Practice didn't make perfect for Tide on winning play
by Marq Burnett
Nov 30, 2013 | 2047 views |  0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alabama's John Fulton absorbs the loss. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Alabama's John Fulton absorbs the loss. (Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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AUBURN -- Alabama tight end Brian Vogler said that every Friday the Crimson Tide practices the situation they faced on the final play of the Iron Bowl, but never with an actual return man.

So when Auburn's Chris Davis caught the ball nine yards deep in the end zone, no walk-through could save the Tide from the chaos that ensued.

The result: a 100-yard touchdown return, a 34-28, walk-off victory for the Tigers and the field in Jordan-Hare Stadium covered with ecstatic Auburn fans.

So what happened?

"It just looked like we didn’t have anybody out on the right side," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "The right wing and the right tight end, everybody is supposed to fan the field. We covered it to the left, that’s why he went to the right. I couldn’t see it that well down their sidelines.

"First time I’ve ever lost a game that way. First time I’ve ever seen a game lost that way."

After a review left one second on the clock, the Tide went for a 57-yard field goal attempt from freshman Adam Griffith.

"Griff makes them from 60 in practice. So, there was a shot," Saban said. "We had the wind behind us. We had the wind in the fourth quarter. He didn’t hit it great, but we still should have covered it, and the game shouldn’t have ended that way."

Vogler had a shot at making a tackle on the last play, but wasn’t able to get more than a few fingers on Davis’ shoulder.

"I just took a bad angle, and I didn’t do what I needed to do," Vogler said.

For the first time all season, Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) simply couldn’t stop the run. Heading into this game, the Tide had allowed just one 100-yard rusher, and the most the team had given up to an opponent was 165 (Arkansas).

But on Saturday, Auburn's Tre Mason gashed the Tide for 164 rushing yards. Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall added 99 yards on the ground, including a 45-yard sprint for a touchdown.

The Tigers (11-1, 7-1 SEC) ripped off 296 rushing yards to become the first team to run for 200-plus yards on the Tide since 2011 (Georgia Southern).

"Their running game has had a lot of success against everybody all year long," Saban said. "Very difficult offense to defend. We certainly have to stop the run a little better than we did today if we want to have an opportunity to beat a team like this because that’s something they do extremely well."

For the first time all season, Alabama was noticeably undisciplined and paid for it. The Tide missed multiple defensive assignments, and the Tigers took advantage.

On Auburn’s game-tying possession, Marshall found wide receiver Sammie Coates wide open for a 39-yard touchdown. Saban said the cornerback, Cyrus Jones, didn’t stay with the guy in coverage like his assignment called for.

"You have to have tremendous discipline to face this offense. … We made a mental error in coverage, and it cost us a touchdown," Saban said.

For the first time all season, Alabama wasn’t able to put an opponent away. When the Tide went up 21-7 in the second quarter, the Tigers immediately responded with a touchdown drive. In the second half, Alabama possessed the ball six times, but only found the end zone once.

The Tide missed three field goals, punted once and failed to convert on fourth down on its other five drives.

"The fact of the matter is, we didn’t make plays when we needed to," Saban said.

Added quarterback AJ McCarron: "We didn’t play our best game by any means, but sometimes, luck just isn’t on your side."

Saban addressed what Vogler called a "quiet" and "sad" locker room. Saban’s words centered around how proud he was of the team and how the year isn’t quite over.

"I told the team that I was proud of the way they’ve played all season long, the way they improved as a team," Saban said. "I’m very, very proud of our football team to win 11 games.

"I still think we have one of the best teams in the country. I don’t think we played our best game today. Everyone knew what was at stake for us today, and we didn’t make the plays when we needed to make them. That responsibility starts with me, every player and every coach on the team in terms of how we contributed to what we did today. The ultimate responsibility is mine."

Gone are the hopes of a return to the SEC Championship Game and dreams of a three-peat are all but crushed.

"It was pretty much championship or bust. That was the main reason I came back," linebacker C.J. Mosley said. "It sucks the way it ended, but we have to stick together and move on to our next game."

Still, Alabama has something to play for. The Tide will likely get an at-large bid to a BCS bowl.

"It’s about how we respond," Vogler said. "People are going to remember this season based off of this game, but hopefully, if we put on a good show in whatever game we fall into, hopefully, people will remember us for that."
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