Auburn Downs Alabama In Dramatic Iron Bowl Thriller


Auburn CB Chris Davis returns a missed field goal for the game-winning touchdown against top-ranked Alabama on Saturday at Jordan-Hare Stadium. CREDIT – Todd J. Van Emst

Arguably the most meaningful meeting in the history of Auburn and Alabama can be best summed up in three words.

Kick, Bama, Kick.

The top-ranked Crimson Tide’s fourth missed field goal – a 57-yard game-winning attempt as time expired – ended in disaster.

Said disaster wore No. 11 for Auburn.

Chris Davis returned the ball from the back of the end-zone and took it 108 yards – officially 100 yards because of NCAA rules – to break the tie and give the Tigers the 34-28 victory.

The play, which will live forever in Auburn lure, marked the second consecutive improbable ending for the Tigers.

With the win, Auburn clinched the SEC West and likely ended any chances of Alabama capturing a third consecutive national championship.

The Crimson Tide seemingly took control of the contest early in the fourth quarter behind a remarkable pass. The momentum-swinging play came when Alabama took over on its own 1-yard line following a punt. Offensive coordinator Doug Nessmeier dialed up a play-action, double-move pass to WR Amari Cooper, who took a perfect throw from QB AJ McCarron and took it 99 yards for the go-ahead score.

The Tide’s defense gave the offense two chances to seal the game. Both times, those hopes ended on fourth down.

On a fourth-and-1 from the 13-yard line, coach Nick Saban bypassed the chance to kick a 30-yard field goal for a fourth-down try. RB T.J. Yeldon took the handoff, getting met immediately by Auburn DE Carl Lawson for no gain.

Alabama forced the Tigers to punt after a three-and-out, setting the Tide up in great field position again, needing just a field goal to take a two-possession lead.

This time, on fourth down, Saban did settle for the field-goal try. K Cade Foster – who had already missed from 44 and 33 yards – had his attempt blocked, giving Auburn one final chance.

It made the most of the final try.

Auburn marched down the field for a couple first downs, utilizing the read-option with RB Tre Mason, who finished with 164 yards and a TD. Mason’s six runs picked up 26 yards and put the ball at the Alabama 39-yard line with less than 1 minute to play.

On the ensuing first down, Auburn QB Nick Marshall tucked the read-option and turned the edge. There, he found a pair of Alabama defensive backs ready to meet him and instead threw the ball to a wide-open WR Sammie Coates, who scored the game-tying touchdown.

However, Alabama still had 32 seconds remaining in regulation. Instead of settling for overtime, the Tide moved the ball down the field – getting 24 yards on a third-and-1 draw play to Yeldon.

Initially, officials said the clock expired on Yeldon’s run before he got out of bounds, ending regulation. However, an official review properly placed 1 second on the clock, prompting the other contender for the title of this year’s Iron Bowl.

Hey, Bama: Got a Second?

Saban decided to try for a game-winning 57-yard field goal. Instead of giving the chance to Foster, who then was 0-for-3 on field goal tries, Saban turned to redshirt freshman K Adam Griffith.

His kick wasn’t bad. It would have likely been good from 50. Unfortunately for him – and for Alabama’s hopes of a three-peat – the kick was from 57.

Davis caught the ball wide of the far goal post approximately 8 yards deep in the end-zone. He bounced off and around an attempted tackle near the 20-yard line and then walked the tight rope on the sideline on his way to a historic 100-yard field-goal return for a game-winning touchdown.

The win marks a turnaround for the ages from Auburn, under first-year coach Gus Malzahn.

Less than a year ago, Malzahn inherited a team that had just concluded an 0-8 season in the SEC season.

Now his team finds itself going to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game, where it faces either Missouri or South Carolina.

Malzahn’s resume already includes an 11-1 regular season – with an SEC West appearance – with wins over No. 1 Alabama, Georgia and Texas A&M.

For Alabama, the loss gut-wrenching loss means minimal – if any – chance of winning a third consecutive national championship.

Saban’s team isn’t going anywhere, but it has plenty of reloading to do. Its most important offensive player, McCarron, and its most important defensive player, LB C.J. Mosley, are both NFL-bound at season’s end.

Don’t go shedding tears for the Crimson Tide. It returns plenty of four- and five-star recruits that will have developed under Saban’s unbelievable coaching staff. But with unproven leadership at key positions, next year could conceivably be a step backward.

The BCS has always been unpredictable, meaning anything after the top two spots could happen in the aftermath of today’s game.

The bigger picture involves neither Auburn, Alabama nor anyone else in the SEC. Auburn’s upset of No. 1 Alabama instead most directly impacts Florida State and Ohio State, who are suddenly in line for the BCS National Championship Game.

None of that matters to those who stormed the Pat Dye Field at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday night. They’re partying well into the night at Toomer’s Corner, celebrating one of the most dramatic wins in Iron Bowl history.