AUBURN — The 84th Iron Bowl looked like it might end up being a fairly normal football game through a quarter-and-a-half of play Saturday.
When Anders Carlson kicked a 43-yard field goal with 7:04 remaining in the second quarter, Auburn and Alabama were tied at 10 points apiece.
Then the game flew all the way off the rails.
Smoke Monday returned a Mac Jones interception 29 yards for a touchdown. Jaylen Waddle returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for another touchdown. Henry Ruggs III caught a 3-yard touchdown. Sal Cannella made a toe-tapping grab on a 14-yard score. Jaylen Waddle turned a reception over the middle into a 58-yard catch and run.
That was all in the span of less than five minutes.
And if that wasn't wild enough, Auburn managed to kick a 52-yard field goal just before halftime despite the fact that JaTarvious Whitlow was tackled with in bounds with only 1 second remaining and that it had no timeouts. The initial call was actually that time had expired, but review put a second back on the clock and gave the Tigers enough time to get the snap off.
In the Iron Bowl. Sound familiar?
And that field goal wasn't even the biggest one of the game. The biggest one of the game was the one that Alabama's Joseph Bulovas missed with 2:00 remaining that would have tied the game.
Auburn won the Iron Bowl, 48-45.
Here are three takeaways:
1. Fast start for AU offense
The story has been the same for Auburn in a lot of games where the offense has struggled this season. Whether it was the game against Oregon, or Florida, or LSU, Ole Miss or Georgia, it took took too long to get things going.
The Tigers scored didn't score their first touchdowns in those games until their 10th, eighth, sixth, ninth and 11th drives, respectively.
On Saturday against Alabama, though, it took only three drives — a 37-yard punt return from Christian Tutt set the offense up at the 32-yard line, and the offense crossed the goal line three plays later. JaTarvious Whitlow ran twice for 18 yards (with the second of those being helped by a facemask penalty), and Bo Nix ran in the 7-yard score.
2. Defense gets some points
The biggest claim to fame for Auburn's defense this season is that none of the 11 teams it faced scored more than 24 points against it. Only five other defenses in the country could say that.
Alabama broke that streak Saturday, though. The Crimson Tide finished the Iron Bowl with 45 points. Seven of those points came from Waddle on special teams. Waddle scored three more touchdowns on offense. Najee Harris totaled 146 yards on 27 touches.
But the Tigers also scored some points of their own on defense. That's something that hadn't happened all season. Alabama quarterback Mac Jones completed 26 of 39 passes for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns, but two of those incompletions were interceptions.
Monday returned the first one 29 yards to give Auburn a 17-10 lead a little more than halfway through the second quarter. That one came with the Crimson Tide deep in their own territory. The second came as they were knocking on the door of another touchdown.
Jones tried to hit Harris running a quick out on first-and-goal from the 2 after an Auburn penalty. The ball was behind the running back, and it bounced off him and right into the arms of sophomore linebacker Zakoby McClain, who wasn't even looking at the ball. He returned it 100 yards down the visitor's sideline for the touchdown that gave Auburn a 37-31 lead in the third quarter.
3. Anders Carlson shines
Auburn's placekicker had been very shaky in his previous two SEC games. He missed three attempts against Ole Miss, then another against Georgia a week later.
But on Saturday against Alabama, Carlson was automatic. He went 4 of 4 with makes of 43, 52, 43 and 44 yards.
The one just before halftime, the one Alabama head Nick Saban looked furious that he even got a chance to kick, may have been the biggest.