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November 24, 2007Nick Saban couldn't figure out how to beat Auburn, either.
Brandon Cox scored on a 1-yard sneak with 3:50 left and the 25th-ranked Tigers' played stingy defense in a 17-10 win over Alabama that extended Auburn's winning streak in the bitter rivalry to a school-record six game.
Alabama (6-6, 4-4) hired Saban to coach the Crimson Tide after last season, giving him $4 million a year, in part to come up with a way to beat the Tigers. Not only was he unable to do that, but the Tide is no lock to even reach the postseason.
Alabama lost its final four games and is one of 10 SEC teams vying for a bowl spot.
Auburn (8-4, 5-3 Southeastern Conference) recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock after Brad Lester gained 12 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Crimson Tide 30.
The victory touched off a jubilant celebration, with defensive end Quentin Groves leading the band in the school fight song and coach Tommy Tuberville running off the field with six fingers extended into the air. The Tigers already had their first five-year Iron Bowl winning streak since 1958 and kept it going with defense and a pounding running game.
The teams combined for just 507 yards, with both relying on defense and conservative offensive plans.
Tuberville has owned the Iron Bowl, but there's been speculation this could be his last own. He declined to discuss reports that he was a contender for the vacant Texas A&M job. Athletic director Jay Jacobs said Saturday he believes the coach remains "our guy" and that they would meet over the next few days.
The Tigers got help from special teams and an Alabama blunder to finally extend the three-point lead they nursed most of the game. Robert Dunn gave the sputtering offense some help with a 31-yard punt return into Tide territory.
After a couple of first downs, Cox had to throw the ball away on second-and-12. Alabama defensive lineman Keith Saunders' hit out of bounds gave the Tigers first-and-goal from the 8. Lester ran for 6 yards and was initially credited with a score on the next play before a review put the ball just shy of the goal line.
It didn't matter. Cox rode the line's surge into the end zone to make it 17-7.
John Parker Wilson then led Alabama down the field. The Tide converted a fourth-and-1 on Glen Coffee's 3-yard run to the Auburn 32, but the best the Tide could do was Tiffin's long field.
The onside kick bounced into Auburn tight end Cole Bennett's hands Lester and the Tigers worked the clock down. Lester finished with 98 yards on 22 carries. Ben Tate ran 11 times for 77 yards.
Cox was 12-of-22 for 117 yards with an interception.
Alabama, which welcomed back three starters after a four-game suspension for improper receipt of textbooks, managed just 225 yards.
Wilson was 12-of-26 with an interception and didn't complete a pass to the SEC's leading receiver, D.J. Hall, until the final drive.
Coffee, one of the players returning from suspension, gained 60 yards on 20 carries. Top rusher Terry Grant had been nursing a hip problem and didn't play in the game.
Both teams had fourth down gambles lead to touchdowns in the first half. Tate scored on a 3-yard run on the Tigers' first possession after Auburn converted a fourth-and-inches on Cox's quarterback sneak from the Alabama 30.
The Tigers took a 10-0 lead late in the quarter on Wes Byrum's 37-yard field goal.
Then, Wilson scored on a sneak on fourth-and-1 from the 2-yard line.
The defenses took over from there and the next score didn't come until almost 38 minutes later.