Mac Jones' five touchdowns lead Alabama past Auburn
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Nick Saban wasn’t present, but No. 1 Alabama sure showed up. Mac Jones tossed five touchdowns, DeVonta Smith eclipsed the 100-yard mark in the first half and the Crimson Tide's defense continued to show improvement as Alabama downed Auburn 42-13 inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday.
For the first time since 2006, Alabama was led on the sidelines by someone other than Saban as the head coach was isolated at his home after testing positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian took over head-coaching duties while still calling the offense. The transition appeared effortless.
After a three-and-out on its first possession, Alabama scored touchdowns on its next three drives to jump out to a commanding 21-3 lead with 6:24 left in the half. The Tide didn’t look back from there.
For an entire offseason, Jones faced criticism from the Alabama faithful for his two costly interceptions in last year’s Iron Bowl. A year later, the redshirt junior was able to atone for those errors, completing 18 of 26 passes for 302 yards and five touchdowns without turning the ball over. Auburn’s defense came into the afternoon ranked second in the SEC, allowing just 237 yards per game through the air.
Smith was Jones’ favorite target on the day recording seven receptions for 171 yards and two touchdowns, none easier than a 66-yard score in the first quarter. During that play, Auburn’s defense bit on a play-action, leaving no defenders within 20 yards of the senior receiver, who caught the ball at the 25-yard line before jogging into the end zone. Smith broke the century mark by the second quarter, marking his fifth 100-yard performance in the past six games.
After a slow start, Najee Harris began to break free against a tired Auburn defense, carrying the ball 11 times for 96 yards including a 39-yard touchdown.
Meanwhile, Alabama’s defense continued to show improvement.
Alabama entered the game 11th in the SEC with just 11 sacks through seven games. Saturday, the Tide sacked Bo Nix three times while recording eight tackles for a loss.
Auburn finally found the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run by Nix late in the fourth quarter. the score marked the first touchdown Alabama's defense had surrendered since the third quarter of its 48-17 victory over Tennessee on Oct. 24.
Alabama honored 17 players before the game for Senior Day. While Saban was unable to shake hands with his seniors in person, the video board played a prerecorded message from the head coach to the group before the ceremony.
Alabama improved its Iron Bowl record to 47-37-1 while avenging last year’s 48-45 loss to Auburn. The Tide’s revenge tour continues next week as it travels to Baton Rouge, La. for a matchup against LSU.
Offensive MVP — Mac Jones
Jones' five touchdowns are a career-high and tie him for second on Alabama's single-game list. They also match the five scores through the air Tua Tagovailoa recorded against the Tigers in 2018.
Earlier in the week, Auburn quarterback Nix raised some eyebrows when he said Jones “does a great job managing the game.” Whether or not the remark was meant as a slight toward the Alabama quarterback, Jones did much more than manage Alabama’s offense Saturday.
Jones' 230.3 passer rating was his second-highest mark of the season. He is just the second passer to throw for 300 yards against Auburn this season.
Perhaps Jones' best play on the afternoon came when he sidestepped a defender before dropping in a perfectly-placed pass to Jahleel Billingsley for a 24-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 21-3 lead in the second quarter.
Jones’ Iron Bowl performance marked his fifth 300-yard game and his fourth game with four or more touchdowns this season.
Defensive MVP — Christopher Allen
Christopher Allen set the tone early with a third-down sack on Auburn’s first possession. While there were a lot of worthy recipients for this award, the redshirt junior gets the nod after recording four stops, including a sack and two stops for a loss with two quarterback hurries.
Josh Jobe led the team with 10 tackles, including .5 for a loss. The junior cornerback nearly forced a fumble and also tallied a pass breakup. Christian Harris also earns honorable mention with eight stops, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries. Malachi Moore recorded his third interception of the season, while fellow freshman defensive back Brian Branch notched his first career pick.