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Gus Malzahn Ruins Nick Saban's Dynasty, Locks Up Coach of the Year in Iron Bowl

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Gus Malzahn Ruins Nick Saban's Dynasty, Locks Up Coach of the Year in Iron Bowl
John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

After No. 4 Auburn's legendary 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama Saturday night, Gus Malzahn was asked an interesting question.

Malzahn stood before the media during his postgame press conference—and he was asked whether this victory was the biggest win of his life.

As usual, Malzahn tried to dance around it, speaking with caution and in coach speak, trying not to allow his feelings get the best of him.

"I've got a lot of emotion right now," Malzahn said. "It ranks up there, there's no doubt. I'll probably be able to answer that tomorrow."

But before he knew it, Malzahn was listing all of the reasons why it absolutely was.

"But it's a huge win," he continued. "Against our rival. To go to the SEC championship. Playing at home in front of our fans."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

His wife, Kristi Malzahn, spoke up from her seat in the corner of the room.

"Just say 'Yes,'" she chimed in.

Gus turned back to the press.

"Yes."

While Gus changed his mind a bit a moment later—"Probably so," he recanted. "I'm gonna say probably so."—the facts remain he had just earned a victory on the biggest stage he had ever been on as a head coach, against the best opponent he has ever faced.

Saturday's win will be remembered forever on the Plains, talked about for decades along with some of the greatest moments in Auburn football history.

It should also be the win that earns Malzahn Coach of the Year recognition.

Malzahn defeated the defending two-time national champions, under all the pressures of a top-5 showdown, in the greatest rivalry in college football—earning the Tigers their 11th win of the season, just a year removed from one of the worst seasons in program history.

In just his first year on the job—and just the second year of his career as a head coach at the collegiate level—Malzahn has turned what was a 3-9 team in 2012 into a national championship contender.

The Tigers were winless last season in SEC play. Now, they're going to the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

And Saturday night, he topped the man who has been widely considered the best coach in college football over the last several years.

"I think you have to give Auburn's players a lot of credit," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "They have had a great season. They played a great game. They made the plays they needed to make today and that is probably the difference in this ballgame."

Junior Tre Mason led the way for Auburn with 164 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. Quarterback Nick Marshall had 99 yards on the ground, and finished 11-of-16 for 97 yards and two touchdowns—including the game-tying 39-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds to play.

That set the stage for Chris Davis' heroics, and his 100-yard field goal return for a touchdown as time expired.

"The first thing I'm looking at is does it have enough distance," Malzahn said. "I saw it didn't have enough distance, and my eyes kind of got on Chris. They had their field goal team out there and it had some big guys on it.

"I thought he made a couple of guys who couldn't tackle miss, and made some good blocks and went down our sideline to score the touchdown."

It's a play that will be talked about on the Plains for as long as Auburn University stands.

And it's the one that will earn Malzahn Coach of the Year.

 

Justin Lee is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @byjustinlee. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

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