AUBURN, Ala. — Shaun Shivers scored on an 11-yard run with 8:08 left to put No. 16 Auburn ahead and another failed field goal by Alabama in the Iron Bowl wiped away the fifth-ranked Crimson Tide’s playoff hopes in a wild 48-45 victory for the Tigers on Saturday.
Auburn (9-3, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) survived a final, marathon Crimson Tide drive when Joseph Bulovas’ 30-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright with 2:00 left.
Auburn couldn’t get a first down on JaTarvious Whitlow’s three runs while Alabama (10-2, 6-2) burned its final two time outs. But the Tide was called for illegal substitution after the Tigers lined up for a punt, setting off a fist-pumping celebration for coach Gus Malzahn.
Auburn fans stormed the field to celebrate another Iron Bowl thriller, filling it from end zone to end zone as they did in the 2013 Kick-Six game, when the Tigers’ returned a missed Tide field goal for a game-winning touchdown.
The Tide had made the first five College Football Playoffs fields, but its case was damaged with a 46-41 loss to No. 1 LSU. The team’s in-state rival delivered the final blow.
Alabama worked more than six minutes off the clock before settling for Bulovas’ attempt.
Quarterback Mac Jones, who replaced injured star Tua Tagovailoa, scrambled for 18 yards on fourth-and-7 to get the Tide into easier field goal range. The drive stalled at the 13 when Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown batted a third-down pass back to Jones, who threw a pair of pick-sixes.
Jaylen Waddle caught three touchdown passes and scored on a 98-yard kickoff return for the Tide, helping Alabama build a 45-40 fourth-quarter lead.
The 5-foot-7, 179-pound Shivers delivered on his only carry. Whitlow took the direct snap and handed it to him. Shivers smashed into Xavier McKinney, knocking the safety’s helmet off on the way to the end zone. Bo Nix’s two-point pass to Shedrick Jackson made it 48-45.
Auburn backup linebacker Zakoby McClain returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and a huge swing midway through the third quarter. The ball bounced off the back of tailback Najee Harris and into McClain’s arms, setting up a sprint down the sideline.
Alabama: Came in needing some help to make the playoffs, but wound up losing multiple regular-season games for the first time since 2010.
Auburn: The defense was uncharacteristically vulnerable but also delivered big plays. Whitlow ran for 115 yards. A huge win for a team that had fallen short against other top teams.
Emotions flared up a couple of times in the third quarter. Whitlow and Alabama were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for one altercation. Then Auburn receiver Seth Williams, who is from outside Tuscaloosa, was flagged for a push to linebacker Terrell Lewis’s head after tangling up with Trevon Diggs. That last one helped force Auburn to settle for the field goal.
Alabama awaits its bowl invitation with no title shot.
Auburn awaits a possibly better bowl destination than it expected coming into the game.
No. 4 Georgia closes regular season with 52-7 rout of Tech
ATLANTA — This trip to Atlanta was barely an annoyance for No. 4 Georgia.
The Bulldogs are really focused on their return to the A-T-L next weekend.
Jake Fromm threw four touchdown passes and Georgia cruised into the Southeastern Conference championship game with a 52-7 victory over Georgia Tech on Saturday — the Bulldogs’ biggest win ever against their state rival.
The Bulldogs (11-1) were 28-point favorites and this one was never in doubt, even as they fumbled the ball away three times, dealt with injury woes, had a key player ejected, and failed to cover an onside kick.
It was Georgia’s third straight win in the one-sided series known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” — all of them blowouts. The Bulldogs have outscored Georgia Tech 135-35 during that span.
“This was the next step,” coach Kirby Smart said. “We expected to win this game. We expected to dominate this game. We go on to the next one.”
When Tyson Campbell recovered a fumbled punt for Georgia’s final touchdown in the closing minutes, it surpassed the Bulldogs’ previous biggest margin over the Yellow Jackets, a 51-7 rout in 2002.
The Bulldogs move on to next weekend’s SEC title game, which will be held about a mile away at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, to face No. 1 LSU for a berth in the College Football Playoff.
“Anytime we play in Atlanta, we like to play well,” Fromm said. “We feel like we’re playing at home.”
Yet, some troubling issues emerged for Georgia.
Star running back D’Andre Swift was knocked out by a shoulder injury. Freshman receiver George Pickens didn’t play in the first half because of a disciplinary issue, then was ejected in the second half for throwing a punch at a Georgia Tech player — which means he’ll miss the first half of the LSU game as well.
