Saturday's Iron Bowl, the annual matchup between state rivals Alabama and Auburn lived up to the hype and then some. It may have ended with a disappointing whimper of a penalty call, but the first 59 minutes delivered more than its share of exhilarating moments. Before we get to some highlights, a quick stat about Alabama coach Nick Saban's success against Auburn over the years: he is 10-8 overall, but the 10 wins came against Auburn teams with 8 or fewer wins, while all 8 losses were to Auburn teams with 9 or more wins. Food for thought.
The first player worthy of our focus is Alabama backup QB Mac Jones. With a name like that, you expect big things from him, and for the most part he was great, throwing for 335 yard and 4 touchdowns. However he made 2 crucial mistakes in the form of pick-6's, including one while on the Auburn 2-yard line that was returned 98 yards. Adding insult to injury, the ball was intercepted after hitting his receiver, who was not looking at him, in the behind. The Butt Fumble officially has company. Obviously Alabama is not going to be as good without their star QB, Tua Tagovailoa, but this was a must win game to keep their hopes alive of making the College Football Playoff. For the first time in the format's short existence, Alabama will not qualify.
Next up is Alabama wide receiver, Jaylen Waddle, who simply put, made everyone else on the field look like they running in quicksand. He put up 3 receiving touchdowns and a kick return touchdown. All of them featured him reaching warp speed and were incredibly fun to watch. That he is 4th on Alabama's wide receiver depth chart speaks to their loaded roster.
Unfortunately, that loaded roster does not include a reliable kicker, a position that has plagued the Crimson in recent years. Joseph Bulovas missed a 30-yard field goal with 2 minutes left that would have tied the game. His ball clanked off the left upright and he collapsed to the ground. It was a heartbreaking moment but there seemed to be hope when Alabama stopped Auburn from getting a first down and were poised to get the ball back with 55 seconds left with a punt coming to speedster Waddle. But on 4th down, Auburn sent out their offense, and Alabama struggled to adjust and was called for a penalty for having 12 men on the field, giving Auburn a first down and effectively ending the game. It was an unfitting way for such a thrilling game to end, but what a ride it was.