Pushed to the limit and outplayed most of the game, second-ranked Alabama found its championship form in the nick of time.
The Crimson Tide stayed perfect with an imperfect 26-21 victory yesterday over host Auburn, taking the lead with a tenacious drive that was capped by Greg McElroy’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch with 1:24 remaining.
The Tide (12-0, 8-0), who fell behind, 14-0, in the first 9:18, didn’t get much help from Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram, but still completed a second straight perfect regular season to set up a 1 vs. 2 showdown with Florida in next week’s SEC championship game.
Auburn (7-5, 3-5) pushed the ball to the Alabama 37 on the final drive, but Chris Todd’s final pass to the end zone was batted down by Rolando McClain.
Ingram, the SEC’s leading rusher, was held to 30 yards on 16 carries and was on the bench for most of the winning drive. Alabama coach Nick Saban said he believed Ingram had a bruised hip.
McElroy and Julio Jones took over without him, aided by five runs and a 17-yard catch by freshman Trent Richardson on the 15-play, 79-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes. McElroy completed his final seven passes for 62 yards. Jones made four catches on the winning drive, three for first downs.
W. Virginia 19, Pittsburgh 16 - Tyler Bitancurt kicked four field goals, including a 43-yarder as time expired that lifted the host Mountaineers and ended No. 8 Pitt’s five-game winning streak.
The Panthers (9-2, 5-1) can still earn the Big East’s BCS berth with a win at home next week against Cincinnati. Pitt tied the score at 16 on Bill Stull’s 50-yard TD pass to Jonathan Baldwin with 2:54 remaining, but that left West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) with enough time to drive into field goal range.
Cincinnati 49, Illinois 36 - Making his first start since Oct. 15, Tony Pike had a school-record six TD passes in a home win over the
Pike, who is returning from a major injury to his non-throwing arm, tossed four TD strikes in the first half to help Cincinnati build a 35-20 lead. The senior finished 32 of 46 for 399 yards. Mardy Gilyard caught two TD passes and returned a kickoff 90 yards for a score. Tight end Ben Guidugli caught six passes for 144 yards and two TDs.
Boise State 44, Nevada 33 - Kellen Moore tied his career high with five touchdown passes, three to fill-in fullback Dan Paul, as No. 6 Boise State (12-0) remained undefeated by outlasting visiting Nevada.