Outside of the Mercer game, Alabama’s offense has struggled on 3rd down. Against LSU, the Tide went 35.71%. Against Mississippi State, they were even worse, converting just 30%. Against Auburn, they picked up a 1st down on 3rd down just 27.27%. All three of their conversions came in the second half.
Bama had also been money on 4th down attempts, going 12-12 on the year, the only team that converted 100% of the time. In the Iron Bowl, the Tide were just 1-4, though one of those failed attempts was on the botched field goal.
3rd and 4: The offense opened up the second half firing on all cylinders, and they’ve got the ball back after the defense forced a field goal.
Jalen Hurts (#2) is in shotgun with Bo Scarbrough (#9) on his right hip. They have trips right in a bunch, and one receiver to the left. Cam Sims (#17) motions right to left, and the defense starts to shift but doesn’t really bite on it. Scarbrough flares out to the flat, and there’s a lot of green grass. He gets the pass and turns. The defensive back reacts quickly, however; and closes. Scarbrough loses the one-on-one battle here and gets taken down. Instead of another drive, it’s a three and out.
3rd and 5: Despite getting thrust right back onto the field, the defense gets Auburn into a third down. Auburn has a spread out formation with two receivers on either side. Levi Wallace (#39) is in man coverage on WR Ryan Davis at the bottom of the screen. Davis motions in tight, and Wallace follows. Davis breaks in on a simple crossing route, and Wallace has a slight delay before he gets moving. That delay plus Wallace’s lack of elite speed is just enough, and Stidham throws it right on the money. Davis makes the easy catch and turns upfield, crossing the 50 yard line and picking up 25 yards.
3rd and 7: The defense recovers again and forces a third and long. Auburn is in shotgun and has trips right after some motion. Bama is showing pressure but only sends the three down linemen and Tony Brown (#2) initially. Mack Wilson (#30) brings delayed pressure after he sees the running back stay in to block Brown. Wilson slices through the line and has a shot at Jarrett Stidham, but he whiffs. Stidham takes off; and while Brown almost tracks him down in time, it’s not enough. The Tigers get a first down, extending
3rd and 9: Trevon Diggs gave the offense amazing field position by returning the kickoff to the Auburn 39 yard line. Bama moves inside the red zone and gets a 3rd and 4 at the 12 yard line. An inexplicable and inexcusable delay of game penalty on Hurts kills this third and manageable, however.
Hurts lines up in the gun with Josh Jacobs (#8) to his left and Calvin Ridley (#3) a couple yards behind him. Ridley motions out of the backfield and lines up on the right. Hurts takes the snap and drops back, and he faces immediate pressure. Matt Womack (77) has been beaten by Jeff Holland. Hurts steps forward, eluding Holland; and now he’s in scramble mode. He has Hentges open on a crossing route going to the left, but his eyes are on a defensive lineman who’s about to get by Ross Pierschbacher (#71). Hurts then takes off to his right. He sees he can’t make it running and makes one of the worst decisions I’ve seen him make this season. While running to his right, Hurts hops and lofts a pass back across his body into double coverage. Amazingly, it’s not picked off; and, amazingly, Hentges is in position to almost make the catch. It’s ruled a touchdown but is correctly overturned, and Bama has to settle for a field goal. J.K. Scott, unfortunately, botches the snap; and the Tide come away with zero points.
4th and 3: Alabama is down 12 after another Auburn touchdown, but it’s been a promising drive. The offense has converted its first third downs of the game (two whole conversions!), but the wheels come off. Bozeman snaps the ball early on 3rd and 4, and it becomes 4th and 9. Bozeman snaps the ball early again, and it should be Auburn’s ball on the Alabama 41 yard line. The Tide are saved by a lucky penalty; Auburn had 12 men on the field during the second early snap. The offense gets another chance.
Hurts is in shotgun with Damien Harris (#34) to his left. Irv Smith motions to the right, leaving Robert Foster (#1) the lone receiver on the left. Foster just runs a shallow crossing route, and he’s wide open. Hurts hits him, and Foster picks up an easy first down and Alabama goes on to score a touchdown.
Except we all know that doesn’t happen. Foster runs his route a yard short of the sticks, moves a full yard backwards, and can’t get back to the line to gain. It’s the first failed 4th down attempt for Alabama all year.