I’m not going to lie to you or sugarcoat: last year’s Iron Bowl loss to Auburn was one of the worst days of my life. From a sports stand point, it was definitely the worst. But from an overall this-is-my-life-the-the-only-one-I’ve-got, yes this loss to Auburn ranked way up there in terms of worst days ever. Ug, it makes my stomach hurt just to think about it.
Take it all in again, up 24-0 in your in-state rival who is ranked No. 1 in the country. You have a chance to smash their national championship dreams or leave them with a “yeah they-won-the-national-championship-but-lost-to-us” mark. Plus, just spanking your in-state rival is just plain nice. Ahhh, that would’ve felt good.
In gut-wrenching, tear your heart out, cuss a blue streak, throw things at the television fashion, Auburn inched their way back to win. Really, folks, there’s nothing that compares to this in all of the sporting world.
There were (at least) three game-changing plays:
1) First drive of the second quarter and Bama is leading 21-0 and driving. Greg McElrody dumps a pass over the middle to Mark Ingram who dashes to his right and down the sideline. Ingram makes a slight move left to dodge a tackler, has his legs hit by the would be tackler and begins to stumble. As Ingram stumbles, Auburn defender Antoine Carter finally catches him, somehow knocks the ball out of his arms. The ball then dances about 20 yards down the sideline and through the end zone. Auburn’s ball.
2) The Tigers don’t score after the turnover, though, and the Tide gets the ball back at the 50 yard line following a 20 yard Auburn punt. First down Trent Richardson for five yards. Second down, incomplete pass. Third down, McElroy hits Julio Jones for a 42 yard pass down to the Auburn three. Boom. We’re rolling. And then it happens. First down, McElroy finds Richardson open in the right flat, but ugghh, Richardson gets twisted and drops the ball. A sure six points fall harmlessly to the ground. Second down, Richardson for one. Third down, incomplete pass. Fourth down, kick a field goal.
A touchdown on either of those possessions ices the game. No doubt. Those two possessions gave the bad guys hope and let them cling to life. But that wasn’t the only game-changing gaffe.
3) Tide safety Mark Barron whiffed on an interception attempt on the Tigers’ second play of the second half:
Alabama still led 24-7 going to the locker room, but yet another miscue probably hurt the Tide most of all. On Auburn’s second play of the second half, Newton threw a deep pass for Zachery down the sideline. Alabama safety Mark Barron came racing over and appeared to have a chance either at the interception or a big hit on the receiver.
He got neither. Barron actually got to the receiver a little early and slid by him. Zachery came down with the ball and kept on going for the touchdown that cut the deficit to 24-14.
The comeback was on. The Tigers never slowed down.
The 2010 Iron Bowl can’t be re-played, that is for sure. But the 2011 version can be. So it warms my cockles to hear this: