AUBURN, Ala. — Lifeless. Hopeless. Bleak. However you want to describe it, that's the way things looked for Alabama for most of Saturday's Iron Bowl against Auburn, but especially so after a turnover on downs with two minutes left in the game. Alabama only had two timeouts left, and Auburn had the ball.
However, thanks to a little help from Tanks Bigsby being dragged out of bounds on second down, and another tackle for loss from the Alabama defense forcing Auburn to punt, the Crimson Tide got the ball back with 1:35 left from their own three-yard line.
What came next was a masterful drive from Alabama quarterback Bryce Young with Alabama trailing 10-3. Young capped a 12-play, 97-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown pass to freshman Ja'Corey Brooks with 0:24 left to tie the game at 10-10 and send it into overtime.
Four overtimes later, Young connected with John Metchie III on a two-point conversion to win the Iron Bowl 24-22.
"Nine [Bryce Young] just gave me a route, and I ran the route he called, so it all goes to the quarterback," Metchie said about his game-winning play. "The kid’s the GOAT."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he's never seen his players as happy as he saw them after that win over Auburn.
"It always didn’t pan out for us, but you cannot ever imagine players competing in a game any better than what they competed in this game," Saban said. "I’m talking about the defense getting stops when they needed to. The offense going on a 97-yard drive to tie the game. Players playing and making plays that hadn’t played that much this year that were young players.”
On the game-tying drive, Young had a 22-yard completion to Metchie III on third-and-10. He had a 21-yard completion to Brooks. And when facing a fourth-and-seven with the game on the line, he connected with tight end Jahleel Billingsley for 14 yards.
The exclamation point came a few plays later on third-and-10 with the touchdown to pass to Brooks, the first of the young receiver's career. The Alabama quarterback said he was actually kind of excited heading into that situation with 1:34 left because he has all the confidence in the world in his teammates, and they knew what needed to get done.
"The defense played tremendously that entire game and gave us some time left, so we knew what was at stake," Young said. "In a situation like that, there’s no one I would rather be with than all the guys I have out there."
With the new overtime rules in college football this season, once a game enters a third overtime period, the teams get the ball at the three-yard line instead of the 25. From the third OT on, each team essentially goes for two on every play.
Once in overtime, the two teams went back and forth for three straight periods. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first. For Alabama, it was a touchdown pass to Slade Bolden. For the Tigers, it was Landen King.
In the second OT, Auburn's backup kicker Ben Patton nailed a 49-yard field goal. Will Reichard answered with a 38-yard field goal into the heart of the Auburn student section.
In 3OT, Young connected with Metchie for the two-point score, and Auburn quarterback TJ Finley found John Samuel Shenker to tie the game at 22.
Auburn got the ball to start the fourth overtime possession, and Finley's pass fell incomplete. This set up the game-winning opportunity for the Tide. Young once again found his favorite target for the 24-22 emotional walk off win.
It was an abysmal first half for Alabama offensively. The Crimson Tide was shutout in the first half for the first time this season and only produced 68 yards of offense.
Young only completed 38% of his passes with no touchdowns. It was a combination of drops, overthrows and Young having basically no time to throw the ball. He was sacked five times in the first half alone.
What was already looking bleak became even more dire when season-leading wide receiver Jameson Williams got ejected from the game for targeting on a tackle on a punt return with 9:02 in the second quarter.
While the offense was struggling mightily, the Alabama defense was putting together its best game of the year. Time after time, the defense was put in position to make stops in Alabama territory because of the offenses's ineptitude, and they often did.
The defense only allowed 159 yards from Auburn. The only other game where they allowed fewer yards was the New Mexico State game when they gave up 138.
"It was a great comeback," Saban said. "There were many times when those guys could’ve just thrown in the towel and said, ‘Well, they’ve got the ball in great field position. If they score one more time this game’s probably over.’ And they would always get a sack or get a stop.”
Outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. had another big individual game. He finished with seven tackles, including three for loss and a sack. He said the defense had prepared for this type of game all week long.
"Sometimes the offense, they have our back, and it just so happened that this game we had to have their back," Anderson said.
After 10 straight possessions with no score to start the game, Auburn finally broke through after the targeting gave them favorable field position at the Alabama 39. Dallas Turner got a sack on second down, but on third-and-15, the Tigers' picked on Josh Jobe for a 29-yard completition down to the Auburn 15. On the next play, Finley connected with Kobe Hudson for a touchdown to give the Tigers the 7-0 lead.
Alabama got the ball to start the second half, and it was a near disastrous start for the Crimson Tide. Young got sacked on his own five-yard line, forcing James Burnip to punt out of the back of his own end zone. Auburn returned the punt to the 22, but the defense was able to hold strong for a field-goal stop to make the Auburn lead 10-0.
That field goal would be the last time the Tigers would score in regulation.
"After halftime, it just seemed like everybody was all in, and we were fighting like I’ve never seen us fight all year long," Saban said.
Alabama and Young shook off the Jordan-Hare voodoo to win the Iron Bowl in Auburn for the first time since 2015. Next up will be the No. 1 Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship.
For Saban, this is a game he's going to cherish.
"Most of the time I remember the ones we lose," Saban said. "But I think I'm going to remember this one because of the way the players competed in the game."