The most memorable play in a generation for Auburn has been replaced by perhaps the greatest play in college football history. In a season of miracles for the Tigers, there has never been and never will be one bigger than Chris Davis’ 109-yard return to dethrone No. 1 Alabama, 34-28.
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As the 78th Iron Bowl ended and pandemonium erupted, with a dogpile of Auburn players in the end zone and thousands of fans rushing onto the field, there was mostly disbelief. About the entire game, which had turned wild even before the last play. About the stakes for Alabama, which seemed headed toward a third consecutive national title. About what it meant for Auburn, which has turned 3-9 last season into 11-1 and a trip to Saturday’s Southeastern Conference championship game in its first year under Gus Malzahn. But mostly about the massive amount of destiny that seems to be riding with the Tigers this season.
“We talked about that we wanted to keep it close, and if we could get it to the fourth quarter playing at home, with our crowd, we would find a way to win,” Malzahn said. “You know, the way we won the last two weeks is really unbelievable.”
Think fate isn’t on Auburn’s side?
Officials actually signaled that regulation ended after Yeldon ran to the Auburn 38 before being shoved out of bounds; only after video replay did they put one second back on the clock. It turned out that was just enough time for Alabama to make a momentous decision: It would send freshman Adam Griffith out for a 57-yard field goal.
“The wind was behind him, one second left, so you’re thinking what could go wrong if he gets it up?” Auburn athletics director Jay Jacobs said. “The worst thing you think is it may get blocked.”
Clearly, that wasn’t the case.
Initially, Auburn was going to play a safe field goal coverage so that they’d have at least one man back to prevent a fake from beating them. Then, after a time out, Malzahn sent Davis into the end zone as essentially a return man in case the kick came up short which it did, right into his arms.
Most unexplainable is that Davis was hardly touched. After catching the ball and running right, he cut back to the left just past the 10-yard line. Alabama tight end Brian Vogler had a shot at him at the 20, but Davis escaped his grasp and sprinted to the sideline where only holder Cody Mandell could have caught him. But it was too late. Alabama, which put eight linemen on the field, didn’t have the right personnel to catch Davis once he got free.