And the Band Played On

Early January, 2007 – with my university roommates I happened to witness one of the greatest games in the history of College Football; Boise State’s epic overtime win against Oklahoma.  After watching the impossible to duplicate “statue of liberty to proposal” play, I figured I was closing the book and the possibilities of seeing anything better.

November 30, 2013 – sitting with my brother and Dad and experiencing Auburn vs. Alabama might have been better.  Did it have the razzle dazzle of the Boise State victory?  No, but it featured a perennial college powerhouse that seemed to be all but assured of a national title getting beaten in the worst possible way by its hated arch rival.  Alabama and Nick Saban seemed to be unstoppable this year, but we, as fans, have forgotten the rule that every Achilles must have a heel. 

The Tide’s heel had been previously exposed – several years ago – when they were unable to kick seemingly simple field goals against LSU and lost what might go down as the most boring college football game in history (a horrendous 9-6 affair).  You would think Saban would use one of his plethora of scholarships on a kicker.  Any kicker.  Any half decent kicker, after all it previously almost cost the team a national title.  Apparently Saban decided, that, no, it was not worthwhile.  On Saturday his senior kicker (as my brother pointed out, at this point they should know he is pretty unreliable) shanked a 44 yard kick, blew a 30 yard kick, and then drilled another 44 yard kick directly into the defensive line. 

Bama though seemed to have the game in hand after a 99 yard td pass by their Heisman candidate QB, er, until the last few moments that is.  During Auburn’s final drive, my Dad, brother and I were yelling at TV as they slammed run after run into the middle of the field.  “They have to throw a pass, this is the worst offensive two minute drill, how can they not pass?”  It was a constant refrain.  No of us realized the lengths of the “rope a dope” that was going on until Auburn hit a read option pass (where the QB missed crossing the line of scrimmage by about 3 inches) that went to the house.  Tie game. 

Crazy.  After a horrible kick, you have to figure that McCarron is going to go out and win the Heisman.  This is it.  Champions are made right here.  Yet, with the game on the line, and a second added (that Nick Saban would probably do anything in his power to have back) he did not trust either his horrible senior kicker or his ultimately subpar QB (whose max throw seems to be in the 35-40 yard range) to win the game.  Instead, the best coach in college football chose to send out a freshman kicker (1 of 3 all time) and have him try a ridiculous 57 yard attempt.  Crazy.  He kicked and probably walked off the field.  It was about ten yards short – and with no time on the clock Auburn returned it.  It was so unexpected, bold and strategically brilliant that for a moment it was unclear what was happening.  My dad, brother and I were standing up shouting at the TV because, from the earliest moments of the return it was clear – he has a chance.  Saban had been outfoxed and it went the distance.  Alabama was not prepared for a return and why would they be; strategically it was downright incredible. 

We all know what happened next, 109 yard to the house for Auburn.  Pandemonium.  Swarm the field.  Alabama skulks off, National Title hopes gone.  Now the conversation, of course, shifts to Ohio State and their complete lack of belonging in the National Title Game.  Well – next year in the playoffs they will be instantly exposed by whatever foe they face who has not had a horrendously weak schedule.  Do Auburn or Missouri deserve to face Florida State for the title?  We will see in the coming weeks. 

I believe my friend @madadub said it best: “How is this not the national title game?  I am going to buy an Auburn jersey.  Top 3 sports moments of my life.”

There is not doubt, this game and the finish is virtually indescribable to someone who did not watch – although according to the ratings most people did.  In a season that has been this up and down, and with a playoff coming, it is no surprise there will be controversy over the title game.  However, maybe we should not despair, because as madadub said, perhaps, we have already seen it.


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