Alabama football runs out to big lead and puts away Auburn in Iron Bowl

First, kicker Will Reichard chased down a returner for a clean, textbook tackle.

Then long snapper Kneeland Hibbett hustled on punt coverage and recovered what officials ruled a muffed punt. Whether it was muffed or not, Hibbett was in position to make a play.

The Alabama football specialists were two of many Crimson Tide athletes who played inspired in the Iron Bowl, even with hopes of winning the division gone weeks ago and a spot in the College Football Playoff likely out of reach.

Thanks to those efforts and an Alabama team that played energized overall, the Crimson Tide defeated Auburn 49-27 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Auburn made some surges in the second half, but Alabama's big lead at halftime made a comeback futile. The game marked Alabama’s third consecutive Iron Bowl win. With 10 wins, it's the 14th season in which coach Nick Saban has had 10 or more victories in the regular season.

Here are takeaways and observations from the game between No. 7 Alabama (10-2, 6-2 SEC) and Auburn (5-7, 2-6)

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Alabama passing game lights up Auburn in first half

It’s no secret the Alabama offense has had some bumps this season, the receivers in particular.

Then against Auburn, it flipped a switch in the first half.

Quarterback Bryce Young playing well isn’t new, but he also had receivers stepping up and making plays against SEC competition, something that hasn’t always been there.

Young and company lit up the Tigers through the air early. By halftime, Young had 264 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

Young hit Jermaine Burton on a 52-yard pass early. He also connected with Kendrick Law on a key third down for 39 yards. The Crimson Tide quarterback hit Ja’Corey Brooks for a 32-yard touchdown pass at one point, too.

There were a few drops and Young threw a second-half interception, but the Iron Bowl was still one of the high points for the Alabama passing game this season. Young passed for three touchdowns and 343 yards to top the 8,000-yard mark for his career.

Crowd impacts the Tigers

The energy in Bryant-Denny Stadium was palpable, and the effect of the crowd was not difficult to measure.

The crowd noise rattled the Tigers at times. It resulted in five false starts in the first half alone. Two of the false starts were back-to-back to start a drive at 5:33 in the second quarter. That slowed the Auburn offense as Alabama kept building a lead.

Jahmyr Gibbs returns, but Jase McClellan keeps making an impact

Gibbs was back after missing the past six quarters with an ankle injury, but Jase McClellan remained a vital weapon to whom Alabama could turn.

Gibbs looked good on some early first-quarter runs and his ankle seemed to be healthy. Meanwhile, McClellan still made some important plays for the offense. The running back had scores through the air and on the ground.

His third-quarter rushing touchdown for 2 yards helped Alabama continue its momentum in the first half, putting the Crimson Tide up 42-14. He also caught a touchdown pass from Young.

Gibbs added a touchdown in the final minutes to ice the game.

Alabama has trouble limiting Auburn rushing attack

The Tigers rushing effectively isn’t a surprise. From the quarterback Robby Ashford to running backs Tank Bigsby and Jarquez Hunter, Auburn has some guys who can run over a defense.

The passing game for Auburn is lackluster and entered the game among the worst in the SEC. So Alabama knew it was going to have to stop the run, first and foremost.

Still Auburn found ways to have success on the ground. The Tigers had topped 200 yards on the ground before the third quarter was even over and surpassed 300 by the final whistle. Ashford had two rushing touchdowns by that point, too. Ashford and Hunter both gained more than 100 yards on the ground.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football defeats Auburn for third consecutive Iron Bowl win