AUBURN, Ala. – The lights dimmed at Jordan-Hare Stadium, thousands of fans turned on their cellphone flashlights, and DMX’s “Party Up” played on the loudspeakers. Orange fireworks shot into the night sky.
The fourth quarter of the Iron Bowl hadn’t started, but the Auburn celebration had begun.
Auburn should have known better.
This is the 2021 Crimson Tide, a group that majors in drama.
John Metchie III caught Bryce Young’s two-point conversion in the fourth overtime to keep No. 2 Alabama’s hope alive of reaching the College Football Playoff.
Metchie brought an index finger toward his lips after his winning catch.
Auburn fans who roared most of the night and Tigers players who celebrated often throughout the first three quarters had nothing left to cheer.
“Wow, what a game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
What a comeback.
Auburn’s pass rush terrorized Alabama’s offensive line, the Crimson Tide run game provided no support and Young looked frazzled throughout the first three quarters.
Auburn’s defense was so dominant during the first half that Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC) had more penalty yards (64) than yards of offense (63) until the final play before halftime.
Auburn (6-6, 3-5) led 10-0 through three quarters, but squandering leads is a specialty for these Tigers. Already this month, Auburn blew a 28-3 lead in a loss to Mississippi State and a 14-0 lead in a loss to South Carolina.
Coaches often say teams are remembered for how they play in November, and AU coach Bryan Harsin’s debut on the Plains will be remembered for his team’s four consecutive losses to close the regular season.
Harsin blundered at the end of the first overtime. He had a chance to call a two-point conversion to try to win the game. Instead, he called for an extra point and sent the game to another overtime.
By then, Young had taken control.
Auburn sacked Young seven times. The Tigers delivered a mighty punch to the sophomore quarterback, but Young doesn’t do knockouts. He saved Alabama’s season.
“Most of the time, I remember the ones we lose," Saban said, "but I think I’ll remember this one for the way the players competed.”
No one embodied that fighting spirit more than Young.
Young completed a fourth-down pass and later a 28-yard touchdown to Ja’Corey Brooks with 24 seconds left in regulation to cap a 97-yard drive and tie the game. Then Young dazzled in overtime, with a touchdown pass and a pair of two-point completions.
“Just following the general,” Metchie said of Alabama rallying behind Young.
The longer the Crimson Tide hung around, the more it felt like Alabama would find a way to wriggle off the hook.
“We were fighting like I’ve never seen us fight all year long,” Saban said.
Auburn joined Florida, LSU and Arkansas in giving Alabama all it could handle. Texas A&M gave the Crimson Tide more than it could handle — its only loss this season.
One could argue all those close games make this a battle-tested Alabama team entering the SEC Championship next week against Georgia. The counterargument is that Alabama is a far cry from the Bulldogs, who have won 11 consecutive games by at least 17 points.
Saban launched into a rant on his radio show Wednesday after a caller suggested the Crimson Tide should trounce opponents rather than simply winning.
During Saban’s four-minute monologue, he noted that Alabama gets every opponent’s best shot, and he lamented “self-absorbed” fans who fail to appreciate Alabama’s triumphs. Maybe, Saban wasn’t as irked with navel-gazing fans as he sounded, and he simply knows this team isn’t good enough to blow out most competent competition.
Alabama is awfully hard to knock out, though.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Alabama football, Bryce Young show in Iron Bowl they don't do KOs