Finally, game week rolled around. Alabama was ranked no. 1. Auburn was No. 4. The last time both teams were ranked in the top five when they met was Nov. 27, 1971. Auburn was fifth and Alabama was third. That game turned out to be no contest as the Crimson Tide easily won, 31-7. But that game didn’t have the same aura to it. The winner of this game, 42 years later, won the Western Division [SEC] title and earned a shot at an SEC Championship the following week. The winner of this game had a shot at a national title. In a state where college football is religion to some, this Iron Bowl was of biblical proportion…
The buildup was unprecedented. It was so massive that by Wednesday of game week, you were ready to crawl in a hole and tell someone to come get you when it was time for kickoff. Everyone was just ready for the game to start. The atmosphere at the stadium was more than electric. I’m not sure there were any words to describe the excitement, tension, emotion—whatever you want to call it—that permeated Jordan-Hare…
[The game] was 21-14 going to half with Auburn set to get the ball first coming out of the locker room.
On that first third-quarter possession it was Tre Mason and Nick Marshall carrying the load running the football. Nine plays into the first possession of the second half, Auburn was deep in Alabama territory again at the 13 when they went to an old standby play call that had worked against Mississippi State earlier in the season—a pass to C.J. Uzomah in the corner of the end zone.
Auburn had now scored 14 unanswered points to tie the game at 21-21, and we were off and running in the second half. This was about to get real good.
The remainder of the third quarter was scoreless, with Alabama ending it by driving the football all the way down to the Auburn 11-yard line. A 14-play drive ended with yet another missed Cade Foster field goal—this one from just 33 yards out. However, Auburn couldn’t do anything on its next possession that ended with one of the best punts you will ever see by Steven Clark. The tall drink of water from Kansas City, Mo., pinned Alabama at their own 1-yard line.
All appeared well in Tiger land until Nick Saban decided to go the non-conservative route with his back to his own end zone. A.J. McCarron took the shotgun snap and heaved it down the near sideline where one of the best receivers ever to play the game, Amari Cooper, hauled it in and took it the distance—99 yards.
Boom! Just like that, the stadium was silenced.
The longest pass play in Iron Bowl history had given Alabama the momentum and the lead, 28-21, with 10:28 to go in the game. On the next possession, Auburn was the one that gambled as Gus Malzahn decided to go for it on four-and-1 from his own 35-yard line. To be honest, we were a little surprised in the booth. Adrian Hubbard dropped Nick Marshall for no gain. The ball went to Alabama on downs, and the Crimson Tide had a short field to work with. Up by a touchdown, another here at this stage of the game could have been deadly for Auburn.
Like Auburn had done in the second quarter, Alabama tried the same approach on this possession, turning to their star running back, T.J. Yeldon, who got the ball four consecutive times. His first carry went for 13 yards and a first down, but the next three left Alabama one yard short of a first down. Knowing a touchdown could seal the deal, Saban went for it. ..
5:52. 5:51. Clock continues to run. Auburn, trying to hold on fourth-and-inches. McCarron under center. He may just sneak it. Down to two. Down to one. He’s gonna turn and hand it to Yeldon…AND THEY STOPPED HIM! Auburn stopped him!! On fourth down, they stopped ’em!! 5:34 to go! And Auburn has stopped Alabama on fourth-and-inches!
In what was quite possibly the biggest play of the season, the Auburn defense reignited the crowd, but unfortunately it didn’t bleed over to the offense, which went three-and-out and had to punt it away. It marked four consecutive drives where Auburn came up empty. It appeared the Alabama defense had figured some things out with the Auburn offense by focusing on the running attack and basically daring the Tigers to throw.
Only 4:26 minutes remained when Alabama started their next drive on the Auburn 25-yard line. Clark had to punt from his own end zone and could only get it out to the 44, and Christion Jones took it back 19 yards. Now it was a situation where a field goal would basically end Auburn’s hopes. The Tigers’ defense, at the very least, actually held Alabama in check and forcing a field goal attempt of 44 yards. Cade Foster, who had missed two already, was given the opportunity to be the guy who closed out Auburn in their own stadium and sent his team on to the SEC Championship Game as the No. 1 team in the country.
Well, here’s Cade Foster. He could redeem himself big-time right here. This could all but seal it for Alabama…a 44-yard field goal attempt for Foster. Let’s see if Auburn goes after the kick…here they come…and it’s BLOCKED! Auburn’s blocked it! Picked out of the air by Ryan Smith!
There was still a breath of life left for the Tigers, but they would have to move the ball 80 yards in just 2:30 minutes against an Alabama defense that had stopped them on four straight possessions.
An unsportsmanlike penalty on Alabama helped on the first play, moving the ball out to the 35-yard line. Remember that drive we talked about in the second quarter? The one where Auburn dared Alabama to stop Tre Mason and they couldn’t? Well, Gus Malzahn used the same blueprint with the game on the line. Mason for seven yards up the middle. Mason for one yard up the middle.
Timeout called by Alabama with 1:43 to go. Mason up the middle for five yards. Mason over left guard for five yards. Mason three yards up the middle. Mason five yards up the middle.
The no-huddle fast pace had taken its toll on Alabama.
There wasn’t one single “big” run, but they kept hammering at the heart of the Crimson Tide defense. But now, time was definitely a factor. With just under one minute to go Auburn was at the Alabama 39-yard line. Looking back, I truly think because Auburn had hammered the middle time and time again, the Crimson Tide defense became solely focused on stopping Tre Mason—that’s why this play worked to perfection.
