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Couch: Behind Auburn's miracle win over 'Bama, there was belief

uburn Tigers fans storm the field
After the miracle ... mayhem in Auburn.
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Greg Couch

Greg Couch has been a national columnist at AOL Fanhouse and The Sporting News and an award-winning columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was featured twice in "Best American Sports Writing" and was recognized by the US Tennis Writers Association for best column writing and match coverage. He covers tennis on his personal blog. Follow him on Twitter.

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AUBURN, ALA.

In the eye of the hurricane, nothing makes sense. Not words, not sounds, not shapes, sizes, colors.

So when Auburn's Chris Davis ran back Alabama's missed field goal, aka Nick Saban's big mistake, from the back of the end zone more than 100 yards to beat Alabama and win the Iron Bowl on Saturday, I somehow got caught in the mess in the middle of the field.

People. Screaming. Hugging. Players, fans. Crying. One guy was crying so hard it looked as if he were in pain.

Dancing. Euphoria. It covered the whole field in the way Alabama’s defense didn’t. I stopped one Auburn player after another and screamed out to make sense of the moment. They didn’t hear a word I was saying, but that didn't stop them from screaming back on and on about something, out of control.

I never heard a word they were saying.

Not true. One player definitely told me he was screaming the whole time Davis was running. There was a lot of that going on. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

Auburn 34, Alabama 28.

Auburn is the miracle team of the ages. Alabama was simply the team of the ages.

Gus Malzahn is a miracle worker. Does it make sense? What did he see?

“It was chaos out there,’’ he said. “I was just trying to get to the locker room.''

This team was 3-8 last year, winless in the SEC. And in comes Malzahn, returning to Auburn as the new head coach, finding a quarterback, Nick Marshall, out of nowhere, spreading out his offense. And most amazing of all:

Getting a bunch of young players who never believed in one thing last year to believe that they could beat Alabama. This was no fluke. It was a mental attack on the unattackable.

Now, Auburn, soon to be ranked No. 3, has one loss. But if it beats Missouri in the SEC title game, then it will deserve consideration to jump No. 2 Ohio State and play for the national championship.

Auburn was supposed to hit a brick wall in Alabama, two-time defending national champs. Instead, Alabama cracked and crumbled.

Nick Saban cracked and crumbled.

Have you ever heard those words before in that order?

He didn’t kick a short field goal for the win because his kicker kept missing, but then the Tide couldn't pick up a fourth-and-1, giving Auburn the ball back late with a chance to tie. Its touchdown drive there seemed miracle enough.

Then, Alabama seemed to run out the clock, but Saban argued to have 1 second put back on. He sent out a freshman with a big leg in practice to try to a 57-yard field goal for the win.

Yes, but this wasn’t practice. It was the Iron Bowl. And when the kick went short, as everyone knew it might, Davis caught the ball and, well, how come there weren’t any Alabama players on that side of the field to make a tackle?

Doug Flutie. Kordell Stewart. This finish tops both of them. I can’t think of a bigger one.

“We knew they had a guy back there and that we had to fan and cover it,’’ Saban said. “Everybody is supposed to fan the field. We covered to the left; that is why he went to the right. First time I ever lost a game that way. First time I have ever seen a game lost that way.’’

He also said this: “It is my responsibility.’’

You have to wonder what this will mean to Saban, what with his agent having told Texas officials that they had the one job Saban would consider leaving Alabama for. With Saban’s wife telling The Wall Street Journal that Alabama fans are so used to winning that they don’t appreciate what Saban is doing anymore. With Saban himself complaining that students weren't staying to the end of games.

Which way will this game push him?

Malzahn said that as soon as he saw that the field goal wasn’t long enough, “My eyes kind of got on Chris (Davis). They had their field-goal team out there and it had some big guys on it.’’

Guys Davis could run around. Of course, it seemed as if part of Alabama’s team might have already been heading for its bench or something.

Auburn is the best story in college football, reaching such heights so unexpectedly. I talked with several fans before the game who all had the same story: We’ve been playing with house money all season.

WE ARE FIRED UP!

College football fans are some of the most passionate in sports. See them in action.

That was changing Saturday, though. Auburn fans felt the pressure to win this one. The plan from the start was to rattle Alabama, which seemed laughable.

Alabama has been to these big games a million times. Saban pushes his CEO mentality. Alabama is a business. And quarterback A.J. McCarron never makes mistakes.

But Auburn did rattle Alabama. Early in the week, Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley told me that the spread offenses do seem to bother his defense. Alabama, he said, is better at running up and back than it is running side to side.

That sounds like an issue of athleticism. Meanwhile, Auburn felt that McCarron had never been pressured, had been able to sit back behind his offensive line and comfortably pick and choose what to do.

The idea was to chase him around and knock him on his backside several times. Auburn did hit and rush McCarron, it didn’t rattle him. He was his usual self, though his Heisman hopes probably died.

Auburn just kept pushing, kept pushing. I was here two weeks ago when the Tigers were just about to lose to Georgia. They won on a tipped Hail Mary.

People said they were lucky. And now, were they lucky again?

This is about belief. Auburn believes in itself all the way to the end, no matter what. When you believe like that, you make things happen. Alabama was our example of perfected execution. But Auburn’s belief had a hand in all of Alabama’s missed kicks, dropped passes, big penalties and shaky play-calling.

McCarron walked off, and his famous girlfriend, Katherine Webb, kissed him and said she was sorry. He didn’t look back at the field. If he had, it wouldn’t have made sense to him, anyway.

Tagged: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Chris Davis, Nick Marshall

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