An angry Shaun Alexander can be just as lethal as a healthy one.
His Heisman campaign trophy stalled four games ago by a sprained ankle and his ego bruised by a goal line stand, the Alabama tailback lost his temper.
Alabama coach Mike DuBose said he felt Alexander's did enough to get him back in the Heisman race.
"I don't know what the Heisman race is, but there can't be a better football player in this country than Shaun Alexander," DuBose said. "To play that well in a game like this and not be 100 percent is amazing."
The performance made Alexander the Crimson Tide's career rushing leader and gave Alabama (9-2, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) the SEC West title.
Alabama is back in the league championship game for the first time in three years, where it will play Florida, which it beat 40-39 in overtime last month.
"I don't know if this is better than a Heisman Trophy, but an SEC Championship would be," Alexander said.
The contingent of 12,000 Alabama fans refused to leave the stadium and chanted "SEC! SEC!" until Alabama's players returned to the field almost 20 minutes later.
It was Alabama's first-ever victory at Auburn, where the Tide had lost their previous four games.
"In the second half, we stepped up and took charge of the line of scrimmage," guard Griff Redmill said. "That last thing we were going to do was leave here with another loss."
The loss assured Auburn (5-6, 2-6) of consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1980-81.
"I was a one man show the difference was Shaun Alexander," Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We got beat by No. 37."
Alexander, who became Alabama's career leading rusher by passing Bobby Humphrey's mark of 3,420 yards, took control of the game after Auburn kept him out of the end zone on four straight tries.
Trailing 14-6 in the third quarter, backup quarterback Tyler Watts started the second half for Alabama and marched the Tide down to Auburn's 6 on 12 plays. Alabama tried to score the touchdown with four handoffs to Alexander, who was stopped each time.
Kenny Kelly tackled him for a 3-yard loss on 4th-and-2 to take the ball away on downs.
Alexander then got an earful on the sidelines from DuBose and the rest of the Alabama coaching staff..
"I did say to him at the start of the fourth quarter that he had been blessed by God with a lot of talent and he was capable of taking this game over," DuBose said. "He did that."
Meanwhile, his defense got him the ball back.
Kindal Moorehead sacked Ben Leard in the end zone on the very next play for a safety that cut it to 14-8.
"I was thinking I'd much rather give them two points then seven points," Leard said. "But I should have gotten rid of the ball."
The Tigers then kicked off to Freddie Milons, who returned it 30 yards to the Auburn 47.
Alexander took over from there. He broke free for consecutive runs of 15 and 14 yards to put the Tide in scoring position. The drive almost stalled on the 16, but Alabama converted a 4th-and-3 when Milons took the direct snap and scrambled up the middle for an 8-yard gain.
Alexander went untouched into the end zone on the next play to give Alabama a 15-14 lead with 11:55 to play.
Auburn was forced to punt after three plays and Alabama started its next series on the 50-yard line. Alexander opened the drive with a 14-yard gain, then reeled off a 17-yard run on the next play that moved him past Humphrey on Alabama's career rushing chart. Six plays later he put Alabama up 22-14 when he scored on a 2-yard run.
Auburn cut the score to 22-17 with 2:58 to play on Damon Duval's 35-yard field goal.
But Alabama's Terry Jones Jr. recovered Auburn's on-side kick at the 41-yard line and Alexander sealed the win six plays later with his third touchdown of the game, a 6-yard run with 1:09 to play.
Alexander carried 33 times and finished with 3,468 career yards.
Watts, who replaced Andrew Zow in the second half, finished 5-of-6 for 57 yards and led the Tide on all three of their touchdown drives. Zow was 12-of-20 for 67 yards and one interception.
Auburn surprised Alabama by turning two 80-yard drives into touchdowns and a 14-6 halftime lead. Leard ended the long drives with second-quarter touchdown passes to Lorenzo Diamond and Markeith Cooper to give the Tigers the lead.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed