Auburn simply stunning in win over Alabama

Posted: December 03, 2013

SO, HOW EPIC do you like your finishes? Because considering what was on the line, it just doesn't get any more unforgettable than Saturday's Iron Bowl.

In case you're still recovering from Black Friday and haven't caught up yet, fourth-ranked Auburn knocked off No. 1 Alabama, 34-28, on a more-than-length-of-the-field return of a missed field goal on the final play. Nearly three decades to the weekend after Doug Flutie and Gerard Phelan pulled off their magical moment in Miami.

Two weeks earlier, also at home, the Tigers had survived against Georgia on a long, tipped desperation pass after blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead.

Impossible to top, yet they did.

This one, of course, caused just as much celebration in Columbus. The only thing that could've made the day even crazier was if Michigan had converted a two-point pass against Ohio State with 32 seconds left earlier in the afternoon. Brady Hoke made the right decision to go for it, although you could question his play call.

Auburn - which trailed by 14 in the second quarter - also scored at 0:32, on a 39-yard touchdown pass. Gus Malzahn went for the tie. Again, the correct move. So just when things seemed headed for overtime, 'Bama got a second put back on the clock after a review of T.J. Yeldon's 24-yard run to the Auburn 39. Nick Saban then opted to try a 57-yard field goal. But he used freshman Adam Griffith instead of Cade Foster, who'd already missed three times, including one from 33 early in the fourth quarter following a questionable false-start penalty and another from 44 that got blocked to set up Auburn's tying drive.

Saban explained that Griffith - who was 1-for-2 with a long of 20 - makes them from 60 in practice. This wasn't practice. He hit it about 55, maybe a tad right. Chris Davis caught it near the back of the end zone, veered left and motored untouched down the Auburn sideline. Officially it goes down as a 100-yarder, only the fourth time that's happened according to NCAA records.

Last year, 'Bama beat 3-9 Auburn, 49-0.

Did we mention that with 5 1/2 minutes left Yeldon was stopped on fourth-and-1 from the Auburn 13? Or that the Tide had gone ahead with 10 1/2 minutes left on a 99-yard pass from AJ McCarron - who's 36-3 as a starter - to Amari Cooper. It could have been a Heisman kind of snapshot.

Hey, maybe Saban can still get that Texas gig if it opens up.

Now the only way 'Bama can win a third straight BCS title, and fourth in 5 years, is if Florida State and Ohio State both lose. Not a likely double, especially the FSU-Duke part of it. The SEC, which has claimed the last seven crowns, figures to have a tough time getting Auburn or Missouri to the final, although Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs claimed it will be "a disservice to college football" if a one-loss SEC champion was left out. And if next year's playoff were being implemented this season the SEC would be getting half of the four-team field.

Fair or not, the sport has always been about going unbeaten. The SEC is better than the Big Ten and ACC, by a lot. Does that mean either a slightly imperfect Auburn or Missouri should have more of an argument to be in Pasadena on Jan. 6? If Auburn and Ohio State met on a neutral field tomorrow, who would be favored? Just a thought, for what it's worth.

Temple 41, Memphis 21

The Owls (2-10, 1-7 AAC) closed by doing two things they hadn't done so far: winning on the road and in the conference. They also got two field goals by freshman Nick Visco, from 22 and 19 yards, after going 1-for-7 and not making one since their fourth game.

It might not seem like much outside the locker room, but it's something. And that's at least a little better than finishing with a five-game losing streak, especially if you've been following just how exasperating the last month has been for first-year coach Matt Rhule.

It was 17-7 at the half, 31-21 after three periods.

The Owls had 42 TDs, the same as their opponents. They passed for 2,996 yards. The old school record was 2,757, in 1994. They had 4,799 yards offense. The record is 4,815, in 1979. Freshman P.J. Walker threw for 20 scores. The record is 22, by Brian Broomell in '79. Walker's the only player to pass for 200 in seven straight games. Those were the only seven he started. Sophomore Robby Anderson, who missed nearly all of the first three games and didn't start until the sixth, had three TD catches to give him nine (all in the last five).

