AUBURN --- After struggling in the last month of the season, Auburn kicker Anders Carlson made play after play in special teams on Saturday.
Carlson was as consistent as they come against the Crimson Tide, going 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts and 4-for-4 on extra-point attempts. Carlson’s biggest moment came at the end of the first half, when he booted a 52-yard field goal just before time expired to cut Alabama’s lead at the break to 31-27.
One of Carlson’s most impressive moments came on a play that ultimately did not count. Early in the third quarter, Carlson drilled a 54-yard attempt that ultimately did not count because an Alabama player jumped offsides. Four plays later, Carlson instead connected from 43 yards out.
“How 'bout that? I took three points off the board in the Iron Bowl, and he comes back and he makes it,” Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said. “He had a big-time night. We talked all year that, ‘Man, you're going to win a game for us.’ Tonight, he did that. He's an excellent kicker. That should be able to give him a lot of confidence moving forward, but very proud of him and our field-goal unit.”
The performance was nothing short of perfect timing for Carlson, who entered the game 13-of-20 on field-goal attempts this season.
“I’ve always been the same,” Carlson said. “I might make minor adjustments, but I’m confident in what I do and sometimes it doesn’t go your way, but that’s the lesson you have to learn just to bounce back and keep going. I locked in today and that’s good it paid off, but I’m going to keep doing the same stuff.”
Defense does it part with pick-sixes: When it came to producing points during Saturday’s Iron Bowl, Auburn wasn’t limiting to scoring on offense.
The Tigers’ had two pick sixes against Alabama, as Smoke Monday returned an interception 29 yards in the second quarter to give Auburn a 17-10 lead and Zakoby McClain had a 100-yard interception return in the third to put Auburn ahead 37-31.
“Our defense had two touchdowns. I mean, huge touchdowns,” Malzahn said. “Momentum swings in Smoke Monday and our linebacker (Zakoby McClain) returned the one 100 yards. It was just really unbelievable swings back and forth.”
Monday and McClain’s interceptions were the lone turnovers that the Tigers’ defense forced against Alabama. The interception-return touchdowns were the first of both players’ careers.
“(Making those plays) is big,” McClain said. “We've all been talking about turnovers, and we finally got them.”
Auburn adds to list of Iron Bowl upsets: With Saturday’s thrilling three-point victory over Alabama, the Tigers added to their list of upsets over the Crimson Tide.
Auburn’s 38th win in the all-time series was another case of the Tigers upending a higher-ranked Alabama team. In the last 20 years alone, No. 6 Auburn beat No. 1 Alabama 26-14 in 2017, No. 4 Auburn beat No. 1 Alabama 34-28 in 2013, No. 11 Auburn beat No. 8 Alabama 28-18 in 2005 and unranked Auburn beat No. 9 Alabama 17-7 in 2002.
Auburn’s victory leaves the Tigers 10-5 against Alabama in Jordan-Hare Stadium. The two teams played at Auburn’s home field for the first time in 1989.
“It was just an electric environment,” Malzahn said. “I'm so thankful for our fans. This is the best atmosphere in college football. They've proved it again. I think they had numerous penalties because of the noise. They were the 12th man.”