Last season’s Iron Bowl between Alabama and Auburn was a massacre. Ranked second in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-1) crushed the struggling Tigers 49-0 to end one of the worst seasons in Auburn (3-9) history.
“Obviously, that was a very disappointing loss, embarrassing loss to our state rivals,” said then-Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who lost his job the following day. “The Auburn fans, the Auburn alumni, don’t deserve that.”
What a difference a year makes.
Saturday’s rematch between No. 1 Alabama (11-0) and No. 4 Auburn (10-1) was a back-and-forth affair that included a 99-yard touchdown pass by Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron (the longest in school history), 164 yards rushing by Auburn’s Tre Mason, and four gut-wrenching missed field goals by Alabama kickers.
With one second remaining on the clock and the game tied 28-28, Alabama head coach Nick Saban sent freshman kicker Adam Griffith onto the field to attempt a game-winning 57-yard field goal. Griffith’s kick came close but fell short of the uprights and landed in the hands of Auburn’s Chris Davis, who ran 109 yards the other way for a game-winning touchdown for the Tigers.
Auburn players piled onto Davis who had collapsed at the end of his run, and within seconds the crowd of more than 87,000 fans swarmed onto the field to celebrate.
“When I looked back, I said, ‘I can’t believe this,’” Davis told reporters after the game. “When I was running, I said, ‘God is good.’”
Auburn’s Iron Bowl victory is even more improbable given its stunning win against the Georgia Bulldogs on Nov. 16. With Auburn trailing in that game with 25 seconds to go, Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall threw a desperation “Hail Mary” pass downfield. The ball bounced off a Bulldogs safety and landed in the hands of Auburn receiver Ricardo Louis, who then ran it into the end zone for a game-winning touchdown. For two weeks, many fans called the play the “greatest finish in Auburn history.” After Saturday, it had dropped to second best.
“First time I ever lost a game that way,” Saban said after the game. “First time I have ever seen a game lost that way.”
Because of Saturday’s win, Auburn will play Missouri in the Southeastern Conference Championship game on Saturday. If the Tigers win that game, they’ll likely have a shot to play in the BCS national championship game on Jan. 6. Alabama, which has won two consecutive national titles and three of the last four, is all but eliminated from championship contention with the loss.