The take­away

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL SPORTS -

Tua Tago­v­ailoa threw five touch­down passes and ran for a score to lead No. 1 Al­abama to a 52-21 vic­tory over ri­val Auburn last Satur­day.

Tago­v­ailoa and the Crim­son Tide (12-0, 8-0 South­east­ern Con­fer­ence, No. 1 CFP) took over with an ex­plo­sive third quar­ter, when the Heis­man Tro­phy con­tender threw three long touch­down passes. He’s the first Al­abama player to have a hand in six TDs in a game and matched the school record with the five scor­ing passes.

Now, ‘Bama heads to the SEC cham­pi­onship game against No. 5 Ge­or­gia with a guar­an­teed play­off spot on the line.

With Al­abama lead­ing Auburn (7-5, 3-5) 17-14 at half­time, Tago­v­ailoa launched the Tide into an­other SEC blowout. He was 11-of-12 pass­ing for 208 yards and four touch­downs in the sec­ond half, de­spite only play­ing one se­ries in the fourth quar­ter.

Tago­v­ailoa fin­ished 25 of 32 for 324 yards and ran for 26 yards, in­clud­ing a 7-yard touch­down and a 21-yard third­down con­ver­sion on runs.

“I thought Tua was into it,” Al­abama coach Nick Sa­ban said. “His lead­er­ship was re­ally im­por­tant for our of­fense. Don’t ask me why but it doesn’t seem like we had the right kind of en­ergy in the first half.”

The sec­ond-half num­bers in­cluded touch­downs of 46 yards to Jerry Jeudy, 33 to Josh Ja­cobs, 40 to DeVonta Smith and 22 to Henry Ruggs III — all ac­cu­rate strikes down­field.

The game was close un­til Tago­v­ailoa threw a pair of long TD passes in a three-minute span of the third quar­ter. The first hit Jeudy down the left side­line and the sec­ond went to Ja­cobs, who shook off a few de­fend­ers on his way to the end zone.

Auburn had used cre­ative calls to keep it within three at 17-14 at half­time.

Wide re­ceiver An­thony Schwartz ran for a 9-yard touch­down and fel­low re­ceiver Ryan Davis took a lat­eral and launched a 23-yard touch­down pass to Ma­lik Miller. That came with 4 min­utes left be­fore the half af­ter fresh­man Smoke Mon­day blocked a punt.

The Tigers also had Shaun Shiv­ers’ 75-yard touch­down run called back thanks to a hold­ing penalty. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn drew an un­sports­man­like con­duct penalty for his protest of the call.

Auburn was stopped short on a fake field goal in the third quar­ter when backup quar­ter­back Ma­lik Wil­lis threw it to kicker An­ders Carlson. The po­ten­tial three points briefly loomed larger af­ter Jar­rett Stid­ham’s 52-yard touch­down pass to Darius Slay­ton made it 31-21.

It was a run­away from there.

Auburn: Kept it close into the sec­ond half in a game where few gave the Tigers much chance. Stid­ham was 13-of-30 pass­ing for 127 yards with a touch­down and an in­ter­cep­tion, in­clud­ing some drops, and faced heavy pres­sure.

Al­abama: Strug­gled in the first half and dom­i­nated the sec­ond, just like against The Ci­tadel. Avenged last sea­son’s 26-14 loss that shut the Tide out of the SEC cham­pi­onship game.

“I think the SEC is a very good league,” Sa­ban said. “For the team to go un­de­feated is quite an ac­com­plish­ment but it doesn’t re­ally mean any­thing if we don’t take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity we have next week in the SEC cham­pi­onship game.”

Bama Se­niors

Al­abama’s se­niors tied the 2017 Tide class with an NCAA-record 53rd win. The last group left with five losses while the cur­rent se­niors are 53-3 with per­haps three games re­main­ing.

Tar­get­ing

Al­abama backup de­fen­sive back Jared May­den will miss the first half of the SEC cham­pi­onship game af­ter get­ting flagged for tar­get­ing in the third quar­ter. Auburn’s Davis was in­jured on the play but even­tu­ally rose and walked to­ward the locker room.

“He took a pretty good shot to the head,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “They ex­pect him to make a full re­cov­ery.”

Up next

Auburn awaits its bowl des­ti­na­tion. Al­abama faces No. 5 Ge­or­gia for the SEC ti­tle in a re­match of the na­tional ti­tle game.

/ AP-Vasha Hunt

Auburn run­ning back Ma­lik Miller runs a pass re­cep­tion from Auburn wide re­ceiver Ryan Davis in for a touch­down dur­ing Satur­day’s game in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

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