Tagovailoa, Alabama race away from Auburn

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By JOHN ZENOR

The Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tua Tagovailoa threw five touchdown passes and ran for a score to lead No. 1 Alabama to a 52-21 victory over rival Auburn on Saturday.

Tagovailoa and the Crimson Tide (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference, No. 1 CFP) took over with an explosive third quarter, when the Heisman Trophy contender from Oahu threw three long touchdown passes. He’s the first Alabama player to have a hand in six TDs in a game and matched the school record with the five scoring passes.

“We executed on all cylinders on offense coming into that opening drive in the second half, so it’s really good,” Tagovailoa said.

Now, the Crimson Tide head to the SEC championship game against No. 5 Georgia with a guaranteed playoff spot on the line.

With Alabama leading Auburn (7-5, 3-5) 17-14 at halftime, Tagovailoa launched the Tide into another SEC blowout. He was 11-of-12 passing for 208 yards and four touchdowns in the second half, despite only playing one series in the fourth quarter.

Tagovailoa finished 25-of-32 for 324 yards and ran for 26 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown and a 21-yard third-down conversion on runs.

“I thought Tua was into it,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “His leadership was really important for our offense. Don’t ask me why but it doesn’t seem like we had the right kind of energy in the first half.”

The second-half numbers included touchdowns of 46 yards to Jerry Jeudy, 33 to Josh Jacobs, 40 to DeVonta Smith and 22 to Henry Ruggs III — all accurate strikes downfield.

Auburn had used creative calls to keep it within three at halftime.

Wide receiver Anthony Schwartz ran for a 9-yard touchdown and fellow receiver Ryan Davis took a lateral and launched a 23-yard touchdown pass to Malik Miller. That came with 4 minutes left before the half after freshman Smoke Monday blocked a punt.

“At halftime, our goal was to get to the fourth quarter,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “The game got away from us, and that’s very disappointing.”