published Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Wiedmer: What miracle will Auburn author next?

Quite contrary to the Great Gatsby, we have apparently come to believe quite strongly in this country that even moderately good ideas always demand a second act -- or three or five in the cases of such cinematic excesses as the endless sequels to "Toy Story" and "Friday the 13th."

Because of that, we should soon see bumper stickers proclaiming "Kick, Bama, Kick!," "Kick, Nick, Kick!," or our own newspaper's Sunday headline, "Kick Six," throughout the great state of Alabama, if they haven't already appeared.

And some ode to the "Punt, Bama, Punt!" Iron Bowl of 1972 would seem wholly appropriate for War Eagle Nation following Auburn's miraculous 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama on Saturday evening, if only for the giant role the Crimson Tide's calamitous kicking game had in both those Tiger triumphs.

So let the needling begin. It's part of what makes this the best and worst rivalry in all of college football, an old-fashioned hatred to rival the Hatfields and McCoys, Ford vs. Chevy and USA versus USSR during the Cold War.

But in the meantime, as we await Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game between SEC East champ Missouri and West winner Auburn -- two schools which combined to win eight total games and two league contests (Auburn was 0-8) a year ago -- we need to contemplate the wacky ways in which Auburn might notch its 12th win in 13 outings this season.

This is significant because of how the Tigers have captured their last two contests, which would have been 100-year moments at almost every other school that ever purchased chinstraps, but occurred all of 14 days apart for Auburn.

The first, of course, came two weeks ago against Georgia, when the Tigers turned a 4th-and-18 prayer into a game-winning 73-yard touchdown strike to Ricardo Louis after Georgia defensive backs Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons knocked Nick Marshall's desperation pass into the air instead of blocking it to the turf.

Call it the Jordan-Hare Miracle or the Dawg Disaster, but it figured to take its place alongside Punt, Bama, Punt -- when Auburn blocked two fourth-quarter Tide punts and returned both for touchdowns -- as the two greatest plays in AU history.

Figured to, that is, until Saturday, and Chris Davis caught an Alabama 57-yard field goal attempt that traveled about 55 yards, falling into Davis's arms about eight yards into the end zone. A single second on the clock separating the two teams from overtime when Tide coach Nick Saban decided to kick, Davis ran it all the way back for a game-winning touchdown.

And because of the past 14 days ... and Punt, Bama, Punt ... and the Michael Dyer run against Oregon where he appeared to be down but was actually on top of a Ducks defender and wound up gaining 37 yards on the Tigers' game-winning drive in the 2010 BCS title game ... and, lest we forget, that fumble by Bama running back Mark Ingram (who almost never fumbled) but coughed one up with the Tide up 24-0 in that same storybook 2010 season, the ball somehow rolling 30 yards down the sideline and through the end zone, which gave it to Auburn, well, because of all of that it's fair to assume that a goodly number of college football fans now believe the Tigers to be THE LUCKIEST TEAM IN HISTORY.

But that doesn't mean their luck's all out. If it wasn't out after the Georgia game, why should it be out after the Bama win? It could go on forever.

Yet topping the last two weeks in sheer shock value would take some doing. What play could they possibly produce against Missouri's Tigers inside the Georgia Dome that could one-up Kick, Bama, Kick?

Could Mizzou fumble a final snap while attempting to take a knee, a la the New York Giants' Joe Pisarcik in 1978, and Auburn picks it up and runs it in for the game-winner?

Could a Mizzou player be inches from the end zone and either fumble the ball -- as Dallas Cowboys lineman Leon Lett did in the 1993 Super Bowl -- or spike it too soon, Auburn recovering to seal a win?

Or how about this, which wouldn't call to mind any football game I've ever heard about: What if Mizzou lines up for the game-winning field goal on the final play of regulation, only to have Auburn's golden eagle mascot -- War Eagle VII, which also answers to "Nova" -- fly through the Georgia Dome's air and block it?

You say that could never happen? Pure fantasy? Ask Georgia and Alabama fans about what can't happen when you play Auburn. Anything can happen and it's usually bad for AU foes.

In truth, almost all of the Tigers' signature wins have come from never giving up and never giving in. They've become tougher to kill than cockroaches. They trailed Bama 16-3 in the fourth in 1972. They trailed the Tide 21-7 in the second quarter on Saturday and 24-0 in 2010. They blew a 20-point lead against Georgia last month but never lost the faith.

Yes, Saban's decisions not to kick a short field goal early in the fourth, then try a loooong one at the horn weren't his best coaching moves, but nobody's perfect. Former Kentucky basketball coach Rick Pitino should have guarded the inbounds pass on the Christian Laettner shot in 1992. Pitino's now in the Hall of Fame and Saban will be.

But so might Auburn wunderkind Gus Malzahn one day. Which is why Missouri coach Gary Pinkel might want to make sure War Eagle VII is tethered to the ground if he's attempting to kick a game-winning field goal early Saturday evening. When facing Auburn, you've got to prepare for everything, because Malzahn has already proven he can make anything happen.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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