It is the day after another football game between Auburn University and the University of Alabama, called the “Iron Bowl” in these parts. And orange and blue flags are fluttering atop cars in celebration of Auburn’s 48-45 win.
It was a wild one for certain. Alabama ran a kickoff back for a touchdown. Auburn ran an intercepted pass 100 yards for a touchdown. Auburn’s field goal kicker had struggled in recent games, but yesterday was a perfect 4-4 to provide the difference in the game.
Like two prizefighters who simply refuse to be bested, the teams swapped blow after blow. Ten times the lead in the game changed. One would score, then the other. Most football gurus predicted a low-scoring game. So much for their collective wisdom.
And for the second time in the last seven Auburn vs. Alabama games, coach Nick Saban learned that the final outcome may come down to what happens in just one second.
In 2013, with the score tied and the game headed to overtime, Saban insisted to the officials that there was still one second remaining in the game, just enough time for Alabama to try a long field goal for the win. The result was the famous (for Auburn fans) KICK SIX. Bama did try the field goal, but Auburn had defensive back Chris Davis waiting in the end zone to run it back if possible.
And 109 yards later Davis was in the end zone at the other end of the field and Auburn was the victor.
This time Auburn coach Gus Malzahn insisted that there was one second left in the first half, enough time for field goal kicker Anders Carlson to try for three points. His successful effort made the halftime score 31-27 in favor of Alabama. This time Saban augured that one second was NOT enough time for such a play.
Finally it came down to Auburn holding a 48-45 lead with two minutes left and Bama facing 4th down near the Auburn end zone. Saban’s field goal kicker Joseph Bulovas lined up in hopes of tying the game, But as such things sometimes happen, the kick hit the left upright and bounced harmlessly to the ground.
Auburn needed one more first down to win the game. Facing 4th and four, Malzahn outmaneuvered Saban with his play calling and a penalty gave Auburn a first down and the win.
Bedlam quickly followed. My sister and niece in Black Mountain, NC called and sang the Auburn fight song. A school superintendent in North Dakota sent me an email. I got a text from Nebraska.
Kendall Leland will go to her 5th grade class in Cape Girardeau, MO tomorrow and tell her friends all about being at the game. Her father went to Auburn, her grandmother lives in Opelika, and pilgrimages from eastern Missouri to Auburn games are common place for her family. Her Thanksgiving was a little bit of turkey and a whole lot of Auburn.
Sully Van Sice is also in the 5th grade. But his trip to school in Fairhope tomorrow will not be as jubilant as Kendall’s. He cheers for Bama. But not his grandmother. At Sully’s insistence, he and grandma had a small wager on the outcome. For the next month, Sully will have to make up her bed every day.
No doubt thousands of such stories could be told across Alabama today.
All just a part of the annual madness we call the Iron Bowl.