Fromm failed to complete half his passes for the fourth week in a row, but it didn’t matter. He finished 14 of 29 for 254 yards, connecting on scoring throws of 20 yards to Charlie Woerner, 17 yards to Tyler Simmons, 41 yards to Pickens and 9 yards to Dominick Blaylock.
The TD to Blaylock with 4½ minutes left in the third quarter wrapped up a mixed day for Fromm.
“He’s got to play better,” Smart said. “But we’ve got to help around him. We’ve got to help him in the run game, help him in the passing game, help him play the way he needs to play.”
Things got chippy as the game turned into a blowout.
On Blaylock’s score, a scrap broke out between Pickens and Georgia Tech cornerback Tre Swilling on the other side of the end zone, with each player throwing punches. The officials assessed offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, but Pickens was ejected.
Swift’s injury is another concern going into next weekend’s game, though Smart said it was merely a contusion that shouldn’t prevent his No. 1 back from playing.
Swift fumbled twice against Georgia Tech, the second of which left him crumpled on the turf holding his left shoulder. After a trip to the medical tent, he watched the rest of the game from the bench with a towel over his head.
Georgia Tech wrapped up its first season under coach Geoff Collins with just 139 yards and seven first downs on offense. The Yellow Jackets went three-and-out 11 times and were forced to punt a school-record 13 times.
“Our guys kept battling, but it got away from us in the third quarter,” Collins said. “We let it slip and couldn’t find a way to get it back.”
Short-handed receiving corps
Pickens wasn’t the only Georgia receiver missing at the start of the game.
Lawrence Cager’s college career appears to be over after he sustained a serious ankle injury in practice during the week. He underwent surgery Friday.
Smart said it’s doubtful the graduate transfer will return for either the playoff or a bowl.
“I wish it didn’t come to an end like this and if I could go back in time to the beginning and do it again, there isn’t another school I would rather choose,” Cager wrote on his Instagram account.
He had 33 catches for 476 yards and four touchdowns this season.
Georgia: The Bulldogs look like the most heavily flawed of the playoff contenders, especially on offense. Fromm continues to struggle with his accuracy, Pickens’ absence will be a key loss, and the injury to Swift is a concern going into the SEC championship. But a stellar defense gives Georgia a shot in every game.
Georgia Tech: Another harsh demonstration of how much work the Yellow Jackets have to do, especially on offense. Collins needs to put together several strong recruiting classes to fulfill his vision for the program.
Georgia: Will be making its third straight appearance in the SEC title game. If the Bulldogs come up short against LSU, it appears they’ll be headed to the Sugar or Orange Bowl.
Georgia Tech: Collins’ debut season is mercifully over with the Yellow Jackets matching their fewest wins since 1994. The 2020 schedule has not been finalized beyond the nonconference opponents, beginning with a Sept. 12 home game against FCS school Gardner-Webb.
Lawrence, No. 3 Clemson dominate South Carolina 38-3
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Dabo Swinney simply couldn’t contain his joy over Trevor Lawrence and midway through the Tigers’ latest blowout, Clemson’s coach just had to let the kid know.
“Man,” Swinney said he told Lawrence, “it’s just so much fun watching you play quarterback.”
Swinney should get at least a couple more opportunities to see Lawrence shine this postseason, starting next Saturday with the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game against Virginia.
Lawrence threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns as the third-ranked Tigers (No. 3 CFP) won their 27th straight and finished their second consecutive 12-0 regular season with a 38-3 victory over rival South Carolina on Saturday.
Lawrence, who led Clemson to a national title his first year, showed off a full range of skills with highlight-show touchdown throws to Tee Higgins and a knack for running the Tigers out of trouble.
Lawrence finished 26 of 36 passing and completed an ACC record-tying 18 straight throws to keep the Tigers rolling. He also led Clemson with 66 yards rushing, several of his runs going for first downs.
“After this year’s over and see if we accomplish what we set out to do, then we take a step back,” Lawrence said. “But I don’t think there’s really any time to do that right now. We really want to enjoy this win, but Monday get right back to it and prepare for Virginia.”
Travis Etienne ran for two touchdowns to break Atlantic Coast Conference marks for career touchdowns (57) from scrimmage and rushing scores (53) as the Tigers dominated throughout on the way to a sixth straight win over South Carolina (4-8).