No. 4 Auburn beats No. 1 Alabama on rare play
AUBURN, Ala. (AP)
It's one of the rarest plays in football.
No. 4 Auburn's Chris Davis turned No. 1 Alabama's too-short attempt at a 57-yard game-winning field goal into a touchdown return from the back of the end zone on the final play Saturday. The 100-yard play that gave the Tigers a 34-28 victory had only happened three times before, according to NCAA records.
''That was my first time being in a situation like that,'' Davis said. ''It didn't feel too strange ... when you're back on the punt return, you're by yourself like that.''
The play is so rare, Davis said the Tigers (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) had never even practiced it and the NCAA only has record of three other 100-plus yard field goal returns.
Before that, Clemson's Richie Luzzi did it in 1968 against Georgia and California's Don Guest managed it against Washington State in 1966.
Then it was Davis and an escort of teammates the final 60 yards.
The NCAA classifies such a play as miscellaneous yards. It displayed the risk of such a long kick, when the personnel is more suited for blocking than tackling or catching speedy return men. Alabama coaches had warned their players about a return and prepared them for it.
''It just looked like we did not have anybody down on the right side,'' said Alabama coach Nick Saban, a 40-year coaching veteran. ''The right wing and the right tight end, everybody is supposed to fan the field. We covered to the left; that is why he went to the right. I could not see it that well down their sidelines.
''First time I have ever lost a game that way, first time I have ever seen a game lost that way. We had the wind behind us, but he still should have covered it. The game should not have ended that way.''
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said he thought about going for the block but decided to put Davis in the end zone - just in case.
It turned out to be a heck of a decision.
''They had their field goal team out there and it had some big guys on it,'' Malzahn said.'' I thought he made a couple of guys who could tackle miss and (teammates) made some good blocks.''
It was a stunning finish, but CBS announcer Gary Danielson cautioned about the possibility before the kick was in the air.
''Remember a blocked kick can go the other way, too, so you've got to be careful and get it up,'' Danielson said.
Davis's Auburn teammates were stunned as the play developed.
''I was on the 50-yard-line and watched Chris Davis zoom right past me,'' Tigers tailback Tre Mason said. ''I was in shock and disbelief. I thought somebody was going to shove him out of bounds, but he took it for six.''
Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley added dismayed to those sentiments.
''I just can't believe it happened,'' Mosley said. ''Nobody ever expected that.''
The 1972 Iron Bowl is known as ''Punt Bama Punt'' after the Tigers returned two blocked punts for touchdowns in the fourth quarter for a 17-16 win.
Maybe the 2013 game will be called, ''Kick Bama Kick.''