AUBURN, Ala. -- Someday, someday, there will be a greater Iron Bowl finish than this one. Babe Ruth died, and the Yankees continue to play. Sinatra has come and gone, and people still sing. Forty-one years after "Punt Bama Punt," Chris Davis caught a field goal attempt nine yards deep in the end zone, and started running.
So it's possible that the way that No. 4 Auburn dethroned No. 1 Alabama 34-28, will be eclipsed. But at this moment Saturday night, with the cheers at Jordan-Hare Stadium still reverberating from here to Columbus, Ohio, it doesn't seem possible at all. With the clock showing all zeroes, Davis returned Adam Griffith's Hail Mary of a 57-yard field goal attempt 109 yards for a touchdown.
"We saw they had a guy back there," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Everybody knew they had to cover him. We just didn't, we didn't cover it right."
In the 15 seconds or so that it took Davis to sprint from end line to end line, Alabama lost its chance at a third consecutive BCS championship; Auburn won the SEC West and planted itself in the BCS title debate, No. 3 Ohio State saw its BCS hopes come to life, and the spectrum of emotions that college football can elicit stretched a little beyond its limit.
"I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run," Davis said, "and I knew we had bigger guys on the field to protect and that was all after that."
The game unfolded as Alabama's toughest games have unfolded all season long. The Tide started slow, fell behind, warmed up and took the lead in the fourth quarter thanks to a 99½-yard touchdown pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper. In any other Iron Bowl, that would've been the stuff of legend. But then Alabama's karma got run over by Auburn's karma, in which the Tigers keep believing until they pull off a miracle finish. That's what happened against Georgia, when Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass for a 73-yard touchdown in the final minute.
And that's what happened Saturday, when Auburn scored two touchdowns in the last 32 seconds, and every choice Saban made came back to bite him.
With a 28-21 lead in the fourth quarter, and 4th-and-1 at the Auburn 13, Saban chose not to send kicker Cade Foster onto the field. The senior, who had made 11 of 12 field goals this season coming into the game, reverted to his form of two years ago, when he missed three field goals in a 9-6 loss to LSU.
Foster missed a 44-yard field goal in the first quarter. Early in the fourth quarter, he appeared to make a 28-yarder, but a false start penalty pushed the ball back five yards, and he missed that. So this time, instead of sending Foster onto the field, Saban sent T.J. Yeldon into the line. Auburn stuffed him, just as it had done on third down.
"Cade was just having a rough day," Saban said. "... We missed several field goals. It's not for sure you would have made it. I mean you say you should have a kicked a field goal. Well, that's assuming you make it."