No Shortage Of Miracles In Auburn
Alabama had a two touchdown lead in the first half and had a touchdown advantage in the fourth quarter with the ball deep in Auburn territory twice and failed to score. Auburn took advantage of the second failure – a blocked field goal – to drive to a touchdown with 32 seconds to play to tie the game at 28-28.
Overtime seemed assured. In fact it had been announced. But Alabama asked for a review on a play and it was determined Bama had one second for a play from the Auburn 39. It turned out to be very bad luck for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama sent back-up placekicker Adam Griffith in to try an unlikely 56-yard field goal. When Griffith kicks, punter Cody Mandell is the holder so a fake was not a likely call. Indeed, Griffith kicked it and it was a few yards short. And there to catch it was the best return man in the Southeastern Conference, Chris Davis. He took the ball the length of the field with no Tide player seriously in contention to make the stop.
Alabama thus will not be in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game and will not be in Pasasdena for the BCS National Championship Game. There is a good chance Bama will get the Sugar Bowl bid.
Alabama fell to 11-1 on the season, 7-1 in SEC games. Auburn, in the most amazing turn-around of a program imagineable, has gone from 3-9 overall and 0-8 in SEC games last year to 11-1 and 7-1 and winner of the SEC Western Division. The Tigers will play either Missouri or South Carolina for the league championship next week.
The Tide's first scoring opportunity went awry, too, Cade Foster missing wide left on a 44-yard field goal attempt at the end of Bama's first possession. Foster would have two more misses, one blocked, in the fourth quarter.
Alabama fell behind by 7-0 on an unlikely Auburn drive. The Tigers were called for holding and were facing third and 18 from their 26, but Nick Marshall scrambled and then connected with a wide open Sammie Coates for a 21-yard gain. Three plays later Marshall kept at left tackle and went in from 45 yards for the touchdown. Cody Parkey kicked the Tigers to a 7-0 lead.
After an exchange of punts, Alabama started a touchdown drive late in the first quarter. Kenyan Drake replaced T.J. Yeldon and had runs of 11, 9, and 6 yards to get into Auburn territory.
The Tide faced a fourth and seven, though, after A.J. McCarron was sacked. Surrpisingly, the Tide decided to go for it at the Auburn 38. Just as surprising, and fortuitous for Bama, was a Tigers defender jumping offsides, making the fourth down try needing only two yards. McCarron passed to freshman tight end O.J. Howard for a 12-yard gain and first down. Another pass to Howard gained 11 to the Auburn 10. Drake ran it to the two and then McCarron passed to H-back Jalston Fowler for the touchdown. Foster's extra point kick tied it at 7-7.
On Auburn's next possession, tailback Tre Mason was caught by C.J. Mosley and Landon Collins stripped the ball out of Mason's hands. Collin s fell on the ball at the Auburn 36.
McCarron had to scramble before finding Yeldon on a short pass that turned into a nine-yard gain. Yeldon then had a third down run for eight yards and a first down at the Tigers 20. On first down McCarron threw over the Auburn defense to a wide open Kevin Norwood in the end zone. Alabama led 14-7 midway through the second quarter.
When Auburn was unable to move on its next possession, it looked like Alabama had snatched momentum. Bama started at its 44 with Yeldon running for 13 yards into Auburn territory. McCarron had a pass tipped, but it went into the hands of Norwood, who turned it into a 14-yard gain. Amari Cooper took it on an end-around to a first-and-goal inside the Auburn one-yard line and Yeldon took it in for a 21-7 lead with just 3:48 to play before halftime.
Alabama's defense, however, couldn't stop the Auburn running game. The Tigers got a 40-yard run from Mason, who had 101 rushing yards in the first half, and Marshall kept it himself for 15 yards to the Alabama one. Mason took it in to close the gap to 21-14 with under two minutes until intermission.
Alabama had a terrible defensive series to start the second half as Marshall directed the Tigers on an eight-play, 69-yard touchdown drive ending with a 13-yard pass to C.J. Uzomah to tie the game.
Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter the Tigers backed Bama up to the Tide one-yard line with excellent Steven Clark punts. McCarron got Bama out of the hole both times. The first came on a third down and nine, a 54-yard pass to Amari Cooper. Early in the fourth quarter, though, that opportunity ended with three passes for no gain. Foster was good on a 28-yard field goal attempt, but Bama was guilty of a false start. The three points came off the board and then Foster missed from 33 yards.
Alabama was able to overcome Clark's next punt to the Tide one.
With just under 11 minutes to play, McCarron threw deep down the right sideline on first down and Cooper hauled it in at the Auburn 42 and went the rest of the way for an Alabama record 99-yard touchdown pass play. The Tide had a 28-21 lead.
Victory seemed almost assured when Auburn gambled on a fourth-and-one at its 35 and Adrian Hubbard made the tackle on Marshall for no gain.
Yeldon ripped off a run of 13 yards for a first down at the 22. Two more Yeldon runs made it 3-1 at the 13. But two Yeldon runs failed to make the first down and the Tide's lead stayed only seven.
Things seemed still to be in good shape for the Tide when Bama forced a punt and Christion Jones returned it 19 yards to the Auburn 25.
A penalty was a killer for the Tide. Yeldon had run for a big gain, inside the Auburn 10 for an apparent first down, but a holding call put the ball back at the 27. After an incomplete pass, Foster was called on for 44-yard field goal attempt. It was blocked.
Alabama rubbed salt in its own wound with a personal foul penalty after the Tigers had the ball at the 28, moving it out to the 43.
Auburn had 2:32 and used two minutes of it, all running until the final play. On a first down play, Marshall started around left end and Bama's secondary left Coates unguarded. It was an easy toss and catch to tie the game.
Although it turned out poorly, Alabama went down fighting. After a safe kickoff the Tide tried a couple of draw plays to Yeldon, who got 9 and 23. On the last he went out of bounds. A review determined there was a second to play.
And that set up the final play for Alabama – an unlikely field goal effort coupled with an inexcusable lack of coverage. And that made it a final, unforgettable play for Auburn.
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