TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — This was more of a celebration than a football game, an acknowledgment of perfection for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Seniors ran off the field to thunderous ovations — guys such as Rashad Johnson and Bobby Greenwood and John Parker Wilson. Coach Nick Saban took a victory lap around Bryant-Denny Stadium, waving at fans who held cameras to capture the moment.
The crowd unleashed the loudest version of “Rammer Jammer” heard around here in a long time, venting six years of frustration following Alabama’s 36-0 pasting of Auburn on Saturday, its largest margin of victory in the series since 1962.
The normally stoic Saban said he celebrated and danced in the locker room. He even got a big kiss from his wife, Terry.
“I’m real happy about that,” he said with a smile.
Auburn’s streak over Alabama is over. The number seven represents the number of losses for the Tigers this year, not the wins in a row against their state rivals. Alabama is No. 1 and undefeated, and the players will certainly hear a lot about Florida this week. But Saturday was a time to celebrate three improbable months, and especially one special day against Auburn.
“That was the biggest thing that we had as a goal this year,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t being ranked No. 1, being undefeated. It was more like, beat Auburn. End the streak. I think I speak for everyone when I say that was our biggest goal this year — to make sure we won this game. To come in 11-0 just made it bigger for us.”
The Tide (12-0) broke Auburn’s spirit like they did the other 11 opponents this year — with relentless pursuit on defense and a battering running game. It’s the exact opposite of how their foe this Saturday in the SEC title game, Florida, worked itself into the national championship picture.
“They’re flashy,” Alabama noseguard Terrence Cody said. “We’re smash-mouth.”
Wilson threw only 16 passes, completing eight for 134 yards. Alabama held the ball for 11 more minutes and outgained Auburn on the ground, 234 yards to 57. Glen Coffee rushed for 144 yards on 20 carries and put Alabama ahead 10-0 with a 41-yard touchdown run. The Tide had just one penalty.
The Tigers (5-7), like they did all year, struggled to get first downs and eventually imploded. Two fumbles in the third quarter — one by Brad Lester on a handoff and another when quarterback Kodi Burns mishandled the snap — turned into two Alabama touchdowns and broke open a 10-0 game.
“We basically gave them the game and just handed it right to them,” said Burns, who was 9-of-23 for 113 passing yards. “Of course they’re going to go for the big play right after the turnover, and that’s what a No. 1 team does. They played pretty good on defense, but once again, we just handed it to them.”
But Johnson said Auburn’s offense at no point caught the Tide defense unprepared. It was Alabama’s first shutout in the series since 1992, a 17-0 win on Thanksgiving Day.
“You know,” Cody said, “I was speechless after the game. We shut Auburn out.”
A lot of records needed updating after Saturday’s Iron Bowl. It was also Alabama’s first win over Auburn in Tuscaloosa.
“All good streaks come to an end, and ours came to a screeching halt,” said embattled Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, who will meet with university president Jay Gogue next week to discuss his future.
On the elevator in the fourth quarter, members of media filed out and headed toward the field. The elevator operator smiled and remarked, “It’s like the light’s out and the party is over, right?”
It was for Auburn. In Tuscaloosa, the party was only beginning.