47 seconds to go in the football game. Clock starts again. Auburn on the move again…first-and-10. This time it’ll be Marshall on the keeper, and then he throws. Oh—he’s got Coates at the 20! To the 10 to the 5…Touchdown Auburn! Touchdown Auburn! Razzle dazzle from Gus Malzahn! 32 seconds to go…Cyrus Jones hit on the Marshall run and then Nick dumped it over the top! Holy cow, Sammie Coates scores!
At that point, with so little time remaining, my thoughts went directly to overtime. I really didn’t think Alabama would have time to get into field goal range. I also thought, “Wow, this might be the greatest Iron Bowl ever played.” It was…and it was about to get even better.
Alabama got the ball at their 29-yard line with 25 seconds remaining. An 11-yard pass, followed by two T.J. Yeldon draw play runs totaling 33 yards, and the clock said 0:00. I thought the game was headed to overtime. Stan White thought the game was heading to overtime. Alabama head coach Nick Saban did not.
So the officials reviewed the last play. We watched the replay over and over and finally had to admit…yes…there should be one second put back on the clock.
What would Saban do? With all the struggles his kicker had already been through, surely he would lob one up for his All-American wide receiver Amari Cooper and take a chance at the Hail Mary—but no. Out comes Adam Griffith, who had attempted only a few field goals all year. He had the strongest leg of the two kickers. My mind had visions of Van Tiffin. In 1985, Auburn was ranked seventh in the country and faced an unranked Alabama team at Legion Field in Birmingham. Tiffin nailed a 52-yard field goal as time expired to break Auburn’s heart, 25-23. Surely, history wouldn’t repeat itself here.
Chris Davis is gonna drop back into the end zone in single safety. Well, I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it, and run it out. All right, here we go…56 yarder. It’s got, no, does not have the leg, and Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He’ll run it out to the 10, 15, 20, 25-30, 35-40, 45-50, 45—THERE GOES DAVIS!…Davis is gonna run it all the way back! Auburn’s gonna win the football game! Auburn’s gonna win the football game! He ran the missed field goal back—he ran it back 109 yards! They’re not gonna keep ’em off the field tonight! Holy cow! Oh my God! Auburn wins! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl in the most unbelievable fashion you will ever see! I cannot believe it! 34-28! And we thought a miracle at Jordan-Hare was amazing! Oh my Lord in heaven! Chris Davis just ran it 109 yards and Auburn is goin’ to the championship game!…
I finally got to hear my call of the Chris Davis run on my way home after the game. I was listening to ESPN Radio (I believe) and they played it not once but multiple times. I flipped around to Fox Sports…same thing. Everywhere you turned the radio, that call was being played. In the process, my head was getting bigger and bigger. I had convinced myself that when I got home, my family, who usually didn’t have the same passion for collegiate athletics and in particular what I did for a living, would finally see the light and appreciate how important my job was (I’m being facetious) to the entire world!
By the time I arrived home, it was after nine o’clock. I walked in through our garage, where I was greeted with two garbage bags that needed to be taken out, and everyone was in their respective rooms getting ready for bed. I guess I expected a greeting of, “Oh, father, we are so proud of you! You are the greatest announcer in the world!” Instead, I got nothing, which is why my wife and children are the best in the world. Keeping me grounded and in check at all times. I don’t recall what time I actually got to bed that night, but it was late….
The next 48 hours would be the most whirlwind of my career. The morning after the Iron Bowl was not too terribly unusual. I took the family out to breakfast as we always try to do on Sunday mornings. The only difference was that I tried to find every newspaper I could just so I could save them. I didn’t watch much TV on this day, as I had to pack and get ready for my first-ever trip to Ames, Iowa. We (the basketball traveling party) departed from the Auburn airport late in the afternoon Sunday. I had received a few interview requests via email or text, but nothing out of the ordinary. By the time I landed in Ames, my email box had blown up with requests. I really didn’t know how I would fulfill all the requests, so I had to pick and choose who I talked to. I did a couple Sunday night from the hotel room in Ames, but the bulk of the requests were for Monday. …
Fox finally got in touch with me, and I was on with them early Monday morning.
That was just the first. Before the day was done, I was interviewed by Tim Brando, Dan Patrick, the New York Times, ABC News and the Wall Street Journal, not to mention numerous radio stations, both local and national.
It was nonstop from 6:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., when I finally got a chance to shower and get ready for Auburn’s [basketball] game against Iowa State that Monday night. The following week the interviews continued. I had at least two a day for a couple of weeks following the game. It was an honor to do every single
one of them. I was representing my alma mater and the entire broadcast team.
This was good for Auburn. The Tigers had become the national darlings of the 2013 football season.
And then you had the fans’ reactions. My favorite was from a young lady who lived in Denver. I believe she was originally from North Carolina. She wasn’t even an Auburn fan, but a YouTube video of her lip-syncing the call went viral. We connected on Twitter and have stayed in contact since. She said it took her about 10 times to get it right, but when she did, she nailed it. Then there were all the fan-reaction videos that popped up online. You saw fans in their homes, at the game itself, with huge groups going nuts at the end of the game. I received emails from fans telling me where they were and when they heard the final call. The video with the call on the official Auburn Tigers athletic YouTube page (as of this writing) has almost 3.5 million views. When you factor in all of the videos with the call that are out there it probably tops 10 million. Amazing!
This article is reprinted with permission from Touchdown Auburn! Carrying on the Tradition of the Auburn Tigers by Rod Bramblett, 2016, Triumph Books, www.triumphbooks.com.