Report card: Auburn football's painful Iron Bowl loss transcends grades, but what-ifs remain

Bennett Durando
Montgomery Advertiser

AUBURN — One of Auburn football's most painful Iron Bowl losses ever transcends judgment after the stunning effort it took for the unranked Tigers to even stretch No. 2 Alabama to four overtimes in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

But as Bryan Harsin's first regular season as head coach ends, Auburn (6-6, 3-5 SEC) will wonder about this one for months (and probably much longer). A few what-ifs kept the Tigers from pulling an all-time upset.

Here are the grades.

Offense: D+

Auburn had chance after chance to put this game away, but the Tigers were working with backups on the left side of the offensive line and a backup quarterback. T.J. Finley was sacked six times and limped off the field quite a few times. There were heroic moments that will be sadly forgotten, replaced by the specter of what could have been if Tank Bigsby didn't go out of bounds.

Defense: A

Even after the 97-yard Alabama touchdown drive that tied the game with 24 seconds remaining, this grade remains immaculate. Auburn was on its last legs of the game and of the season by that time; it had shut down the possible Heisman Trophy quarterback for four hours. Auburn finished with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss but got a tad too conservative toward the end.

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Special teams: A

Alabama missed a field goal. Auburn backup kicker Ben Patton made a clutch 49-yard kick in the second overtime. Oscar Chapman did everything he could for the defense, planting two fourth-quarter punts inside the Alabama 5-yard line. It still wasn't enough.

Coaching: B

A loss is a loss, but after the uninspired coaching of the last three weeks, Auburn's staff led with a lot of guts Saturday. The 2-point conversion play to John Samuel Shenker in the third overtime was an excellent play call by Mike Bobo. Derek Mason had an impressive game plan, but he ran out of ideas late.

Overall: B

Everything about this loss is crushing despite the inspiring effort that made it so painful in the end. The sideline was into it the whole game. Auburn was in position to win a game it was never supposed to win. Still, defeat is deflating, none more than this one.