Tagovailoa, Alabama use big second half to pull away from Auburn
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tua Tagovailoa came out of halftime firing touchdown strikes down the field, and the result was another runaway Alabama victory.
Tagovailoa threw five touchdown passes, ran for a score and scarcely could miss in the second half to lead the top-ranked Crimson Tide to a 52-21 victory over rival Auburn on Saturday.
“We executed on all cylinders on offense coming into that opening drive in the second half, so it’s really good,” he said.
Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0 SEC, No. 1 CFP) took over with an explosive third quarter, when the Heisman Trophy contender threw three long touchdown passes. He is the first Alabama player to have a hand in six TDs in a game and matched the school record with the five scoring passes.
Now, ‘Bama heads to the SEC championship game against No. 5 Georgia with a guaranteed playoff spot on the line.
With Alabama leading Auburn (7-5, 3-5) just 17-14 at halftime, Tagovailoa launched the Tide into another SEC blowout. He was 11 of 12 passing for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the second half, despite finishing only one series in the fourth quarter.
Tagovailoa finished 25 of 32 for 324 yards and ran for 26 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown and a 21-yard third-down conversion.
“I thought Tua was into it,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “His leadership was really important for our offense. Don’t ask me why, but it doesn’t seem like we had the right kind of energy in the first half.”
The second-half numbers included touchdowns of 46 yards to Jerry Jeudy, 33 to Josh Jacobs, 40 to DeVonta Smith and 22 to Henry Ruggs III on an acrobatic, leaping grab.
The game was close until Tagovailoa threw a pair of long TD passes in a three-minute span of the third quarter. The first hit Jeudy down the left sideline, and the second went to Jacobs, who shook off a few defenders on his way to the end zone.
Auburn used creative calls to keep it within three at halftime.
Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz ran for a 9-yard touchdown, and fellow receiver Ryan Davis took a lateral and launched a 23-yard touchdown pass to Malik Miller. That came with 4 minutes left before the half after freshman Smoke Monday blocked a punt.
“At halftime, our goal was to get to the fourth quarter,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “The game got away from us, and that’s very disappointing.”
The Tigers also had Shaun Shivers’ 75-yard touchdown run called back thanks to a holding penalty. Malzahn drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his protest of the call, saying it was because he said “bull crap.”
“He got a touchdown called back. That’s what got me upset,” Malzahn said. “It was a big play in the game, no doubt about that. I mean, obviously, you look back at the final score, seven points doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. But at the time, it made a big difference.”
Auburn was stopped short on a fake field goal in the third quarter when backup quarterback Malik Willis threw it to kicker Anders Carlson. The potential three points briefly loomed larger after Jarrett Stidham’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Darius Slayton made it 31-21.
It was a runaway from there.