Auburn-Alabama: The Greatest Play In College Football History?

Dec 2, 2013
Originally published on December 2, 2013 2:20 pm

College football fans on Saturday witnessed what some are calling the greatest play in college football history, at the Iron Bowl game between the Auburn Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Auburn’s Chris Davis caught the missed Alabama field goal and ran over 100 yards for the touchdown that gave Auburn the win. Auburn now moves onto SEC Championship.

Sportswriter John Bacon joins Here & Now to discuss the game and that incredible play.


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From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Jobson.


I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW.


ROD BRAMBLETT: 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45. There goes Davis.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Oh, my gosh.

BRAMBLETT: Davis is going to run it all the way back. Auburn is going to win the football game. Auburn is going to win the football game. He ran...

YOUNG: The call heard around the sports world. Auburn announcer Rod Bramblett in that game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers at the Iron Bowl. Auburn's Chris Davis, as you just heard, catching a missed Alabama field goal, running over a hundred yards for the touchdown that gave Auburn the win.

JOBSON: And, you know, that was the first time I've heard that audio...

YOUNG: Really?

JOBSON: ...because when I saw it, when it was happening, I was in a restaurant. I could see the TV but couldn't hear what was being said. Wow. That is amazing.

John Bacon is our resident college football enthusiast. He's the author of "Fourth And Long: The Fight For The Soul Of College Football." He's with us from Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor. John, the soul of college football, there it is, right there. People are calling this the greatest play ever.

JOHN BACON: And even though it's only two days later, of course, it just might be, Jeremy. That is about as crazy as it gets. Alabama has won the last two national titles. If they're to win this year's national title and undefeated again, then they'll be first team by most records - since 1904 when Michigan did it, won four in a row. So they've got to go back more than a century to duplicate that. They were a favorite, although they're playing at Auburn.

Nick Saban, the alleged genius of college football, passed up a few chances to kick field goals during the game that would have put the game away, putting the 30-yard with a few minutes left. They go out of bounce with, I think, one second left near midfield. And the refs, of course, said the game is over but they repute it. They've one more second on the clock. And Saban is fighting for this because he wants a chance at a field goal. Well, as they say, Robin, be careful what you wished for.

YOUNG: Hmm. Right. John, stay with field goal for just a second because there was a dark note. There was that last field goal attempt of 57 yards, didn't make it. But before that, there had been three other field goal attempts by Alabama kicker, Cade Foster. Again, he didn't make that last field won, but three others. And since this game, he's got dead threats on social media. It's just been pretty awful. He changed his display name. He had to black out his picture. I mean, you know, just really awful things that are being said on social media. This has really been tough on this kid.

BACON: And sad to say, he will not forget it. Look, that is not the soul of college football. But it almost always comes with the territory, especially in the days of Facebook, Twitter. 40 years ago, Mike Lantry misses a kick that would have beaten Ohio State. They were undefeated so was Ohio State. You see this guy 40 years later, a Vietnam vet. He is still in pain over this. So sad to say, Mr. Foster will probably be living with this the rest of his life.

YOUNG: That's tough.

BACON: It's beyond all perspective but that is part of the passion of college football.

JOBSON: John, let's end on a positive note here. This is a big deal, this game, every single year. Have you ever seen a play like that in college football or the NFL, where a guy goes all the way down the field?

YOUNG: In the last second.

BACON: I've seen a few situations where the field goal is short and the guy does get a return but not a 109-yard. I think he went farther than that, obviously. Not for these stakes, not for a great college rivalry, no playoff game can match a century old rivalry, which is what college football really is all about. Regional rivalries, it go back a century. Nobody in that stadium, nobody watching that day will ever forget that play. All you need was a marching band to eliminate all doubt about the greatest play ever in college football.

JOBSON: And, of course, with all this, we barely believe that my dear Fighting Illini lost again over the weekend, this time to Northwestern.

BACON: Yes. Well, the last - so did my beloved Wolverines, as did the Badgers against Penn State. These things do happen there.

JOBSON: Well, welcome to the club. John Bacon, author of "Fourth And Long: The Fight For The Soul Of College Football." Thank you so much.

BACON: Thank you.

JOBSON: And, Robin, we heard that amazing announcer reaction to that play. It's also playing out online with fan videos like this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go, baby. Go, baby.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. Oh, my God.


JOBSON: This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.