“THE RUNBACK” by Daniel Moore

The game chosen for the prestigious honor of the United States Sports Academy’s College Football Game of the Year wasn’t only a great game, but will most definitely go down in Iron Bowl lore.

The Auburn Tigers’ last-second defeat of the previously unbeaten and two-time defending National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide beat out a litany of nail-biting gridiron contests at the conclusion of 17 weeks of voting.

The now-famous runback of a missed Alabama field goal by Auburn senior Chris Davis with no time on the clock will be remembered for generations of college football fans to come and will be added as one of many defining moments in what is arguably college football’s greatest rivalry.

Everything leading up to the final play helped to make the game special; from Auburn’s vaunted running attack picking up more than 300 yards on the ground, to previous missed field goals from the Tide. The game was an instant classic and truly deserves this year’s distinction as the College Football Game of the Year.

The Tiger victory sealed a Southeastern Conference Championship berth and vaulted Auburn into the National Championship discussion. The win capped a marvelous comeback season for the Tigers, finishing with one conference loss this past season after a winless league campaign the previous year.

The honored game beat out other classics this year, including: Michigan State’s shake up of the BCS standings with a 10-point win over then second-ranked Ohio State and Clemson’s 38-35 win over Georgia to open the season, among many others.

Each year Daniel Moore, the American Sport Art Museum and Archives’ 2005 Sport Artist of the Year, is commissioned by the Academy to create a painting honoring the selected game and this year is no different. Moore has already begun the process by releasing to the Academy a pencil sketch of a piece fittingly titled “The Runback.” The piece will immortalize the Tigers’ season-saving moment, depicting Davis torching the left sideline of Jordan-Hare Stadium, untouched by Tide defenders.

The Academy, also known as America’s Sports University, donates the painting and $5,000 to the general scholarship fund of the annual winner, which this year will be Auburn.

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 the SEC showdown.

The committee is currently chaired by Jack Lengyel, the former athletic director at the United States Naval Academy. Lengyel was also a college football coach.

Previous winners of the College Football Game of the Year contest are as follows: Rutgers University over Louisville, 2006; Appalachian State University over Michigan, 2007; Texas Tech University over Texas, 2008; Alabama over Florida, 2009; Auburn over Oregon, 2010 and Alabama over LSU, 2011.