Caldwell Column: Win is One For The Ages

Auburn's victory over Alabama was one for the ages on Saturday.

Two weeks ago I thought I had seen it all when Ricardo Louis hauled in a 73-yard deflected pass from Nick Marshall to beat the Georgia Bulldogs.

I was wrong.

When Alabama Coach Nick Saban fought to put one second back on the clock it just had the feeling of being the wrong decision because this Auburn team has shown it can make something happen in even the direst of circumstances. Not sure I will ever see anything like the play that unfolded Saturday night however.

With Alabama lining up for a potential game-winning 56-yard field goal, Auburn called a timeout to ice kicker Adam Griffith. It wasn't just icing the kicker that proved to be the big decision by Coach Gus Malzahn as he also made the decision to line up Chris Davis in the end zone instead of Ryan Smith in case the kick was short. That proved to be the play of the game in a contest that featured plenty by both teams.

Fielding the ball just inches from the end line, Davis headed up the field before moving to the Auburn sidelines. Getting key blocks from a host of players, including Smith and Gabe Wright, Davis had smooth sailing for the touchdown and right into the Auburn history books.

Becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to return a missed field goal for a touchdown, Davis finished what has been an improbable regular season for the Auburn Tigers with perhaps the best ending to a game in college football history considering the circumstances. The Play in the Cal-Stanford game may have been just as crazy, but it didn't have the implications of Saturday's Iron Bowl.

Going from three wins in 2012 to SEC Western Division Champions, Malzahn and his staff have guided a group of determined players to one of the biggest turnarounds in in the history of the sport.

It happened on a night that few saw coming and doing it in a way that was supposed to be unheard of.

You don't run the ball for 296 yards against a Saban-coached Alabama team. Allowing just 91 yards per game coming into the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide gave up 164 yards to Tre Mason and another 99 to Nick Marshall alone.

You don't win a game after giving up a 99-yard touchdown pass to Alabama to break a tie game in the fourth quarter with just over 10 minutes left. A.J. McCarron completed 17-29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns, but it was three missed chances in the red zone for the Alabama offense that was the difference.

You don't win a game when you lose the turnover battle against Alabama. That's what we heard all week from the talking heads, but this Auburn team didn't listen to that news either. Instead the Tigers kept battling and made the plays to win the game including a key fourth down stop in the fourth quarter when Saban turned down a 30-yard field goal attempt. That decision ended with T.J. Yeldon stuffed instead of Alabama up 10 points.

There were plenty of reasons Auburn might not have won Saturday. Marshall missed a sure touchdown on the opening drive with the ball thrown just behind Ricardo Louis. Smith had a chance to snuff out an Alabama punt a drive later and put the Tigers in good field position, but he just missed and the punt traveled 39 yards.

Then you have two Alabama passes off their own goal line. The first went for 54 yards to Amari Cooper and got the Crimson Tide out of a huge hole from their own two. The second came in the fourth quarter and covered 99 yards to put Alabama in front.

Even with those mistakes this Auburn team found a way to win against a team few thought could be beat. That's the mindset established by Malzahn when he arrived and it has continued to permeate throughout the players and Auburn fans.

The Tigers now have a week to come down from another wild victory and get ready for the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta vs. Missouri. Riding a wave of confidence and a belief they're going to win every time they step on the field, this group of Tigers will be raring to go once again.


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