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Recap: Nick Saban-less Alabama posts 29-point win over Auburn

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 1 Alabama defeated No. 22 Auburn, 42-13, Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide advanced to 8-0 on the year, while the Tigers dropped to 5-3.

Alabama was without head coach Nick Saban for the first time since the 2006 season, as he watched from home with a positive COVID-19 case. But the nation’s top-ranked team managed just fine without one of the best coaches to ever roam a college sideline. Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian acted as head coach and still called plays — 53 of them for 445 yards.

Quarterback Mac Jones had another big game with five passing touchdowns and 302 yards on 18-of-26 passing. He joined Tua Tagovailoa as the only Crimson Tide quarterbacks to throw for five touchdowns in an Iron Bowl. Wide receivers DeVonta Smith and John Metchie hauled in two touchdowns each, while tight end Jahleel Billingsley caught the other — his first at UA.

Smith led all players with 171 receiving yards on seven receptions. Meanwhile, running back Najee Harris rushed for 96 yards and a 39-yard rushing touchdown on 11 attempts, giving him 17 scores on the season. The senior running back also caught two passes for 34 yards.

Defensively, UA allowed its in-state rival to gain 347 yards but surrendered its first touchdown in 12 quarters. Cornerback Josh Jobe led the team with 10 tackles, while freshman defensive backs Malachi Moore and Brian Branch each picked off passes. For Branch, it was his first.

Here’s how Alabama’s Game 8 win over Auburn unfolded:

FIRST QUARTER

Alabama 7, Auburn 0 (5:10) | After missing on a couple of throws downfield to open the game, Mac Jones hit a wide-open DeVonta Smith in stride for the game’s first score (66 yards).

SECOND QUARTER

Alabama 14, Auburn 0 (14:04) | Aided by long receiving plays by Smith (26 yards) and Najee Harris (25), as well as a third-down scramble by Jones, the Tide scored its second touchdown of the afternoon on a play-action pass from Jones to wide receiver John Metchie (7 yards).

Alabama 14, Auburn 3 (8:51) | Alabama appeared to force and recover a fumble, but after an official review, Anthony Schwartz was ruled down before coughing up the football. The Crimson Tide defense held the Tigers to a 47-yard field goal from placekicker Anders Carlson.

Alabama 21, Auburn 3 (6:24) | Jones threw his third touchdown pass of the afternoon to tight end Jahleel Billingsley (24 yards). It was the first receiving touchdown of Billingsley’s career.

THIRD QUARTER

Alabama 21, Auburn 6 (10:36) | Auburn broke into Alabama territory with a 37-yard pass and catch between Bo Nix and Shedrick Jackson but could only muster a field goal (45 yards).

Alabama 28, Auburn 6 (9:08) | Jones faked a screen pass to Metchie and instead threw a slant to Smith, who did the rest on a 58-yard touchdown to cap a 3-play, 78-yard scoring drive.

Alabama 35, Auburn 6 (4:28) | After visiting the medical tent on the sideline, Harris broke free for a 39-yard rushing touchdown. It was the second-longest run of his four-year career.

FOURTH QUARTER

Alabama 42, Auburn 6 (13:27) | UA’s longest scoring drive of the game (12 plays, 5:10) increased its lead to 36 and was capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Metchie.

Alabama 42, Auburn 13 (4:39) | Alabama gave the ball to Auburn at its own 4-yard line by way of a Brian Robinson fumble. The Tide then llet Nix slip free from what should have been a safety and gave the Tigers free yards with a pass interference penalty, and so Auburn scored its first touchdown of the afternoon on a 1-yard quarterback run (12 plays, 96 yards, 5:59).

What’s next: Alabama will travel to Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday, Dec. 5, to make up its game against LSU, which was postponed on Nov. 14. The game will kick off at 7 p.m. CT on CBS. 

Did you know BOL has a podcast? The Built By BamaOnLine Podcast brings you the latest Alabama news and insight from Travis Reier, Charlie Potter, Hank South and Tim Watts. Catch the latest episode right here or subscribe on iTunes today!

Contact Charlie Potter by personal message or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).

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