack. However, Wilson just missed the quarterback, allowing him to run for 9 yards. FIRST DOWN.

3:12 — Third and 1 at the Alabama 3: Johnson lined up out of the Wildcat again, but this time he kept the ball, running to the right for 2 yards. The running back punched it into the end zone from the 1-yard line on the next play. FIRST DOWN.

Fourth quarter

7:54 — Third and 4 from the Auburn 37: Eli Stove was stopped for a 1-yard gain on an end around out of the Wildcat. Alabama then jumped offside on fourth down to extend the drive.

5:40 — Third and 4 from the Auburn 49: Stidam was stuffed on a 1-yard run up the middle.

0:53 — Third and 12 from the Auburn 44: Running back Kam Martin was stuffed on a run up the middle as Auburn ran out the clock.

When Alabama had the ball: 3 of 11

Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) is unable to make a catch during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today
Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) is unable to make a catch during the second quarter against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo | USA Today


First quarter

9:54— Third and 3 from the 50: Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts took the ball on a designed run to the left out of the pistol formation. Damien Harris picked up a block to free Hurts to the edge but the quarterback was brought down 1 yard short by Auburn defensive back Stephen Roberts.

Second quarter

13:59 — Third and 5 from the Alabama 14: Hurts’ first read was covered and he tucked the ball under pressure in the pocket. After rolling to his right, he threw the ball away.

9:37 — Third and 3 from the Auburn 41: Running back Josh Jacobs was stuffed on a shotgun handoff up the middle. Hurts picked up the first on the ensuing fourth and 1.

3:01 — Third and 4 from the Alabama 8: Hurts floated a nice pass to Calvin Ridley but the receiver was unable to come up with it. Ridley out-jumped Auburn’s Jordyn Peters, but the defensive back was able to jar the ball loose once it hit Ridley’s hands. It was a catch Alabama expects Ridley to make and one the receiver surely wants back.

Third quarter

8:46 — Third and 5 from the Alabama 28: Hurts hit running back Bo Scarbrough on a screen, but Roberts was there to stop the powerful back 1 yard short of the first down. This was one of the moments where it seemed Auburn wanted it more. Roberts (5-11, 189 pounds) did great to stuff Scarbrough (6-2, 235 pounds) one-on-one.

1:01 — Third and 9 from the Auburn 17: This was a killer play for Alabama. The Crimson Tide originally had a third and 4, but a delay of game moved them back 5 yards. After Hurts was pressured in the pocket, he tucked the ball and rolled to his right before heaving up a prayer off his back foot to the back of the end zone. The ball looked like it was going to be intercepted and was tipped away by Auburn defensive back Javaris Davis. However, it appeared Alabama had caught a break as tight end Hale Hentges dove in to pick the ball off the ground for a touchdown. Upon review, Hentges’ catch hit the ground and was ruled incomplete. Alabama botched a field goal on the next play.

Fourth quarter

11:35 — Third and 2 from the Alabama 26: After faking a screen pass to Harris, Hurts tucked the ball and ran for 10 yards. FIRST DOWN.


10:48 — Third and 7 from the Alabama 45: For a second it looked like Hurts was in the midst of leading another comeback for Alabama. After his first read was covered, the quarterback tucked the ball and rolled to his left for a 16-yard gain. FIRST DOWN.

9:37 — Third and 4 from the Auburn 33: Hurts was not ready for a snap from center Bradley Bozeman. Alabama recovered the loose ball, but the play resulted in a loss of 5 yards. Alabama then suffered another bad snap on fourth down, but Auburn had too many men on the field. Alabama still came up a yard short on the ensuing fourth-down try.

Following the game, Saban explained both bad snaps.

“We were going with the clap, and Bo (Scarbrough) said he heard someone clap,” Saban said. “Whether it was one of their players or one of our players -- I am not accusing anyone or anything. Then the second time, Bo clapped to try to get the line’s attention to find out who the Mike was, we weren’t even set on the play.

“I thought they should have called illegal procedure on us. Two miscommunications because you’re going on silent count, we could have made a change and done a different kind of silent count and used the leg lift instead of the clap. It was very unfortunate in a crucial situation in the game where we had a chance to get back in the game.”

4:43 — Third and 7 from the Alabama 32: Hurts dropped back before seeing a running lane up the middle for 8 yards. He had to put his shoulder down to pick up the final 2 yards. This was Alabama’s final third down conversion of the game. FIRST DOWN.

2:38 — Third and 22 from the Auburn 42: Hurts overshot Calvin Ridley on a crossing route over the middle.

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