Alabama Crimson Tide shed sluggish start, rally to win Iron Bowl with SEC title game on deck

AUBURN, Ala. -- Despite turning in one of its most inept offensive performances of the Nick Saban era during regulation, No. 3 Alabama rallied to defeat Auburn 24-22 in the fourth overtime period Saturday.

With 1:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, trailing by seven points and their College Football Playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Crimson Tide quarterback Bryce Young led the team on a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive. Alabama wideout Ja'Corey Brooks, who entered the game with two catches on the season, came away with the game-tying, 28-yard touchdown catch with 24 seconds left.

Auburn ran out the clock, forcing the first overtime in Iron Bowl history, and Young found John Metchie III for a 2-point conversion in the fourth overtime to win it.

"I can't tell you how proud I am how our players kept competing," Saban said. "Over and over, we came up with plays."

Young came into the weekend as a Heisman Trophy favorite but struggled for much of the game. Through the first three quarters, he completed 12 of 26 passes for 138 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. It was his first interception in his previous 225 pass attempts.

But during the fourth quarter and overtime, Young completed 12 of 22 passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns with no picks.

"It was a hard-fought win against a really good team in a really tough environment," Young said. "It's the Iron Bowl. There's a lot of emotion involved. It's something we take very seriously and take a lot of pride in."

The offense was able to make good adjustments at halftime, Saban said, getting the ball out of Young's hands quicker, which alleviated the pressure on the offensive line and led to more success in the running game.

Saban said the message to his team during the break was, "These guys are dictating the game to us. We need to dictate the game to them."

"After halftime, it seemed like everyone was all-in and we were fighting like we haven't seen them fight all year long," he added.

Young was sacked seven times, leading to two changes on the offensive line, replacing right tackle Damieon George Jr. with Chris Owens and center Darrian Dalcourt with Seth McLaughlin.

Young also was without his top receiver, Jameson Williams, who was ejected from the game in the first half for targeting on a punt return. It was the first of several mental mistakes by Alabama.

A second-half field goal went awry when the holder, Paul Tyson, dropped the snap. It was the first time in five years that Alabama had gone three quarters without scoring a point.

Then early in the fourth quarter, Young couldn't corral a low snap on fourth-and-2 and was sacked.

All told, Alabama committed 11 penalties for 129 yards, including a roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter that negated an interception. Alabama running back Brian Robinson Jr., who had been averaging 94.5 rushing yards per game, was held to 71 yards on 15 carries Saturday.

"There were a lot of things we had to fix," Saban said, "but I think the one thing you can say is ... the fact that the players played hard and really wanted to win the game and made an outstanding effort to do it."

He later added, "It was a great comeback. There were many times we could have thrown in the towel."

Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said he was proud of his team's effort but disappointed by the loss.

"Alabama's a really good football team," he said. "They showed that tonight. They have a lot of fight."

Harsin said that, in the end, Alabama made one more play than Auburn did.

"We just came up short," he said.

Alabama will play No. 1 Georgia in the SEC championship game Saturday in Atlanta.