- Cullman, Alabama

November 16, 2013

TALKIN' TIGERS: Miracle on the Plains sets up epic Iron Bowl

By Jake Winfrey
The Cullman Times

AUBURN — Amazing. Stunning. Miraculous. Spectacular. Absolutely unbelievable.

If I hadn't been there to see it with my own two eyes, you'd have never been able to convince me it had happened. No way, no how.

Just when it seemed as though Auburn (10-1, 6-1 in the Southeastern Conference) was about to be on the receiving end of an epic collapse that would have not only soured their SEC West title hopes, but also left a bad taste in the program's mouth for many months to come, the nearly impossible happened.

Trailing by one with less than 40 seconds on the clock, quarterback Nick Marshall dropped back on a fourth-and-18 hoping to find some way to pick up the first down and extend the contest another play.

Not one person of the 87,451 in attendance could have predicted what transpired after Marshall released the football.

The junior signal-caller sailed a pass deep into Georgia territory intended for his wide receiver Ricardo Louis, who was double covered on the play. The ball was tipped high into the air, where it eventually came down into the waiting hands of Louis, who proceeded to scurry into the end zone and send the Jordan-Hare faithful into a crazed frenzy.

A 73-yard, impromptu Hail Mary. Auburn 43, Georgia 38. Lucky? Perhaps. Fortuitous? Absolutely.

The Bulldogs didn't go quietly into the night, however, driving the ball deep inside Orange and Blue territory before an incomplete pass by Aaron Murray concluded what's arguably been the game of the year in the SEC so far this season.

The win, without a doubt, will go down as one of the greatest in Auburn history. It was certainly as loud as I've ever heard it in many a game attended.

However, in the here and now, it's going to make this year's Iron Bowl one for the ages.

The Tigers can think Gus Malzahn for that. The first-year coach has done a great job in his short time a top the Auburn program — did anyone in the world think he would be 10-1 at this juncture in the season? — and has accomplished in just a short time what many thought would take him at least 2-3 years.

He's made the Iron Bowl relevant again.

In two weeks, the Tigers and the Tide will do battle here at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the right to head to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

For football fans around the state, it's going to be the most epic, hyped matchup between the two schools in almost 25 years. The bite is finally back in a  rivalry that's been missing it for almost three years now.

For the Auburn nation, they've had to enjoy the ride Malzahn has taken them on so far during his brief tenure. A win over its arch-rival in two weeks would all but seal the offensive guru's status as National Coach of the Year — if he hasn't already sewn up the annual award.

As a writer and a ardent football man, the next 14 days will crawl at a snail's pace. I can only hope the game is worth the wait.