Alabama defense unravels as Auburn pounds out upset in Iron Bowl

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) -- No. 11 Auburn felt like the wrong team was

getting all the hype in this state, and the Tigers set out to prove

it Saturday.

Unleashing a relentless pass rush, No. 11 Auburn upstaged one of

the nation's stingiest defenses and remained dominant in the Iron

Bowl with a 28-18 win over No. 8 Alabama.

By halftime, the Tigers (9-2, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) were

up 28-7 against a team that was drawing national title buzz two

weeks ago. By the end, they had sacked Brodie Croyle 11 times and

shut down any hint of a comeback.

"I think they got full of themselves," Auburn linebacker

Travis Williams said. "They won some games this year by the skin

of their teeth. We were watching it all year and we were like,

'Man, these guys keep escaping.'

"We really wanted them to be undefeated coming into this game

so we could really make them look bad."

Auburn clinched at least a share of the Western Division title

for the fifth time in six seasons with its second straight win over

a top-10 team and fourth in a row over the team's chief rival. LSU,

which beat Mississippi 40-7 Saturday night, would play for the SEC

title if it beats Arkansas next week.

With an anemic offense, Alabama (9-2, 6-2) continued a

season-ending tumble with its second loss in a row after riding the

nation's top scoring defense to a No. 4 ranking.

"Two weeks ago, we were 9-0 and we felt like we were knocking

on the door," Tide coach Mike Shula said. "Now we feel like we

are trying to find the right address."

The Tigers sacked Croyle seven times for minus-51 yards in the

first half and cashed in on three short touchdown drives in the

opening 11 minutes. Brandon Cox threw two touchdown passes and Ben

Obomanu scored on a 7-yard catch and a 45-yard reverse before


"We didn't have our poise in the first half and that is

something that if you don't have it against a good football team at

home, it is going to be ugly," Shula said.

Alabama's offense couldn't muster any comeback, allowing Auburn

fans to comfortably gloat with chants of "Overrated!".

"There was no doubt who was going to win this football game

after the first 5 or 6 minutes," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville

said. "Our guys came out and made a statement."

He made a push for the Tigers to get a BCS bowl bid, SEC

champions or not, "because we will bring a lot of folks."

The game hardly lived up to its billing. The teams entered the

game with the best combined record since coming in 19-0-1 in 1994,

but it was a mismatch from the outset.

Auburn's defense bullied a young offensive line so badly, the

Tide handed off to Kenneth Darby on three consecutive plays down 18

points in the final minutes of the third quarter.

"It was a beautiful sight," Tuberville said of the defensive

performance that limited Alabama to 188 yards.

This is the first time since 1986-89 that Auburn has won four

Iron Bowl games in a row. Several players rushed straight to the

student section to celebrate and defensive end Quentin Groves

plunged into the stands. Tuberville waved a white towel toward the

fans as he took a brief victory trot behind the end zone.

The Tigers were coming off a 31-30 win at Georgia and have now

won six of their last seven games against top-10 teams.

Croyle was just 13-of-25 passing for a season-low 109 yards,

many of those coming on a late drive that fell short.

"I think after we started hitting him a few times he got a

little rattled," defensive tackle T.J. Jackson said. "Every time

we hit him and picked him up we told him, 'Hey, we'll be back."

Making his first Iron Bowl start, Cox was 13-of-15 for 120 yards

in the first half. After that, he mostly handed off to Kenny Irons

or threw it away under pressure to avoid mistakes.

"We put up 28 points and kind of coasted from there," Cox


Irons gained 103 yards on 28 carries, including an 8-yard

scoring run, for his sixth consecutive 100-yard effort.

Alabama drove deep into Auburn territory twice in the closing

minutes, scoring on a 1-yard plunge by backup quarterback John

Parker Wilson with 23 seconds left after a long pass to DJ Hall

took it to the 1.

The Tigers got three touchdowns after starting near or across

midfield on its opening possessions. The Tide was pushed back for a

loss of 35 yards on its first four series.

The Tigers had been overshadowed all season by the Tide,

building the league's top offense despite the loss of three NFL

first-round draft picks from the backfield.

Alabama had built a 9-0 record before injuries to receiver

Tyrone Prothro and center JB Closner took away their main big-play

threat and the offensive line's lone senior.

"We're obviously not as good as we thought we were two weeks

ago," Croyle said. "We thought we were going to go undefeated and

play for the SEC championship. We were almost there.

"They just came out and got on us early, and we never