Iron Bowl's name game: Kick Bama Kick!

Frank Cooney, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

Call it Kick Bama Kick!
For historical consistency, that should be the name of No. 4 Auburn's stunning 34-28 win over No. 1 Alabama on Saturday. It was a game that certainly replaced the 1972 thriller -- known as Punt Bama Punt -- as the most dramatic in the long and storied history of the Iron Bowl.
In fact, Saturday's implausible melodrama forever secured a permanent place in any discussion about the most dramatic college football game in history. And, perhaps, one of the most controversial endings, considering the strategy used with so much on the line.
It ended with the most astonishing, OMG moment of the day when Auburn's Chris Davis caught a missed 57-yard field goal try nine yards deep in his own end zone and, as time expired, raced the length of the field for a touchdown.
Just as the historic Punt Bama Punt game of '72 was so-named because of a remarkable, recurring theme -- two blocked punts returned for touchdowns in exactly the same manner -- the final, decisive play of the 2013 Iron Bowl came on Alabama's fourth failed field goal attempt.
And that fact not only earned an easy title in the Name Game, it may also stir Blame Game conversations about Alabama coach Nick Saban's decision to even try another field goal with one second on the clock and the score tied at 28.
Saban certainly will be reminded and haunted by the symmetry of a game in which Alabama's first drive ended with a missed 44-yard field goal attempt by Cade Foster that was a harbinger not only of the infamous ending but also two other misses of 33 and 44 yards in the fourth quarter. And considering the second 44-yarder was blocked, the idea of attempting an even longer field goal on that final play -- by Foster or any kicker -- was certainly fraught with red flags.
After encouraging officials to review whether time actually expired on the previous play, Saban got what he wanted when a review restored one second on the clock, giving The Tide time for one more play from the Auburn 38.
The two most obvious options were to call for a field goal attempt or a Hail Mary toss into the end zone. Because Foster already missed three field goal tries, Saban decided to use another kicker, freshman Adam Griffith.
If Griffith made the field goal attempt, it would be another moment of genius for Saban. But the miss highlights a huge what-if that will be debated for as long as there are discussions about this great rivalry.
What if Saban opted for the Hail Mary? That would have put the fate of the game in the hands of battle-tested, senior quarterback AJ McCarron, whose resume includes two national championships and who is also in the running for the Heisman Trophy.
Instead, Saban went with a freshman kicker whose brief college career included one successful field goal and five PATs.
It will be interesting to see when these two great rivals meet again if Auburn fans churn the controversy with a chant of Kick Bama Kick, which would echo what happened in seasons after that 1972 Iron Bowl.
That game was played on December 2, 1972, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. Alabama, coached by the legendary Bear Bryant, was ranked No. 2, undefeated (10-0) and a 14-point favorite. Auburn (8-1) was ranked No. 9.
Alabama led 16-0 with less than 10 minutes remaining when an Auburn drive stalled and managed only a field goal, which made the score 16-3. On the ensuing possession, Alabama was forced to punt.
Auburn's Bill Newton blocked Greg Gantt's punt and David Langner picked up the ball and ran 25 yards for a touchdown, making the score 16-10.
A few minutes later, Gantt tried another punt when Alabama was stopped on its own 30-yard line. The result was an eerie, instant replay with Newton getting another block and Langner taking the ball for another touchdown. The PAT gave Auburn a 17-16 win.
In 2007, Punt Bama Punt was ranked No. 55 by in its list of the 100 defining moments of college football. In 2007, ranked the game No. 85 on its list of the 100 Greatest Finishes.
Finally, in 2010, ranked Punt Bama Punt as the eighth most painful outcome in college history.
And now 2013's Kick Bama Kick game will certainly carve out its own significant spot in college football history and should rank pretty high among Saban's most painful moments.

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