Another prayer at Jordan–Hare

A couple of weeks ago, I called the Georgia vs Auburn game “the most dramatic game of college football” I had seen. Admittedly I have only been following college football for about three years or so, but it was still quite a big statement to make. The game was still fresh in my memory and I probably got caught up in all the drama and excitement. So at the risk of overplaying things again, let me say this: Saturday’s Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn was equally exciting and dramatic, if not more so, and the ending was perhaps even more shocking.

The Iron Bowl, so named because of Birmingham, Alabama’s status as a hub for the iron and steel industry, is one of the most heated rivalries in college football. The Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide first played a football game in 1893 and have met a further 77 times since. This number would be much higher had the series not been suspended between 1908 and 1947, after the two sides disagreed over expenses and officials.

Alabama have won three of the last four national championships and were undefeated and ranked #1 going into the game. Auburn, who had experienced a sharp decline following their national championship win in 2011, have since been revitalised under new head coach Gus Malzahn. The Tigers had lost only once in 2013 and were ranked in the top 5 following that victory over Georgia and losses by Oregon and Baylor. For the first time since the SEC had split into divisions, the winner of 2013’s Iron Bowl would determine which of the two rivals would win the SEC West and go on to play in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. In addition, a win for Alabama would keep alive their hopes of yet another national title.

Auburn opened the scoring when quarterback Nick Marshall ran 45 yards for a touchdown, but Alabama responded with A.J. McCarron passes to Jalston Fowler and Kevin Norwood. A rush from one yard out by T.J. Yeldon made it 21 unanswered points for the Crimson Tide, but Tre Mason ran in from the same distance to cut the deficit to seven points and make it 21–14 to Alabama at half-time.

A 13-yard pass from Marshall to C.J. Uzomah tied the game early in the 3rd quarter. In the 4th quarter, Alabama kicker Cade Foster missed his second field goal of the game, but the Tide did score on their next possession with a 99-yard A.J. McCarron touchdown pass to Amari Cooper. Foster then had a field goal blocked, giving the Tigers the ball with 2:41 remaining. Tre Mason ran the ball for six consecutive plays, before Marshall found Sammie Coates on a 39-yard passing play to even things up at 28 points apiece.

Alabama had half a minute to score the winning points or else face overtime. It looked as though we were heading for an extra period when T.J. Yeldon stepped out of bounds, but after further review it was ruled that time had not quite expired and Alabama had one second in which to possibly score the winning field goal from 57 yards. After Foster’s 0 for 3 afternoon (which led to some disgraceful Twitter abuse from a minority of fans), it was left to backup kicker Adam Griffith to attempt the game-winning kick:

The kick fell short, only to be returned 109 yards by Chris Davis for the game-ending touchdown. Auburn wins the SEC West and moves on to Atlanta, where they will face the Missouri Tigers for the SEC Championship. Alabama meanwhile, saw their hopes of a fourth national title in five years evaporate in the time it took Davis to run from one end zone to the other. What a game… phew!

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