The 2009 Alabama team is a favorite of many Tide fans, as not only Nick Saban’s lone undefeated team and first national champion in Tuscaloosa, but also the team that produced Alabama’s first ever Heisman winner in Mark Ingram.
That was all in doubt on November 27, 2009.
Per usual in odd numbered years, the Iron Bowl was played in Auburn, always a hostile environment for anyone wearing Crimson. On the surface it may have seemed that the Tigers, at only 3-4 in SEC play, had little to play for, but new coach Gene Chizik competing in his first Iron Bowl added a little teeth to the attack and an opportunity to knock big brother off an unbeaten perch was tantalizing. It is well documented that Alabama strives for championships while Auburn exists to upset Alabama.
They very nearly got it done, too. Auburn jumped out to a 14-0 lead early before allowing the Tide to tie it up at halftime. Early in the third, Auburn’s Darvin Adams got loose for a 72-yard TD catch that staked the Tigers to a seven point lead. Auburn had completely snuffed out the Alabama run game of Ingram and Trent Richardson, allowing barely two yards per carry on the day, and the passing game wasn’t much better.
Undeterred, the Tide, led by QB Greg McElroy, chipped away at the lead, managing two field goals while stopping the Tigers for a 21-20 deficit. The Tide offense finally managed to find some rhythm late, and after an Auburn punt with seven minutes to play drove the ball down the field, killing more than five minutes in the process. On 3rd and 3 inside the 5, offensive coordinator Jim McElwain sent Terrance Cody into the game at fullback, and called what we now know as “Cody 5,” a play action pass in the flat to Roy Upchurch. Alabama had its first lead of the day with just over a minute to play and held on for the 13th straight win of the season.
We know the rest of the story. Alabama went on to knock off the unbeatable Florida Gators before messing with Texas in the Rose Bowl, but it all could have been derailed that day. The TIde may well have still beaten Florida, but there were two unbeatens in Cincinnati and TCU sitting at #3 and #4 in the final BCS rankings. There is at least a chance that the Tide would not have been invited to play in the game as a one-loss SEC champion.
Take a few minutes to relive the highlights from one of the most memorable Iron Bowl games. Enjoy.