Alabama humiliates Auburn, clinches spot in SEC championship

By Marc Torrence

There are close games, and there are blowouts. Then, there’s the 2012 Iron Bowl.

The No. 2 Crimson Tide, playing with new life after being thrusted back into the national championship picture, throttled their cross-state rival Auburn Tigers 49-0 on a chilly day in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The win gives Alabama a berth in the SEC Championship Game where it will face the Georgia Bulldogs with a spot in the BCS National Championship Game on the line.

For the second week in a row, Alabama took a 41-0 lead into halftime and for the second year in a row, it broke the 40-point mark in this rivalry – the first time either team has done that in the series’ storied history.

“It’s the Iron Bowl. You want to come out and play great,” said senior defensive end Damion Square, who played in his last game in Bryant-Denny Stadium. “Whoever comes out and wins or loses this game has to live with this 365 days of the year. You want to come out and get the W so you don’t have to go through a year of hell hearing that you lost this game.”

For an idea of just how dominant of a performance Saturday was, consider the first seven drives for each team. Auburn’s went like this: three-and-out, punt, interception, three-and-out, lost fumble, three-and-out. While Alabama’s went like this: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown.

Early in the third quarter, after Alabama held a commanding 49-0 lead, the starters came in and the game was, for all intents and purposes, over.

“That’s how we want to play here at the University. That’s what you want every week,” Square said. “You want the offense to come out and be explosive and the defense to come out and create turnovers and force three and outs. When a team is playing like that, great things happen.”

Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 216 yards a four touchdowns, and once again his favorite target was true freshman Amari Cooper, who had five catches for 109 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Kevin Norwood was right behind him with 65 yards and two touchdowns.

Alabama’s rushing duo of Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon met little resistance as well, combining for 169 yards and three touchdowns before their days were over.

“This is something that we’ve worked so hard for,” Norwood said. “As an offense, we wanted to send the seniors out with a bang and that’s what we did tonight.”

Alabama received the opening kickoff and started the scoring with back-to-back two-yard touchdown runs from Lacy and Yeldon, with an Auburn three-and-out sandwiched in between.

Auburn freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace then drove Auburn down to the Alabama 41-yard line. But head coach Gene Chizik decided to punt on fourth and five. The Tide answered with a 37-yard touchdown to Cooper.

There would be no 24-0 lead, and echoes of 2010 ringing through Bryant-Denny, however. Senior safety Robert Lester snatched a tipped Wallace pass out of the air, setting up a seven-yard touchdown strike to Norwood, his first of the day.

Lacy added a one-yard touchdown after another Auburn three-and-out, and Nico Johnson forced a Tre Mason fumble on the subsequent Tiger position that Dee Milliner returned to the Auburn 35.

With the Tiger defensive backs playing off of Cooper, the freshman caught a short slant across the middle, broke a tackle, and ran free for a 29-yard touchdown, giving Alabama a 42-0 halftime lead.

“We just came out and tried to compete at the highest level as we could against Auburn, a good team,” Milliner said. “We came out and executed the game plan that Coach (Saban) had for us, and we did a great job of it.”

Alabama would only score once more after it took a 42-0 lead into halftime, a 38-yard pass to Norwood. From there, Alabama’s backups came in and grinded the game away.

The Alabama fans in attendance sang Rammer Jammer four times, serenading their team off to Atlanta, where awaits the penultimate challenge to a 15th national championship.“We certainly don’t want our players to be satisfied with where they are,” head coach Nick Saban said. “They need to understand that there’s always a bigger challenge out there and we need to get ready for it.”

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