TUSCALOOSA — Nick Saban wasn’t worried at all.
After the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide went into the locker room at halftime trailing the No. 15 Auburn Tigers 26-21 in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide head coach wasn’t worried at all. He knew his team would respond.
In the second half the Crimson Tide passing game came to life and outscored Auburn 55-44 to win the Iron Bowl in an offensive shootout that saw both teams put up more than 1,000 yards of combined offense.
The 99 combined points scored was the most in Auburn history.
When the Crimson Tide went into locker room at halftime they were a little down after giving up 10 points in the final 1:23 of the first half.
Saban was the calming voice for the team in the locker room.
“I told the players at halftime ‘we’ve got thirty minutes and I know a lot of you have a lot of goals and aspirations and this is going to be a gut check for what kind of heart you have and what kind of character you have as to how you got out and play the second half of this game. I believe in you and I believe we can win this game if everyone is committed to doing their best in the second half.’ I was very pleased with our effort and how our players responded in the second half.”
Alabama went on to score 34 points in the second half, put up 539 yards of total offense and slow down the Auburn offense that put up 456 yard of passing offense and 630 yards of total offense.
“That was a tremendous college football game on both sides,” Saban said. “We didn’t play very well in the first half and we didn’t start well in the second half. But we just kept grinding on defense and we came out with a tremendous come from behind win and it was really a tremendous win for us.”
Taking center stage for the Crimson Tide was quarterback Blake Sims and receiver Amari Cooper.
After throwing three interceptions in the first three quarters, Sims came back and responded to throw four touchdown passes for 312 yards.
“I didn’t have a very good first half,” Sims said. “We came in at halftime and the team said ‘Blake, keep playing, we are behind you 100 percent.’ They rallied behind me and the receivers got open. I just did what I had to do to get the ball to the playmakers and we won the game.”
Three of his four touchdown passes were to Cooper who finished with 12 catches for 224 yards. Two of the three touchdown catches came in the second half.
“It was a great call by coach Kiffin,” Sims said. “Cooper ran a great route on both of them. I just put the ball where it needed to be and he went and got it and did the rest.”
On the other sideline Auburn had to deal with the heartbreak that 44 points and 630 yards of offense wasn’t enough to get the win.
“Obviously it was a disappointing game,” said head coach Gus Malzahn. “I think the name of the game really was that when we got in the red zone, we had to kick field goals. I’m really proud of the team. They fought hard until the end.”
Alabama safety Landon Collins said it was frustrating to watch all the yards Auburn was getting through the air, but he knew eventually they would get it figured out.
“We knew that as the dominant defense that we are, that we had to pull it together,” Collins said. “We prepared for this game consistently, and we just stuck to what we had to do. We had players come in and make big plays, and we did a fantastic job.”