Every media outlet covering college football on TV and radio opened Sunday morning broadcasts with the run back of an Alabama missed field goal by a well placed Auburn speedster in the end zone. Aside from that very exciting play which sealed the deal in the number one ranked team in the nation being beaten by their cross state rival in the Iron Bowl. Final score, Auburn 34 - Alabama 28. Before the last second return there were several other reasons that Auburn won the game.
Auburn Offense Was Underrated
Not too many people predicted that the Auburn Tigers would hold up against the Alabama defense. The truth was that the Alabama defense could never really get a lock on the Auburn run game. I mentioned in my article last week that the camera crews would have trouble keeping up with the array of fake hand offs and misdirection plays. It proved to be true. At the same time Nick Marshall kept the Alabama defense honest by keeping the passing game alive.
Taking advantage of Alabama Special Teams
Kicking is a tough job, it's the most underrated position on the team until it comes to clutch time. The Alabama field goal kickers had a rough night. Some of it was simple missed kicks, some of it was the crowd noise. Some was a slight wind in the stadium. The number one stat is how Auburn reacted to the missed opportunities that Alabama left on the field. Auburn did have to punt a few times but they also scored after Alabama miscues. Being able to put points on the board after a miss by Alabama's special teams ended up being huge.
Alabama Big Plays Didn't break Auburn
After two HUGE third downs where McCarron showed off his NFL arm and Alabama displayed incredible speed in their wide receivers Auburn didn't fall apart. The Tigers came back and stayed right in the ballgame. This can't be pushed aside. Player attitude and coaching methods were highlighted several times by Auburn. Alabama would strike, deliver what they possibly considered knock-out shots, but the Auburn players looked as if they never believed they were out of the game. The only time the Auburn sidelines looked stunned was when several of the starters were shown on the sidelines getting mentally pumped up to go to overtime suddenly realizing the game was over. Many Auburn players looked as stunned as the Alabama players.
Coaching the "What if" Game
I'll let Nick Saban answer this one with something he said after the game during his post game interviews.
"First time I've ever lost a game that way," Saban said. "First time I've ever seen a game lost that way. "Don't get me wrong. Alabama played for the win. I respect that. Why chance going to overtime against a pumped up team and excited home crowd? Saban figured going for a field goal and the win was worth it. What the heck, his second field goal kicker of the night might have better luck. If not, then off to overtime.
In truth, both coaches played the "What if" game. The difference is that Auburn coaches,led by head coach Gus Malzahn, decided to play the "What if" scenario by placing a man in the end zone. Meaning what if he misses it... "we can run that ball back." Sure, if he gets tackled then game over we go to overtime. But if he does not get tackled...
Here's what Malzahn had to say about being aggressive in the Iron Bowl.
"They were trying to win the game, you know, this is the Iron Bowl. You've got to be aggressive. We went for it on fourth down and one and didn't get it. They went for it and we stopped it, but that's just part of it. You know, both of us are trying to win the game. It's a big game with a lot on the line."
Reason Number Five - Lee Corso
Ok, this one's just plain fun. During the ESPN game day broadcast Lee Corso joked that Auburn was the only college that would not allow him to wear the mascot's head when he makes a pick. Well played Auburn University. I'm guessing that Corso will never, ever have the opportunity to wear that Aubie head unless it's a PR move for raising money for charity. Corso made the joke, acted as if he would pick Auburn and then donned the Alabama mascot's, Big Al, head. Auburn fans never want Corso to pick them and wear Aubie's head and now the same can be said about Alabama fans.