AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Pushed to the limits, Alabama delivered plays to celebrate in a stadium that has produced a few devastating ones.
The result was another unforgettable Iron Bowl.
John Metchie caught a scoring pass from Bryce Young in the fourth overtime to give No. 3 Alabama a 24-22 comeback victory over rival Auburn on Saturday, rescuing the Crimson Tide’s national title hopes.
It was the first overtime in the Iron Bowl.
“Wow, what a game,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.
Freshman Kool-Aid McKinstry tipped away T.J. Finley’s pass in the final OT and Young hit Metchie just as he did in the previous one.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 3 CFP) moves on to face No. 1 Georgia in the league championship game with its College Football Playoff hopes on the line. The Tigers (6-6, 3-5) dropped their fourth straight game after smothering Young and the Tide’s prolific offense most of the way.
“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. “Our players were as happy as I’ve ever seen them after the game.”
Young capped a 97-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown to freshman Ja’Corey Brooks — his fourth catch and first touchdown this season — with 24 seconds left in regulation.
Young converted a fourth-and-7 to Jahleel Billingsley, followed by two incompletions under pressure for an offense that had been held in check for 59 minutes.
“It was crazy. It was crazy,” said Young, who passed for 317 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. “When you’re playing in the Iron Bowl, what else are you supposed to expect? Throughout all the ups and downs, even that last drive, I have so much faith in my guys. My confidence never wavered.”
There were times when it easily could have against an Auburn defense that was yielding little.
The Tigers had been trying to win their third straight Iron Bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium, and fourth in five years. They nearly pulled it off. Auburn had won with a Kick-Six (2013) and two pick-sixes (2019).
Fans didn’t get to storm the field this time.
“There was a lot of fight from our team,” first-year Auburn coach Bryan Harsin said. “I’m proud of our guys. I told them I was proud of their fight. … Our guys played hard and put ourselves in a position to win the game. We just came up short.”
The teams traded touchdowns and field goals in the first overtime and both delivered scoring passes after lining up from the 3 the first time.
Alabama was without two of its top offensive players in the overtime periods.
Tailback Brian Robinson was on the sideline with an apparent leg injury sustained earlier in the game. Star receiver Jameson Williams was ejected for targeting on punt coverage in the first half.
Held to 70 passing yards in the first half, Young finished 25 of 51, many of the completions to Metchie.
Metchie caught 13 passes for 150 yards.
Auburn’s T.J. Finley, who started the final two games after Bo Nix’s season-ending ankle injury, was 17 of 26 for 137 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He left the game at one point with a left ankle injury and returned with it taped up.
“I really couldn’t move how I wanted to,” Finley said. “I’m a big guy, so I don’t really move as much anyway. When your ankle is kind of bothering you … it forces you to stand in the pocket and deliver great balls.”
Kicker Ben Patton, a sub for injured Anders Carlson, kept Auburn alive with a 49-yard field goal in the second overtime.
Derick Hall had three sacks for the Tigers.
“When you come down to the wire like that and don’t finish, it sucks,” Hall said. “It’s painful.”
Alabama hardly looked ready to face the Bulldogs and the nation’s top defense most of the way. The Tide had 11 penalties for 129 yards and gave up seven sacks a few days after Saban called out the fans for being critical because his team wasn’t blowing out opponents.
Auburn’s defense played terrific and held on for dear life for a team that had blown two straight double-digit leads. The home-field advantage continues to be huge in this intense rivalry even if the Tigers fell short in the end.
Alabama had a chance to move up a spot after No. 2 Ohio State fell 42-27 to fifth-ranked Michigan.The game-long struggle with an unranked team makes that far less certain.
Alabama: Faces No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship game.
Auburn: Awaits bowl destination.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://apnews.com/cfbtop25