By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Bryce Young and Alabama got to win No. 10, even if title No. 7 isn’t in the cards.
Young passed for 343 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score in perhaps his final home game for No. 8 Alabama, leading the Crimson Tide past Auburn 49-27 in Saturday’s Iron Bowl.
Alabama (10-2, 6-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 7 CFP) reached double digits in wins for a 15th consecutive season but is all but certain to fall short of those ever-present national title aspirations.
The Tigers (5-7, 2-6) were trying to ensure bowl eligibility and salvage a disappointing campaign that included the Oct. 31 firing of coach Bryan Harsin.
Tide coach Nick Saban said criticism after his team’s two last-play losses “really united the players.”
“I think one of the things I’m most proud of is the fact that when everybody thought they were out of it — when there were a lot of naysayers out there — this team didn’t give up on themselves, didn’t give up on each other and won some tough games to finish the season,” Saban said.
Young, a junior, completed 20 of 30 passes with an interception and ran for 48 yards. The 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, whose season was impacted by a shoulder injury, is projected as a high NFL draft pick if he leaves early. So is Tide All-America linebacker Will Anderson Jr., who had a couple of fourth-quarter sacks.
Both talked about their time at Alabama without shedding light on their plans.
“It’s been a pleasure,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Added Young: “It’s meant the world to me.”
Auburn ran for 318 yards, its most against Alabama since gaining 355 in 1983. But the Tigers’ passing game was pretty much nonexistent. Quarterback Robby Ashford became the first Auburn player to run for two touchdowns in the Iron Bowl since Carnell Williams — now the Tigers’ interim coach — in 2003.
Ashford gained 121 yards on the ground but passed for just 77, though that included a pretty much perfect 20-yard touchdown pass to J’aVarrious Johnson in the right corner of the end zone.
“He was trying to will us to that win,” Williams said.
Jarquez Hunter ran 11 times for 134 yards but also lost a fumble. It was his third straight 100-yard game.
“We stressed all week that they were going to fight and give us everything they’ve got,” Williams said. “They believed. They knew these coaches believed in them.”
Auburn settled for two field goals in the fourth quarter and gave up a late touchdown run by Jahmyr Gibbs.
For Auburn, the week was dominated by speculation about who athletic director John Cohen would hire to replace Harsin. The most talked-about candidate, Mississippi’s Lane Kiffin, said he’s staying put. Liberty’s Hugh Freeze said after his team’s regular-season finale Saturday he hadn’t been offered the job but confirmed his interest.
“The part that’s false is there’s been no offer made to me, nor have I accepted anything,” Freeze said.
Auburn: Finished 2-2 under Williams, who had been the running backs coach. Saturday’s miscues included a muffed punt and a fumble when Hunter bumped into a teammate downfield. Both set up Alabama touchdowns.
Alabama: Won fairly easily but still didn’t look like a College Football Playoff-caliber team, getting gashed defensively on the ground. The Tide had a few big downfield passes, a weak point for much of the season.
Saban stuck it out through the game after getting a gash on his cheek when struck on the sideline by a player. “Before you ask, you oughta see the other guy,” he joked.
Auburn waits for its new head coach.
Alabama awaits its bowl destination, hoping to make a New Year’s Six game while clinging to slim playoff hopes.