No. 3 Alabama rallies late, survives four overtimes to beat Auburn

Jake Crandall / USA TODAY NETWORK
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AUBURN, Ala. – 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.”

THE TAKEAWAY

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.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

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.

UP NEXT

Alabama: Faces No. 1 Georgia in the SEC Championship game.

Auburn: Awaits bowl destination.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.