BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Although quarterback Jeff Burger led No. 7 Auburn on two scoring drives, Coach Pat Dye wanted to talk about the defensive unit that helped get the Tigers into the Sugar Bowl Friday.
"They just wouldn't let Alabama's offense get started in the second half," Dye said after Auburn defeated No. 18 Alabama, 10-0, the first shutout of the Crimson Tide since Notre Dame's 7-0 victory in 1980.
The victory gave Auburn the Southeastern Conference title and the host's berth in the Sugar Bowl against undefeated Syracuse.
"I felt we pretty much had control most of the game, but we weren't ahead by much," Dye said.
"Our running game got on track (in the second half)," Dye said. Alabama held Auburn to only 20 yards rushing in the first half, but the Tigers wound up with 185 yards, including 129 in 26 carries by Stacy Danley.
Although Alabama had the ball more than five minutes longer than Auburn in the first half, the Tigers finished with a possession edge of more than 10 minutes for the game.
Alabama's Bobby Humphrey, the SEC's top all-purpose runner, got 56 yards in the first half and only 17 in the second half.
"Football is a game of inches and tonight the inches were on Auburn's side and the breaks went our way," Dye said.
Auburn, 9-1-1 overall, took the SEC title at 5-0-1. Alabama is 7-4 and 4-2 in Bill Curry's first year as the Crimson Tide coach. Curry is 0-8 against Auburn, losing all seven of his games against the Tigers while coaching at Georgia Tech.
Louisiana State, which lost to Alabama and did not play Auburn, finished second in the conference race at 5-1.
LSU will meet South Carolina in the Gator Bowl, and Alabama will face Michigan in the Hall of Fame Bowl.
Derrick Thomas gave Alabama its best scoring chance when he blocked an Auburn punt out of bounds at the Tigers' nine-yard line. Three Alabama plays moved the ball to the one, but a fourth-down pass failed and Auburn took over.
With Burger in charge, Auburn went 99 yards for the game's only touchdown, which came on Harry Mose's 5-yard run around left end. Burger threw a 44-yard pass to Lawyer Tillman, and Danley had an 18-yard run during the drive, which was aided by two 15-yard penalties against Alabama.
Late in the game, Auburn drove 69 yards to the Alabama 9, with Win Lyle kicking a 23-yard field goal.
Alabama got one last chance, but lost the ball when Clay Whitehurst caught a pass and fumbled at the Alabama 45.
Until Auburn's 99-yard drive, the game was dominated by the defenses, with Auburn linebacker Kurt Crain halting Alabama with an interception and Alabama safety Mike Smith stopping Auburn by picking off a Burger pass at the Alabama 25.
Alabama later moved to the Auburn 36, but a 53-yard field goal attempt by Phillip Doyle hit the left upright and was no good.
Lyle missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter.
David Smith, out for several weeks with a broken collar bone, entered the game then and quarterbacked Alabama from its 30 to the 49. Auburn held, forcing a punt that started Auburn on its drive to the clinching field goal.