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Malzahn wants Tigers grounded

The SportsXchange

AUBURN, Ala. -- Chris Davis is still getting accustomed to life as a lasting hero of not only the Iron Bowl rivalry with Alabama, but as the author of one of the most memorable endings to a game in all of sports.

If the reams of toilet paper adorning The Plains and lasting euphoria far beyond the Auburn campus weren't an acute reminder of the spoils of the Tigers' stunning upset of No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, Davis' rock star status among his everyday peers rang as a loud reminder.

Entering his geology class Monday, Davis wasn't greeted by a simple roll call. He drew a standing ovation, a signal of lasting appreciation for rolling the Tide with his 109-yard sprint to the endzone that set social media ablaze and nudged Auburn to an improbable spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.

Davis could be forgiven for floating onto the practice field. He'll have help getting two feet back on the turf.

"We're very proud of him but the key to this week is how we handle success," said coach Gus Malzahn. "That's great, all that, but we got to move on. We'll pat ourselves on the back after (Saturday's game)."

Convincing admirers to hit the reset button resonates as mission: implausible. Malzahn can accept he also has his work cut out for him to get his players to turn the page, from two weeks of preparation and an all-timer against Alabama ...to Missouri.

Malzahn even attempted to beat the crowds of admirers to the punch. He said he caught up with Davis in the locker room. To paraphrase what the first-year Auburn head coach told Davis: "Good job. Great play. Let's get ready for next week."

Davis, a 5-11 cornerback who wasn't used on special teams until this season, wasn't back deep to return the field goal try before a timeout with one second on the clock. Malzahn put him back and moved Davis' roommate, Ryan Smith, up to block.

Davis knows his coaches didn't celebrate into Sunday morning. In fact, Malzahn was at the controls of his video monitor in the Auburn administrative offices shortly after his postgame press conference to get familiar with Missouri. The other Tigers, picked sixth in the preseason, survived Texas A&M on Saturday to secure a spot in Atlanta.

"Last year was our first losing season in the last nine years," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of the preseason projections. "It was all of a sudden we're not going to be very good. ... I thank you for that. It added a little extra motivation."

Malzahn wasn't expected to be in the SEC championship in his first season back at Auburn after a temporary detour as head coach at Arkansas State. But he's 7-1 in the SEC, surprising success considering three other first-year SEC coaches combined to win one game.

Davis' walk-off return was the second improbable victory in succession for Auburn, which used a tipped pass for a Hail Mary touchdown to beat Georgia. It became dubbed the Prayer in Jordan-Hare. Davis doesn't have a nameplate for his Iron Bowl shocker, yet.

Another victory doesn't guarantee Auburn a spot in the national championship game.

Third in the BCS standings behind undefeated Florida State and Ohio State, the Auburn Tigers go to the Georgia Dome with a familiar feeling. They just need something crazy to happen.
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