AUBURN — Never again? That’s a little extreme.
Not today? Exactly.
Trent Richardson made his final argument for the Heisman Trophy with 203 yards rushing and a touchdown receiving, AJ McCarron and Brad Smelley played pitch and catch and the nation’s No. 1 defense imposed its will, leading No. 2 Alabama to a 42-14 Iron Bowl victory over Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
With the victory, the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 in the SEC) moved into position to play for the national championship on Jan. 9, possibly in a rematch with No. 1 LSU. The Tigers will play Georgia next Saturday in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. The next evening, final BCS standings will determine if the Tide still is in the top two.
Alabama also, at least for this year, made good on the “Never Again” mantra that began after Auburn came from 24 points down to win 28-27 last season.
Auburn finishes the regular season at 7-5 (4-4) and awaits a bowl bid, possibly to the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
McCarron completed 18-23 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.
Smelley had six catches for 86 yards, with five going for first downs on third- or fourth-down plays and one going 35 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.
And Alabama’s defense even got into the scoring act. Dee Milliner returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to break open a game that Alabama had been leading by 13 points.
The defense made two fourth-down stands in the second half and held Auburn to 138 total yards and no touchdowns.
The Tigers scored their first touchdown on defense, as defensive end Corey Lemonier knocked the ball out of McCarron’s hands as he got set to pass. Kenneth Carter recovered in the end zone for a touchdown that cut an Alabama lead to 14-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Onterio McCalebb opened the second half by returning the kickoff 83 yards for the first Auburn kickoff return for a touchdown in an Iron Bowl.
Alabama led 24-7 at halftime. It led by the same score a year ago, but Auburn rallied for a victory on the way to a perfect season and a national title.
The Tide converted 6 of 9 third-down plays and 1 of 1 fourth-down plays in the first half, with Smelley accounting for five of them. He caught six passes for 89 yards and the 35-yard touchdown.
McCarron completed 14 of 18 passes for 164 yards and three touchdowns in the opening two quarters.
Richardson ran 14 times for 61 yards and caught a 5-yard touchdown pass before intermission.
Alabama’s other touchdown came on a trick play as McCarron handed to Richardson, who stepped forward into the line, then pitched the ball back to McCarron. The quarterback then threw 41 yards to Kenny Bell, who was all alone in the end zone.
Alabama held Auburn to 31 yards and one first down in the first half, forcing three-and-outs on four of the Tigers’ five offensive possessions.