Sorry, B10 fans, both the Victors/Victims triumphant and the consternated and agitated Buckeye faithful. Because for as exciting as your more playoff-relevant game may have been yesterday, it may have been the Game of the Century, but it arguably wasn’t even the Game of the Day.
Because what happened at Auburn’s Jordan-Hare Stadium was positively stunning, and the karma that went along with it way more dramatic. As THE ATHLETIC’s Kennington Smith III told it:
Nick Saban remembers the kick six so vividly that on Saturday night, the 10-year anniversary of the famed play that lifted Auburn over his Crimson Tide in 2013, he recited a play-by-play sequence in the second half that proved costly. He ticked off five plays inside the Auburn 25-yard line that netted zero points.
Alabama has experienced both fortune and misfortune in the Iron Bowl, and most of the misfortune has taken place in Jordan-Hare Stadium. But this time, maybe for the first time, according to Saban, the luck swung Alabama’s way at Auburn in a 27-24 win produced by a fourth-and-31 touchdown pass from quarterback Jalen Milroe to wide receiver Isaiah Bond with 32 seconds remaining.
Missed it? You shouldn’t:
And as THE TENNESSEAN’s Gabriella Carroll reminds, it was the culmination of a dizzying series of events that all but avenged the fate that befell the Tide a decade ago:
Auburn was back to receive a punt that would give them the opportunity to put together a long drive down the field and bleed the clock. But returner Koy Moore fell trying to field the punt, and ultimately didn’t secure the ball. Alabama’s Jihaad Campbell picked it up off the ground to give the ball back to Alabama with 4:48 left to play on the Auburn 30 yard line. By rule, Alabama was unable to advance the muffed punt.
Jalen Milroe 19-yard scramble sets up fourth-down conversion
Following a 9-yard sack by Milroe on second-and-11, the Crimson Tide faced third-and-20 from the Auburn 29-yard line. The quarterback got all that he needed for a first-down conversion, minus a foot, on a 19-yard scramble. That set up fourth-and-inches from the Auburn 10.
Bad snap-turned-18-yard loss by Milroe
Two plays later, and with just under two minutes to play, Alabama center Seth McLaughlin surprised Milroe with not only an early snap, but also a bad one: It was inaccurate, resulting in the quarterback taking an 18-yard losss on second-and-goal from the Auburn 8-yard line. That set up third-and-goal from the Auburn 26.
Illegal forward pass
If the bad snap wasn’t enough, bad went to worse on the ensuing play, as Milroe’s pass on third-and-goal occurred after he crossed the line of scrimmage (his second such penalty of the day). Alabama was hit with a 5-yard penalty from the 26 and took a timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff.
On fourth-and-goal from the 31, Alabama needed a miracle. It got one from Milroe, who threw a 31-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Isaiah Bond in the back of the end zone:
You can’t write a finish like this. But as Smith reminds, you can practice it:
Believe it or not, it’s a play Alabama practices regularly. Each Friday in walk-throughs, the team goes through special situations, like a Hail Mary. The team gets in that formation — a five-wide receiver set — and each player runs varying routes into the end zone.
“We’ve hit on it in practice a couple of times,” offensive lineman JC Latham said. “A few times we didn’t get it but were close.”
With a defender working as a QB spy to keep tabs on him Saturday, Milroe remained stationary in the pocket, looked to his right, then left and let the ball fly to Bond, who was positioned well enough to get two feet inbounds in the top left corner of the end zone.
“You tell him they’re only going to rush three guys, sometimes two,” Saban said. “He’s going to have plenty of time, and he has to pick the guy he thinks has the best chance to catch it. (Bond) got good position on the ball, and Jalen did a good job throwing it.
For Saban, it’s been a retribution that’s been a long time coming. And it apparently goes with the territory. Because as anyone who’s donned the head of mascot Big Al knows, elephants never forget.
So they’re playing SWEET HOME ALABAMA at a high decibel level in Tuscaloosa and all points relevant in celebration. And as for the Auburn faithful, no doubt they’ve got the earworm of a classic from Steely Dan that we referenced in the headline. You know, the one with this chorus:
They got a name for the winners in the world
(I) I want a name when I lose
They call Alabama the Crimson Tide
Call me Deacon Blues