Photo courtesy of Auburn athletics
For Auburn, the 2010 season was full of thrills and close calls.
The season ultimately culminated in the program’s first national championship in more than a half-century. Perhaps the most fond memory from that campaign was a comeback victory over arch-rival Alabama as the Tigers erased a 24-point deficit for a 28-27 win on this day 10 years ago.
Setting the Stage
Auburn was 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country as it made its way to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 26, 2010. The Tigers had already wrapped up the SEC West crown, but needed to beat their rival to keep their national title hopes alive.
Alabama was the reigning national champion, but in the midst of a disappointing season. The 11th-ranked Crimson Tide had begun the year ranked No. 1, but suffered disappointing losses to South Carolina and LSU.
Despite that, they were determined to ruin the Tigers’ national championship hopes. Alabama had won two straight over Auburn and raced to a 24-0 lead, appearing well on its way to making it three straight.
Alabama’s Hot Start
Before the first quarter was over, Alabama enjoyed a 21-0 lead. Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram scored from nine yards out on Alabama’s opening drive. Auburn responded with three straight 3-and-outs.
Quarterback Greg McElroy and Alabama took advantage. McElroy found Julio Jones for a 68-yard touchdown pass before hooking up with Darius Hanks on a 12-yard scoring strike. The Crimson Tide were on the verge of scoring a fourth touchdown midway through the second quarter, but after having 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard-line, were forced to settle for a short Jeremy Shelley field goal.
That’s when the tide seemed to turn on the Crimson Tide.
Quarterback Cam Newton’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Emory Blake capped an 80-yard drive and got Auburn on the board. The Tigers had a smidgen of momentum going into the locker room. That continued into the second half.
The second half was just 56 seconds old when Newton connected with Terrell Zachery for a 70-yard touchdown. Two possessions later, Newton scored from a yard out to pull Auburn to within three at 24-21.
The Tigers came up with a timely stop, but looked to have made a costly mistake. With less than three minutes left in the third quarter, Quindarius Carr fumbled an Alabama punt and the Crimson Tide recovered inside the Auburn 30. Unfortunately for Alabama, it could manage just a field goal off the miscue.
The ensuing drive was the Newton show.
Facing 4th-and-3 just inside Alabama territory, Newton kept Auburn’s march alive early in the fourth quarter with a 9-yard strike to Darvin Adams. On 3rd-and-4 at the Alabama 7-yard-line later in the drive, Newton put the Tigers ahead for good with a touchdown pass to Philip Lutzenkirchen.
Alabama would reach Auburn’s 36 on the its next possession, but T’Sharvan Bell came up with a critical sack of McElroy on third down. The sack ended the Tide’s drive and McElory’s day.
Auburn was able to melt more than four minutes off the clock on its next possession. Without McElroy, Alabama turned to backup A.J. McCarron at its own 19-yard-line with less than a minute to play.
McCarron threw four straight passes. They were all incomplete. What was complete was the Auburn comeback as the Tigers had rallied to win the Iron Bowl, 28-27.
Newton finished the day with 216 yards passing and four total touchdowns in the rivalry match-up. Newton would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, but didn’t have the best day for quarterbacks on the field that afternoon in Tuscaloosa. McElroy passed for 377 yards with 199 of that going to Jones.
It still wasn’t enough.
Alabama would circle the wagons and finish the year with a 49-7 blowout of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl. At 10-3, the Crimson Tide finished No. 10 in the final AP Poll. It remains the last time they lost more than two games in a season.
Auburn improved to 12-0 with the win before blasting South Carolina for the SEC Championship and slipping past Oregon for the national championship, 22-19. That coveted national championship however, wouldn’t have been possible without the rivalry comeback for the ages. It happened on this day one decade ago.