DAPHNE, Ala. – It will go down as one of the most memorable plays in the 78-year history of the bitter Iron Bowl rivalry and also rank among the best ever in college football.
Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed 57-yard field goal attempt by Alabama 109 yards for a touchdown with no time left in the game. His stunning touchdown return lifted No. 4 Auburn to a 34-28 victory over No. 1 and two-time defending national champion Alabama at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Ala.
The exciting finish earned Auburn selection as the Week 14 winner of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year contest.
Davis caught the ball about 9 yards deep in the end zone after Alabama freshman Adam Griffith’s 57-yard attempt fell short. He then sprinted down the left sideline and cut back with only his teammates surrounding him.
The victory propelled the Tigers (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) to the Southeastern Conference championship game and kept its hopes alive of playing for the BCS national championship. The Iron Bowl matchup was only the second between top-five teams and first since 1971.
Auburn now has a place in college football folklore alongside such plays as the Stanford-Cal game when the band walked on the field during the winning touchdown run and when Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary touchdown pass beat Miami.
The Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1), which was poised for the first three-peat in modern college football, restored 1 second to the clock after a review of Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon’s run to the Auburn 39. That allowed the long field goal try. Alabama also missed field goals of 33, 44 and 44 yards.
Auburn rushed for 296 yards on the Alabama defense with Tre Mason leading the way with 29 carries, 164 yards and a 1-yard touchdown.
A national panel of experts selects the weekly winner of the Academy’s College Football Game of the Year Contest. Each week’s winner is considered for the award honoring the best College Football Game of the Year at the end of the season. Last season’s winner was Texas A&M’s 29-24 shocking upset of Alabama in a Southeastern Conference showdown.
This committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach best known for being the head coach who resurrected the Marshall University football program, as depicted in the 2006 film, “We Are Marshall.”
Daniel Moore, the American Sports Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA) 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy each year to create a painting honoring the selected College Football Game of the Year. The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner.