Milroe’s TD pass to Bond on fourth-and-31 rescues No. 8 Alabama in 27-24 win over Auburn

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AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — Jalen Milroe stood in the pocket for what felt like an eternity before spotting Isaiah Bond and launching the pass that kept Alabama’s playoff hopes alive.

And etched “fourth-and-31” in Iron Bowl lore in the process.

Milroe and Bond rescued No. 8 Alabama’s chances of making the College Football Playoff, connecting for a last-minute touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 31 to beat Auburn 27-24 on Saturday.

“I’ll never forget this game, ever in my life,” Milroe said. Neither will fans who witnessed Alabama’s fourth straight victory in the bitter rivalry.

Milroe found Bond in the left corner of the end zone with 32 seconds left, and the Crimson Tide (11-1, 8-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 8 CFP) came out on top in the latest improbable finish at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Milroe — who was given all the time he needed to throw by Auburn — insisted he never had doubts: “One hundred percent. I saw IB one-on-one and I knew we were going to score.”

Alabama has won 10 straight since losing at home to Texas on Sept. 9, but still needs to beat No. 1 Georgia in next week’s SEC Championship game to make the playoff.

Trailing by four with 1:43 left, Alabama had first-and-goal at the Auburn 7 before moving backward. The Tide lost 18 yards on a bad snap and were pushed back 5 more yards with an illegal downfield pass on third down after Milroe crossed the line of scrimmage.

Then came a play that Bond called “The Gravedigger,” the latest example of what Alabama coach Nick Saban called the “weird stuff” his teams have experienced at Jordan-Hare.

“We’ve been on both sides of the good fortune and the misfortune, and I’ve gotta admit, we had good fortune,” Saban said. “But it still comes down to ability to execute.”

Bond said he was just thinking “it’s mine” once Milroe’s final pass was in the air.

“Big-time players make big-time plays,” he said. “That’s the one quote my mom instilled in me as a young child.”

Two years ago, Alabama needed four overtimes to beat the Tigers on the Plains, where the Kick Six — Chris Davis’ return of a missed 57-yard field goal try by Alabama on the final play — went down in college football history a decade ago.

Alabama nearly returned an interception for another touchdown on the last play. But this game will be remembered around the state for fourth-and-31. Auburn will be second-guessed for not trying to pressure Milroe, who stood in the pocket for at least five seconds before throwing.

Ja’Varrius Johnson had scored on a 27-yard touchdown catch and a 12-yard run to put the Tigers (6-6, 3-5) — 12 1/2-point underdogs, according to FanDuel Sportsbook — in position for the upset in coach Hugh Freeze’s first Iron Bowl.

“It’s a lot of hurt in that locker room, and it stinks,” Freeze said. “Our kids gave themselves a chance to win the Iron Bowl tonight, and it’s going to stick with us for a while.”

Milroe passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 107 yards. Jermaine Burton had 107 yards receiving, including a 68-yard touchdown. Bond had five catches for 75 yards.

Payton Thorne passed for 91 yards and a touchdown and ran for 58 yards for Auburn. Jarquez Hunter ran for 93 yards and Damari Alston gained 85.

A muffed punt gave Alabama the ball on the Auburn 30 with 4:48 left. But cornerback Nehemiah Pritchett upended a scrambling Milroe a yard shy of the first down on third-and-20. Roydell Williams took a pitch and converted the fourth down, setting up the go-ahead score.

Midway through the third quarter, Thorne hit a wide-open Johnson for a touchdown that put Auburn ahead 21-20. Alex McPherson’s 21-yard field goal made it 24-20 with 10 minutes left.

Bond celebrated his winning score by emulating James Bond, holding his hands against his chest as if cradling a pistol.

“That’s the 007 pose, so if anybody wants to use that, I did it first,” said Bond, who has a diamond-encrusted “007” hanging on a chain.

REICHARD’S RECORD

With two field goals and three extra points, Alabama’s fifth-year kicker Will Reichard tied former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds as the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer at 530 points. Reichard missed a 42-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

Alabama: The Tide were pushed to the brink after picking up steam as the season headed toward the Iron Bowl. They outgained Auburn 451 yards to 337.

Auburn: Rebounded strongly from a 31-10 loss to New Mexico State, propelled by a running game that never got going in that game but produced 244 yards in this one.

BIG TURNAROUND

Saban was impressed with Auburn’s transformation after last week’s loss.

“Watch them play last week, and watch them play this week, it’s not the same team,” Saban said. “But we knew we were going to have a tough game here.”

UP NEXT

Alabama heads to Atlanta to face the Bulldogs.

Auburn awaits its bowl destination.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football

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