The Auburn Tigers were on a roll heading into the 2017 Iron Bowl. After falling to LSU 27-23 in Death Valley, the Tigers rattled off four straight wins, including a 40-17 thrashing of No. 2 Georgia, making them one of the hottest teams in the country.
On the other side, the Alabama Crimson Tide, shockingly, were undefeated entering the battle for The Yellowhammer State. Much like the majority of their season, Nick Saban's team was in control for most of the game, too. That is, until midway through the third quarter when Auburn safety Stephen Roberts turned the tides.
Stephen Roberts Takes Down 235-Pound Bo Scarbrough
Alabama scored a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead on their first possession out of halftime. Auburn answered with a field goal to bring it to 14-13. On the next drive, Alabama relied on their go-to guy, running back Bo Scarbrough, to keep the game in their control amongst a raucous Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Scarbrough ran for a 5-yard gain on first down and trudged his way for a 1-yard scamper on second down. On third down, quarterback Jalen Hurts checked down to Scarbrough, who only had Roberts to beat for the first. Now, Scarbrough is a big dude. He checked in at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds. He was essentially Derrick Henry Jr. Roberts, on the other hand, was 5-foot-11 and 188 pounds. But, size doesn't matter on the money down.
Roberts attacked Scarbrough low, disrupting his stride and forcing him out of bounds. Three-and-out.
The play completely shifted the momentum in Auburn's favor. Kerryon Johnson punched it in on the ensuing 12-play drive to put the Tigers up 20-14. Then, after forcing a fumble, Auburn scored again to go up 26-14 and put the game away for good.
Roberts spoke about the defense's approach of slowing down Scarbrough after the game:
"Don't be scared; can't be scared," Roberts said, per AL.com. "You got to be physical and you got to wrap up. That's one thing that we talk about every day in practice: wrapping up and tackling. If you bring it to them they'll slow up, if you don't they can bring it to you and it's going to hurt worse.... I felt it. I felt it when they threw him the ball. I knew just to get him. That was my mindset, to go get him."
Boy, did that mentality pay off when it mattered most.
Sure, Auburn ended up falling to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game and Alabama rebounded to win the national championship. But, Roberts' clutch play in a winning effort against an archrival is worth remembering. Beating Alabama is never not sweet.