TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Again, Auburn coaches and players spent all week swearing they were improved, promising practice went well, convincing anyone who would listen they would play with pride and passion on Saturday.
For the final time of too many to count, actions spoke louder than words.
The final nightmare was administered by rival Alabama, which outplayed, outcoached and out-everythinged the woebegone Tigers 49-0 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The 77th Iron Bowl figured on paper to be one of the most lopsided matchups in series history. It played out exactly that way, as the Crimson Tide starters scored touchdowns on every one of their seven possessions and Alabama’s vaunted top defensive unit did not allow Auburn to come within 40 yards of the end zone.
Auburn surrendered its tenth SEC loss in a row, sentenced to its first 0-8 SEC campaign in school history. Auburn surrendered its tenth SEC loss of 17 points or more in the last two seasons, getting pummeled on national television by chief rivals Georgia and Alabama in consecutive years.
All of this, less than 24 months following a national championship on the Plains.
With the on-field product gone historically sour, and Auburn facing multiple off-field distractions – capitalized by a rumored NCAA investigation – fourth-year coach Gene Chizik’s future is expected to be addressed within the next 48 hours, as is that of his staff and his boss, athletic director Jay Jacobs.
Alabama led 42-0 after 30 minutes, its largest halftime lead ever on Auburn. Never before in the Iron Bowl’s 77-game history had one team banked 40 points in back-to-back matchups.
Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron completed 15-of-21 passes for 216 yards and four touchdowns. Freshman receiver Amari Cooper hooked up with McCarron five times for 109 yards and two touchdowns, while Eddie Lacy rushed 18 times for 131 yards and a pair of scores.
Alabama converted on its first 11 third-down plays, not requiring the use of a punter until 13:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
A pair of Auburn senior defenders, cornerback T’Sharvan Bell and linebacker Daren Bates, each had to be helped off by the training staff in the first half. Bell returned, but Blake was replaced by freshman Kris Frost.
On a positive note, Tre Mason barely grinded his way to 82 yards on the day, giving him 1,000 for the season. He became the fifth Tiger in four years to rush for 1,000 yards.
Senior Emory Blake, in his final college game, moved into the top five on Auburn’s all-time receiving yards list, becoming one of only two Tigers (Karsten Bailey 1995-98) to be in Auburn’s top five for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Blake hauled in a gorgeous over-the-shoulder pass by Jonathan Wallace in the final minute of the third quarter, good for Blake’s third reception of the day and pushing him over 2,000 yards for his career.
No. 2 Alabama (11-1, 7-1) took care of business to clinch a trip to Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against No. 3 Georgia (11-1, 7-1) at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The winner will likely represent the SEC in the BCS National Championship game, which Alabama has won two of the three previous seasons.