Memphis (3-8, 1-6), which had a nationally-ranked defense, was outgained 534 yards to 228. It had the ball for only 8:32 in the second half.

West Chester 40, Bloomsburg 38

The Golden Rams (12-1) avenged a 31-28 home loss on Nov. 9 to advance to the Division II quarterfinals for just the second time. The first was 2004, when they made it to the semis. They'll now go to Shepherd (11-0), which beat Winston-Salem, 7-0.

They'd lost four straight to Bloom, and seven of eight up there, including two other second-round games in 2006 and '08. This is a program-record for wins.

They never trailed. It was 20-17 at the half and 34-17 after three quarters. Shawn Leo kicked four field goals, the last and longest from 43 yards with 2:42 left. The Huskies (10-2) got a TD with 34 seconds to go but couldn't recover an onside kick.

Sean McCartney threw for three TDs and ran for another. In two playoffs games he's passed for 771 yards and seven scores.

Rondell White became the first guy to rush for over 100 yards on Bloom. Franklyn Quiteh, who might win the Harlon Hill Award, given to the top player in D-II, became the first guy to have three 2,000-yard rushing seasons at any NCAA level.

Did you notice? * 

Michigan State went unbeaten in the Big Ten for the first time since 1966, and third time ever.

* UCLA beat Southern Cal at the Coliseum for the first time in 16 years.

* Duke has won 10 games for the first time.

* Vanderbilt has won eight games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in 85 years.

* For the fifth time, Stanford beat a ranked team at home: No. 23 Arizona State, No. 15 Washington, No. 9 UCLA, No. 3 Oregon and now No. 25 Notre Dame. The Cardinal, which lost at unranked Utah and USC, go to ASU for the Pac-12 final.

Michael Jack’s Top 10

1. Florida State (12-0). Beat Florida, 37-7. Is 18-0 against Duke, if you don’t count hoops. Saturday: vs. Duke in ACC final (Charlotte, N.C.)

2. Ohio State (12-0). Beat Michigan, 42-41. Is 8-1 vs. Michigan State this century. Loss was 2 years ago, by 3. Saturday: vs. Michigan State in Big Ten final (Indianapolis).

3. Auburn (11-1). Beat Alabama, 34-28. Lost only meeting with Missouri, in 1973. Saturday: vs. Missouri in SEC final (Atlanta).

4. Alabama (11-1). Lost at Auburn, 34-28. Nick Saban has had better fourth quarters. Next: BCS bowl to be determined.

5. Missouri (11-1). Beat Texas A&M, 28-21. Lost in Big 12 final in 2007 and ’08 (by 21 and 41, to Oklahoma). Saturday: vs. Auburn in SEC final (Atlanta).

6. Oklahoma State (10-1). Idle. Lost 8 of last 9 to Oklahoma. Win was 2 years ago at home (44-10). Saturday: vs. Oklahoma.

7. Stanford (10-2). Beat Notre Dame, 27-20. Beat Arizona State at home on Sept. 21, 42-28. Saturday: at Arizona State, Pac-12 final.

8. South Carolina (10-2). Beat Clemson, 31-17. Had never beaten Clemson five straight before. Next: Bowl TBD.

9. Baylor (10-1). Beat TCU, 41-38. Have never won 11 games before. Had only won 10 twice, once 2 years ago. Saturday: vs. Texas.

10. West Chester (12-1). Beat Bloomsburg, 40-38. Had never 12 games before. Saturday: at Sheperd, Division II quarterfinals.

Five worth considering: Michigan State, Arizona State, Oregon, Central Florida and Oklahoma.

FRAUD FIVE

Fresno State: Can’t be giving up 62 at San Jose State, particularly when you’re trying to show you’re BCS worthy.

Wisconsin: Shouldn’t be losing at home to Penn State as 24-point favorite.

Nebraska: Shouldn’t be losing at home to Iowa by 17.

Georgia Tech: Shouldn’t be losing to Georgia again, especially at home after you’re leading by 20 and Dawgs are without their starting quarterback.

Alabama-Birmingham: Maybe it’s OK to lose, even at home, to Southern Mississippi, which hadn’t won since 2011. But probably not by 62-27.

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