In life, if you believe you can, then most likely you will. Auburn hosted the 84th Iron Bowl and believed they could upset their Arch Rival from the other side of the state, Alabama. How can I make such a statement? It was in their body language, their bounce during warm-ups, it was the way they approached the game and how they executed.
Gus Malzhan had the quote of the year “our kids believe they can beat them others hope.”
When you are a beat writer that covers each game, your eyes are trained to notice detailed things like tendencies. Though intangible, they showed perhaps the most important ingredient confidence that created an extra bounce in their step. They had no choice; the fans sensed it and made for an electric atmosphere.
Keeping with the tradition, it was a hard-hitting affair between these defensive monsters, numerous lingered on the ground after absorbing devastating hits but found away to get to their feet. The first quarter was like two heavyweights going at it throwing haymaker as will breaking body blows, amazingly they both inhaled and stared each other down. It was like the bully meets his match.
In quarter two, the scoring broke out [48 points], Alabama 28, and Auburn 20. It was as if though they were making a statement if you can do it, so can I. Perfectly thrown passes to the back shoulder at the sidelines, pick-six interception followed by a kickoff return for a touchdown, short passes that turned in to long runs and a little razzle-dazzle. In a sign of respect, Alabama tried a reverse pass that went sour at that point; they were trying to slow down the pursuit of Auburn; those Tigers were hungry looking to sack some Mac n Cheese [Mac Jones].
Alabama’s backup quarterback Mack Jones threw two devastating pick-six interceptions. The 98-yard return for a touchdown was the worst, a terribly thrown pass to the backside of the wide-open receiver he reached back to catch it but tapped it up right into the defenders’ hands with nothing but air between him and the endzone. Instead of an automatic touchdown, Auburn stole the show and momentum.
After giving the Tigers 14 points, Alabama still had a chance on their last possession, but Derrick Brown, perhaps the best interior line in the country, had the drive of his life, a sack, tackle for loss, and a combined smash with Coe.
Bama got it first and goal from the 9-yard line and started to back up with a false start before it was over Brown batted down a pass to force a field goal attempt, it went DOINK off the left goal post. Pandemonium erupted Auburn won the highest-scoring Iron Bowl in history 48-45.
Malzhan had high praise for his standout defensive tackle that up for six prestigious awards
“Derrick — I think he’s the best defensive player in college football. If there’s a better one, they’re pretty special. Big-time players make big-time plays in big games. He did that. That was a huge game.”
The win knocks Alabama out of the discussion of the playoffs with no chance of winning the National Championship. Year in and year out, Auburn has the toughest schedule in the nation. Turning back the TIDE or stopping the TIDE from Rolling is the Tigers championship evidenced by the crowd storming the field in celebration.
Bo Nix didn’t jump off the page statically connecting on 15 of 33 passes for 173 yards and a touchdown. And what a touchdown it was, out of I formation a fake to the running back that manipulated the camera when they discovered him he was standing in the end zone for a touchdown. Most impressively, he had no turnovers and did not error by forcing plays.
On Bo Nix’s poise…
“I’ve said it all along; he’s got something special to him. He’ll win a championship before he gets out of here. His leadership; the moment’s not too big. He’s got real command. When he makes a mistake, he owns up, ‘hey, I’ll make up for it.’ He’s got the special traits it takes. The future is going to be a lot of fun with him leading us.
Alabama rolled up 515 total yards and possessed the ball nearly 12 minutes longer, yet they came upon the short side. A game of this magnitude can’t go without controversy. At the end of the half
Jatarvious Whitlow ran for 17 yards as the clock wound down, but after further review, one second was remaining Alabama was basically in the locker room. They returned in disarray to find Auburn lining up to kick a field goal. Malzhan went berzerk fighting to get one second added back on the clock after the successful 52-yard kick that resulted in a roughing the kicker penalty. Sabin went berzerk that play turned out to be critical. At the half, the Tigers went through the tunnel down 31-27.
Nick Sabin shared his perspective
“Look at the game, we gave ourselves an opportunity to tie the game, we got a chance to get the ball back at the end of the game. I really feel that it was a pretty unfair play at the end of the game, where they substituted the punter as a wide receiver. So we put the punt team in. And when the quarterback was back in there, we tried to put the defense back in. I thought they should have given us a little more time to substitute and get Waddle out as a returner. You get called for 12 guys on the field. So that was very disappointing. It was a very unusual circumstance, to say the least. And I think sometimes when you have those; they should be viewed that way.”
Gus Malzhan outfoxed the wizard of college football, a rare feat in itself.
Anders Carlson was clutch kicking four successful field goals 43, 52, 43, and 44 yards. In the aftermath, he was a weapon of mass destruction but played it as humble as possible
“It was incredible. First off, I want to thank God. I told myself if I ever had an opportunity like this, I would give Him the honor and glory. I play such a small part in that game. It’s such a special game.