The Alabama Crimson Tide beat Auburn 24-22 in four overtimes on Saturday and will play Georgia at 4 p.m. next Saturday in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.
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Alabama rolls into SEC Championship Game week with dramatic 4-overtime win at Auburn,

AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama football is headed back to Atlanta aiming to repeat as SEC champions and punch its ticket to the College Football Playoff.

First things first, the Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) will need to catch its collective breath after Saturday’s breath-taking win at Auburn.

Alabama beat the Tigers (6-6, 3-5) by a 24-22 count on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium and will next face Georgia (12-0, 8-0) at 4 p.m. next Saturday.

Heisman moments

Alabama Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Young was 25-of-51 passing for 317 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in the win over Auburn.

Young sent the game into overtime with a 97-yard, last-minute drive at the end of the fourth quarter and later found John Metchie for the winning score in the fourth overtime.

Auburn quarterback T.J. Finley (17-26, 137 yards, 2 TDs, interception) had thrown incomplete on the Tigers’ fourth OT possession, opening the door for the Tide’s first win in Auburn since 2015.

Metchie led the Tide’s wideouts with 150 yards on 13 receptions, pressed to pick up the slack after SEC receiving leader Jameson Williams was ejected in the second quarter for targeting.

Williams, who had two catches for 43 yards, was on the punt coverage team when he put the illegal hit on Auburn’s Ja’Varrius Johnson.

Auburn draws first blood

The Tigers opened the scoring five plays after Williams was ejected when Kobe Hudson caught a swing pass from Finley and raced 15 yards into the end zone.

Former Georgia receiver Demetris Robertson set up the Auburn touchdown when he reeled in a 29-yard pass from Finley on the previous play, converting on third-and-15. It was the longest play from scrimmage for Auburn.

The Tigers’ 7-0 lead held up through the first half, both defenses shutting down the run game and making life miserable for the quarterbacks.

Auburn had 3 yards rushing on 18 carries in the first half, with Finley sacked 4 times through the first 30 minutes. The Tide mustered only 2 yards rushing on 14 carries with Young sacked 5 times.

Saban keeps it light

Saban, perhaps looking to break the tension, had a simple message for his young team.

“I told them to have fun at halftime,” Saban said. “Quit worrying about the result, and let’s just go have fun

“After halftime, it seemed like everybody was all in, and we were fighting like I’ve never seen us fight all year long. It’s a great feeling, players were as happy as I’ve seen them after a game.”

The Tide rallied from the 10-0 deficit in the fourth quarter, Young overcoming an Auburn pass rush that sacked him seven times on the day to engineer the game-tying drive.

Young marched Alabama 97 yards on 12 plays over the final 1 1/2 minutes, finding Ja’Corey Brooks in the corner of the end zone with 24 seconds left. Will Reichard’s conversion kick tied the game at 10-10.

“Throughout all the ups and downs, even that last drive, I have so much confidence in my guys,” said Young, who completed 5 of 10 passes on the final drive and scrambled twice.

“We had some adversity we combated together .... that was the biggest thing, was making sure we were on the same page.”

SEC Championship battle on deck

Saban’s ninth SEC West Division crown sets up No. 3-ranked Alabama for a showdown against No. 1-ranked Georgia that seemed inevitable all season.

UGA capped its regular season with a 45-0 victory over Georgia Tech in Atlanta earlier on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs have won 16 straight, the longest active winning streak in the NCAA and the second-longest in their program’s history (17, 1945-47).

Another streak that will be talked about next week is Saban’s success against Kirby Smart, who spent nine years in Tuscaloosa at Saban’s side, serving as the Tide’s defensive coordinator before returning to Athens to coach his alma mater.

Alabama has won all three meetings with Georgia since Smart took over as head coach in 2016 -- even though Georgia has led at halftime of each one of them.

The Tide won the 2017 CFP Championship Game 26-23 in overtime, the 2018 SEC Championship Game 35-28, and last season’s meeting in Tuscaloosa, 41-24.

Kirby’s hungry, Nick’s happy

An exuberant Smart made it clear he couldn’t wait to get his football team, riding its wave of momentum, into Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

“The SEC Championship is one of the greatest environments in all of college sports,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ blowout win over the Yellow Jackets.

“It compares with the Final Four, compares with the College World Series. It’s one of the greatest events.”

The 2021 Alabama-Auburn game certainly made a case for the Iron Bowl to be considered among collegiate sports’ top annual events, too.

“Most of the time, I remember the ones we lose,” Saban said. “But I think I’ll remember this one, because of the way the players competed in the game.

“It was a great comeback. There were many times they could have thrown in the towel … but we’d always get a sack or get a stop.”

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