AUBURN, Ala. -- The upset bid couldn't be sustained. Not even a mirror image of the 2013 Prayer at Jordan-Hare was enough for Auburn this time.
The defense held in the red zone, Jason Smith tipped a pass to himself for a miracle touchdown and still Alabama wouldn't be denied. The No. 2 Crimson Tide didn't fall victim to yet another wild Iron Bowl finish as they held on Saturday to beat Auburn 29-13.
What the win means for Alabama: The energy was there, but the execution wasn't. For the first time in weeks, Alabama wasn't sharp and didn't play like the second-ranked team in the country. The offense was out of sync and the defensive line proved to be susceptible up the middle against Jovon Robinson and the Auburn running game. It was an out-of-character showing for Nick Saban's squad, particularly early, but it never got bad enough to derail the Tide's championship aspirations. In a rivalry game on the road, surviving was enough. Alabama will get a chance to right the ship next weekend in the SEC title game against Florida and win its way into the College Football Playoff.
What the loss means for Auburn: A 14-point underdog, Auburn wasn't expected to make this one much of a game. But that's exactly what the Tigers did as the defense showed more fight than at any point during the season. Will Muschamp's unit won the battle of the red zone and had quarterback Jake Coker scrambling for his life for much of the night. It wasn't enough, however, as Auburn settled for field goals too often on offense. At 6-6, the Tigers will play in a bowl game, but coach Gus Malzahn has to wonder what might have been had they pulled off an epic Iron Bowl upset.
Uh, what? In the Iron Bowl, anything can happen. But no one came to Auburn on Saturday afternoon expecting a field goal-kicking contest. That's what this game turned into, though, as the first-half scoring fell exclusively to the kickers. Auburn's Daniel Carlson and Alabama's Adam Griffith combined for 18 points before intermission, and the offenses combined to convert a paltry 4 of 16 third downs.
Player of the game: Fairly or not, Griffith became the scapegoat of the Kick Six finish two years ago. If only he had put that 58-yard attempt through the uprights, Alabama would have beaten Auburn and could have played for a national championship. But if you were looking for Griffith to carry that burden into this year's Iron Bowl, you were wrong. The redshirt junior drilled all five of his field goal attempts, including a 50-yarder with an Auburn player waiting in the end zone just in case it fell short.