On the final play Chris Davis, the cornerback who had been lobbying for three seasons to be allowed to play as a kick returner, raced 108 yards with a field goal that came up short after Tide coach Nick Saban lobbied for one second to be put back on the game clock to allow his team to go for the last second victory on a 57-yard field goal attempt.
It was a classic example of be careful what you ask for because you might get it, and Saban and the Tide got it with a punch to the gut on Senior Day by senior cornerback Davis and the never-quit Tigers.
Instead of a last-second field goal for a Tide win, it was Auburn that made the dramatic finish as Davis raced to the center of the field, cut toward the Auburn sideline and then cut back toward the middle of the field with a convoy of blockers helping him race all the way to the north end zone of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"I kept asking for a chance to do it and Coach Malzahn and Coach (Scott) Fountain gave me a chance and I am thankful," said Davis of his return duties this seaason. He is one of countless members of The Auburn Family who share that sentiment.
The victory set off the wildest postgame celebration in Jordan-Hare history as fans swarmed the field as their team completed an historic regular season turnaround, going from 0-8 in 2012 SEC games to 7-1 in 2013 with a chance to play for the league title next Saturday at the Georgia Dome.
After the game Gus Malzahn was asked if it was the greatest game of his coaching career. After saying he would have to reflect on it a bit, his wife, Christy, urged him to state the obvious. "Say, it Gus," she said several times before the first-year Auburn head coach agreed with her assessement after his team improved to 11-1.
The last second drama was set up by a 39-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates with just 32 seconds left. The quarterback had three options on the play--hand off, keep it on a run around left end or pull up and pass the football to Coates.
Option three was the winner with Coates running free behind the defense to complete the 83-yard drive that took two minutes and seven plays to tie the game at 28-28.
"The corner came up, the safety came down and it just left me wide open," Coates said. "We ran that play the whole game. They just tried to be aggressive and it hurt them."
Sammie Coates scores the tying touchdown.
That one play produced more than one-third of Auburn's passing yardage for the game. Marshall hit 11-16 passes with no interceptions and two touchdowns for 97 yards.
Marshall rushed for 99 yards and one score and Tre Mason gained 164 yards on 29 carries.
"The way it ended here tonight was a great team win," said Mason, who added, "We are looking forward to playing in Atlanta. We are going to try to keep on improving and be better next week."
Auburn rushed for 296 yards vs. the Tide, which finished with 218 rushing yards vs. the AU defense. Alabama threw for 277 yards.
Nick Marshall races to the end zone.
The Tigers had the only turnover of the game and held the ball for 68 plays, four more than Alabama.
"First time I have ever lost a game that way, first time I have ever seen a game lost that way," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We had the wind behind us, but he still should have covered it. The game should not have ended that way."
The Tigers missed a great opportunity to score on their first possession when the Tide secondary left Ricardo Louis open with nobody between the receiver and goal. However, the pass slipped off his fingertips forcing a punt.
On the next possession the Tigers moved 66 yards on seven plays for a touchdown with Marshall making two big plays. The first was a pass to Coates to convert a third down and 18 after a holding call put the offense in a hole.
The quarterback scored from 45 yards out on a keeper at left tackle as he used his speed to run past the defense after his offensive line opened a big hole. That put the Tigers up 7-0 with 5:05 left in the first quarter.
The Tide rallied with second quarter scoring drives of 67, 36 and 56 yards to take a 21-7 lead with 3:48 before halftime.
A fumble by Mason set up the second score, a 20-yard pass to Kevin Norwood.
With the Auburn offense struggling to move the ball the Tide took advantage and stretched the lead to two TDs with a quick strike score that took just five plays after a punt. T.J. Yeldon scored from one yard out.
Auburn needed to answer and the Tigers did with an 81-yard drive on seven straight runs. Marshall appeared to have scored on a keeper at left end, but was ruled out of bounds at the one. Mason, who carried the ball on six of the possession's plays, scored from the one-yard line with 1:40 in the period to end the first half scoring with the Tide up 21-14
Halftime Numbers: The Tide led in total offense 235-191. Alabama ran 20 times for 136 yards and hi 10-16 passes for 99 yards. Auburn rushed 24 times for 162 yards and hit 4-6 passes for 29 yards. Mason led the Tigers at the break with 101 yards on 15 carries while Marshall added 49 yards on seven carries.
The Tigers got the football to start the third quarter and drove 69 yards on nine plays to tie the game at 21-21. Auburn picked up most of its yardage on the ground, but the final 13 yards came on a pass rifled to C.J. Uzomah in the end zone with 11:56 on the clock.
Auburn's defense had chances to step up and be the hero, but failed twice to hold the Tide after Steven Clark punts had backed the Tide up to the one-yard line.
The first Alabama possession ended on a missed 33-yard field goal, but the second put the Tide up 28-21 on a 99-yard pass play from McCarron to Amari Cooper, who beat cornerback Jonathan Mincy and broke a tackle attempt by Jermaine Whitehead, and from there it was a clear field to the end zone.
In a wild fourth quarter both defenses came up with fourth down stops. It was the Auburn special teams that came through with a big play to set up the game-tying drive as the Tigers blocked Cade Foster's field goal with 2:32 left. The Tide tried four field goals and didn't hit a single one on Saturday.
Ryan Smith caught the ball in the air and was tackled at the 20. A personal foul moved the ball out to the 35-yard line and Auburn followed with six straight runs by Mason before Marshall tossed the touchdown pass to Coates.
Stat of the Game: Auburn converted 8-15 third downs while Alabama made just 4-13.
Fans stormed the field to celebrate the victory.
Worth Noting, Part 1: Senior defensive backs Chris Davis and Ryan Smith led the Tigers in tackles. Smith had seven solo tackles and three assists while Davis had six and four. Whitehead had six solo tackles and three assists.
Worth Noting, Part 2: Auburn moves to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2010 and the fifth time overall (1997, 2000, 2004, 2010, 2013).
Worth Noting, Part 3: Mason had his 10th career 100-yard rushing game with 164 vs. the Tide, a team that was allowing less than 100 yards per game on the ground coming into the contest.