One play—one miraculous, improbable, unbelievable play—changed the fortunes of two traditional SEC powers and put an end to the first and only dynasty of the BCS era.
"Kick, Bama, Kick."
Whatever moniker you wish to use for Auburn cornerback Chris Davis' 109-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown with no time on the clock to win the Iron Bowl 34-28, know that it was the one play that ended the Alabama dynasty.
While the 2013 Iron Bowl will be remembered for Davis closing the door, it was Saban's team—and ultimately Saban himself—who led his team to that doorstep.
Don't blame Saban for attempting a 57-yard field goal with one second on the clock to win the game. He thought Adam Griffith had the leg to, at the very least, kick it out of the end zone whether it was through the uprights or not.
However, it was clear Auburn was setting up for a return after calling a timeout to ice the kicker, so he should have reminded his group to fan out after the kick.
But that wasn't the most noticeable issue on Saturday night on the Plains. Alabama had six or seven chances to put the Iron Bowl away, and it didn't get the job done. Auburn had one, and it did. It was a decidedly un-Saban-like performance from the Tide.
It was clear from the get-go that quarterback A.J. McCarron wasn't himself.
Alabama recognized that Auburn could be exploited on slant routes, but McCarron's timing with his receivers was off over the middle early on several passes, including a 3rd-and-3 incompletion to Kevin Norwood that forced the Tide to punt.
Saban took full responsibility for his team playing tight.
"Everyone knew what was at stake and we did not make the plays when we needed to make them," Saban said in quotes released by Auburn. "That responsibility starts with me and every player on the team and every coach in terms of how we contributed to what we did today. The ultimate responsibility is mine."
With the score tied at 21 early in the fourth quarter, Alabama tackle Arie Kouandjio flinched before the snap on Cade Foster's 28-yard field goal attempt, which split the uprights and would have given the Tide a three-point lead. Alabama was pushed back five yards, and Foster's 33-yard attempt was shanked to the left.
That's a discipline issue, and that has become synonymous with Saban-coached teams—especially in big-game situations.
The problems continued down the stretch.
With 3:12 to play up 28-21, Alabama appeared to convert a 3rd-and-2 from Auburn's 16 after T.J. Yeldon took a handoff all the way down to the 6-yard line. The game was essentially iced away.
Until it wasn't.
Tight end O.J. Howard was called for holding, and matching unsportsmanlike penalties were offset to bring Alabama back to the 27-yard line. After an incompletion, Foster's 44-yard field goal came out low and was blocked, which set up the Tigers for the game-tying drive.
As was the case all afternoon, Alabama helped Auburn out.
Ryan Smith caught the blocked field goal at the 20-yard line, fell to the ground and was hit well after he was down by reserve Tide tight end Brandon Greene, which gave Auburn 15 free yards. That drive culminated with the game-tying strike from Nick Marshall to Sammie Coates with 32 seconds left.
It was the little things and the lack of attention to detail in big situations that cost Alabama its dynasty on Saturday night.
The landscape in college football is changing for everyone, and Alabama has essentially hit the reset button. The Crimson Tide are going to have a new quarterback, some new pieces along the offensive line—especially if tackle Cyrus Kouandjio declares early—a new quarterback of the defense as linebacker C.J. Mosley moves on and some upheaval in the defensive backfield.
On top of that, the rules have changed. In the age of a college football playoff, it will be easier to get in position to win titles but arguably harder to actually bust down that door.
The changing landscape, roster turnover and Alabama's loss to Auburn effectively ended this dynasty. But based on how Saban has recruited over the last few seasons, building a new one isn't going to be as challenging this time around.
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