By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
AUBURN — Alabama put its national title hopes on the leg of a freshman kicker — and he nearly delivered.
Instead, Adam Griffith's last-second, 56-yard attempt came up just short, falling into the arms of an alert Chris Davis, who took off down the left sideline and ran 109 yards into the far-reaching depths of Iron Bowl lore.
For Auburn, it was the most miraculous miracle in a dream season full of them.
For the Tide, it almost assuredly marked the gut-wrenching end to a three-peat that appeared guaranteed to so many just months, weeks, days, hours and even minutes before the unthinkable changed everything.
And really, was the outcome decided on the final play for the nation's top team? Technically, yes. Fundamentally, not at all.
Aside from a late 99-yard prayer from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper, Alabama squandered just about every meaningful opportunity it could count. There were dropped touchdown passes, errant throws, third- and fourth-and-short situations deep in Tiger territory that couldn't be converted, one blocked field goal and three other misses, not to mention the awareness it lacked on the last.
And that's just the short list.
Simply put, Alabama did not play Alabama football for a full 60 minutes Saturday night — and it showed.
So where do Nick Saban and Co. go from here? It's hard to say when an upset somehow seemed out of the question despite the fact Auburn had already proven it was back in the national spotlight by rising to No. 4 in the BCS Standings and Associated Press poll.
A trip to Pasadena still isn't entirely out of the question. But at this late juncture in the college football season, it would likely take a miracle akin to the one that dashed the Tide's SEC championship dreams to make it happen.
So that pretty much positively leaves them with a different BCS bid, a luxury to many programs across the country but a definite disappointment to the one the South that had reigned over all the others for so long.
There will assuredly be those who felt Alabama's destiny hinged on a single second, one players and coaches had argued to be put back on the clock.
But it didn't.
And it's hard to argue otherwise.
The Tide had their chances. They just didn't take them. And on this crazy night, it cost Alabama the Iron bowl, and, likely, a shot at another national title.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at firstname.lastname@example.org