AUBURN, Alabama — Gus Malzahn left Auburn's latest disappointing defeat with a pledge that the Tigers will improve.
Auburn's offensive deficiencies especially were on display in Saturday's 29-13 loss to No. 2 Alabama in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers (6-6, 2-6 Southeastern Conference) still were in the game into the fourth quarter but were outgained 465-250 in total yards.
"There are a lot of different things in my mind that we have to work on to get better and we will," Malzahn said. "This was our last regular-season game and we will get a plan and get better. I guarantee that."
Adam Griffith kicked five field goals for Alabama (11-1, 7-1) two years after his last-play attempt touched off Auburn's Kick Six, a 109-yard, game-winning return by Chris Davis.
Griffith will leave dwelling on the past to others.
"I feel like everybody is talking about that too much, the Kick Six," Griffith said. "That's two years ago. It happened. I wasn't thinking about that at all."
Derrick Henry ran a school-record 46 times for 271 yards, the third-most in a game for a 'Bama back and the most against the Tigers.
The Heisman Trophy candidate produced his fourth 200-yard game of the season against an SEC defense. He helped put it away with 19 runs in the fourth quarter, then extended his school-record streak of games with a rushing touchdown to 17 in the final minute.
Henry broke Trent Richardson's single-season rushing mark and had carries on 14 consecutive plays at the end.
"He's the go-to guy," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "He didn't want to come out. He wanted to go."
The Tigers stayed close into the fourth, aided in the third quarter by Jason Smith's 77-yard touchdown catch, which he twice tipped back to himself.
"As I was running, I was like, 'Man, no way,'" Smith said. "I couldn't hear anything, at first, until I got in the end zone."
The Tide will play No. 10 Florida next week at the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship and a second straight berth in the playoffs. Alabama entered the game No. 2 in the playoff rankings and like No. 1 Clemson had trouble shaking its struggling rival.
Clemson survived a 37-32 scare against South Carolina earlier in the day.
Alabama's win also didn't come without a fight against Auburn.
Jake Coker completed 17 of 26 passes for 179 yards, including a 34-yard touchdown to ArDarius Stewart in the third quarter after eluding two defenders.
Auburn bounced right back with Smith's improbable but eerily familiar touchdown catch. Smith tipped the deep ball from Jeremy Johnson into the air twice with his right hand before collecting it and racing to the end zone for the Tigers' longest pass play of the season.
It was reminiscent of Ricardo Louis's deflected catch for an Auburn touchdown to beat Georgia two years ago. Only this time, no SEC or national title shot was on the line.
"That play reminded me of the play they made against Georgia the same year they made the kick return against us," Saban said. "But it was a big play and it counts for seven."
Johnson was 10-of-23 passing for 169 yards. Jovon Robinson ran for 53 yards but only had two second-half carries.
"We had opportunities in the fourth quarter," Malzahn said. "We were right there and just didn't make the plays to win the game and they did. That's a good football team."
Before Henry took over, Griffith kept the Tide ahead. His field goals went for 26, 40, 26, 50 and 47 yards. He came off the bench to attempt an even longer one on the final play against Auburn in 2013 that Chris Davis returned 109 yards that's even more of a distant memory now.
Auburn helped set up Griffith's fifth field goal with two 15-yard penalties on the same play. Johnathan Ford was flagged for hitting Coker out of bounds. The Tigers were also penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after defensive coordinator Will Muschamp came out on the field screaming at officials, before getting led back to the sideline by other Auburn staffers.
Auburn's Daniel Carlson, a finalist for the Lou Groza Award, pushed his string of made field goals to a school-record 16 with two more before missing a 48-yarder.
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