|78th Iron Bowl|
|Date||November 30, 2013|
|Favorite||Alabama by 10|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Verne Lundquist (play-by-play)|
Gary Danielson (color)
Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
The Kick Six was the final play of the 78th Iron Bowl college football game (also known as Kick Bama Kick) played on November 30, 2013 at Jordan–Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. The game featured the No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide (11–0, 7–0 in the SEC) as a 10-point favorite over the No. 4-ranked Auburn Tigers (10–1, 6–1 in the SEC). The Iron Bowl was fiercely contested in 2013 with both teams ranked in the top 5 and a berth in the 2013 SEC Championship Game and, potentially, the national championship game at stake. However, this game was particularly notable for its ending.
After falling behind in the 2nd quarter and then again in the 4th, Auburn rallied late to tie the game at 28–28 with 32 seconds remaining. After the ensuing kickoff, Alabama quickly moved to the Auburn 38-yard line, at which point the clock ran out, seemingly sending the game to overtime. Alabama coach Nick Saban challenged the timekeeping call, and after a video review, one second was put back on the clock, and the Crimson Tide lined up for a potential game-winning 57-yard field goal. The kick was short, and Auburn's Chris Davis, who had been positioned near the goal line, caught the ball just in front of the goal posts. Davis ran across the entire field through players from both teams to the opposite end zone, improbably scoring the winning touchdown for Auburn on the last play of the game. Though the runback was technically about 109 yards, it is officially considered a 100-yard return according to NCAA rules, and it tied LSU's Odell Beckham Jr.'s record-setting 100-yard return that same season.
The game, which was televised by CBS, posted an 11.8 television rating during the final half-hour, which was the highest rating ever achieved during a college football broadcast at that time. Some sportswriters have argued that Davis' return is the single greatest moment in college football history.
The two teams came into the game after very different 2012 seasons. Despite an upset at the hands of Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide ultimately finished as SEC Champions after a close game against the Georgia Bulldogs and went on to soundly defeat Notre Dame 42–14 for their second consecutive national title, their third in four years. Meanwhile, two years after their own National Championship, the Auburn Tigers suffered through their worst season in 60 years, finishing 3–9 with an abysmal 0–8 SEC record, capped by a 49–0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 Iron Bowl–their second consecutive blowout loss on the Iron Bowl. Head coach Gene Chizik was fired in favor of Arkansas State coach and former Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn.
Alabama entered the season ranked #1 and remained at the top of the polls for the entire season, rolling through their schedule with relative ease; they won all but one of their games by more than 10 points. Auburn, on the other hand, entered the season unranked and did not enter the AP Poll until the midpoint of the season. Auburn's season was defined by a series of come-from-behind wins and miraculous plays. Auburn defeated Mississippi State in September on a late touchdown pass. The following month, No. 24 Auburn came from behind to beat No. 7 Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel. With that win, Auburn surged all the way to No. 11 in both major polls.
Two weeks before the Iron Bowl, No. 7 Auburn defeated rival Georgia with a miraculous tipped Hail Mary pass known as the "Prayer at Jordan–Hare", setting the stage for a highly ranked Iron Bowl matchup.
Alabama was predicted by analysts to conclude the 2013–14 season with a BCS record third straight national title, their fourth in five years. The winner of the previous four Iron Bowls (2009–2012) went on to win the national championship: Alabama in 2009, 2011, and 2012; and Auburn in 2010. Entering the 2013 Iron Bowl, with Alabama and Auburn ranked No. 1 and No. 4 respectively in the BCS standings, this was only the second matchup in the rivalry to feature two Top 5 teams, and the highest-ranked Iron Bowl ever. On November 27, 1971, No. 3 Alabama faced No. 5 Auburn at Legion Field in Birmingham, both teams undefeated. Alabama was also undefeated in the last three years and 24 days in games played outside of their home field in Tuscaloosa, their last loss prior to those 18 consecutive road victories coming on November 6, 2010 at LSU.
With Alabama favored by 10 points, Auburn was a decided underdog in the eyes of most analysts. Marq Burnett of The Anniston Star went as far as to list seven reasons why Auburn could not beat Alabama including Alabama's tough run defense and unstoppable offense, even the superior coaching skills of Nick Saban over Gus Malzahn. Joel Erickson of The Birmingham News was one of the few writers to pick Auburn, predicting a score of 31–28. Similar predictions were shared during ESPN's College GameDay, which was broadcast live from outside Jordan–Hare Stadium prior to the game. The program's panel of Kirk Herbstreit, David Pollack, and Lee Corso, as well as Paul Finebaum, unanimously picked Alabama to win the game. Auburn alumnus and NBA on TNT personality Charles Barkley, who appeared as a special guest, went against the panel and chose Auburn to win the game.
Alabama received the opening kickoff and drove to the Auburn 34-yard line, but missed a 44-yard field goal. Auburn's opening drive netted 20 yards and no points. Alabama was then held to seven yards, going three-and-out. Auburn then capped off a seven-play, 66-yard drive with a 45-yard touchdown run by Nick Marshall. It was the Tigers' first offensive touchdown against Alabama since 2010. The quarter ended with Auburn leading 7–0.
Alabama scored touchdowns on their first three possessions of the second quarter, with the first two on scoring passes by A. J. McCarron; the first was a 67-yard drive, the second was 36 yards, and the third drive covered 56 yards. Alabama had scored 21 unanswered points. But Auburn scored late in the second quarter on a Tre Mason run, and the Crimson Tide led, 21–14, at the half.
Under Saban, Alabama had a record of 73–3 when leading at halftime. Auburn received the kickoff in the second half and drove 69 yards to tie the game, 21–21. Later in the quarter Alabama drove 88 yards to Auburn's 11 before the 3rd quarter came to a close.
Alabama's drive came to a halt following two incomplete passes, and a false start penalty that moved the offense back five yards, nullifying the first successful field goal attempt of the game. The Crimson Tide then missed their second field goal of the game. Later in the quarter an Auburn punt was downed at the Alabama 1-yard line. McCarron then threw a 99-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, giving Alabama a 28–21 lead with 10:28 remaining in the game. It was the longest pass play in Crimson Tide football history. With 2:41 left in the game, and trailing 28–21, Auburn drove to the Alabama 39 in six plays.
With 32 seconds remaining, the Tigers scored on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Marshall to Sammie Coates. On the ensuing possession, with seven seconds left in the game, Alabama ran to Auburn's 38-yard line as T. J. Yeldon was knocked out of bounds by Chris Davis while the game clock expired. But Saban argued that Yeldon had stepped out of bounds with one second left in regulation. Saban's argument was validated by the instant replay officials, who put one second back on the clock. Rather than take a knee and go to overtime, Alabama attempted to win the game with a 57-yard field goal and Auburn took a timeout. Auburn's defensive coordinator, Ellis Johnson, doubted Alabama would make the long field goal and suggested that a defensive back stand in the end zone with the potential to return a missed field goal. Malzahn then put Davis, who doubled as Auburn's punt returner, in the end zone for the return in the event of a miss. As the field goal attempt fell short, Davis fielded the ball nine yards deep in the end zone and ran down the sideline. With Alabama's field goal unit being made up mostly of offensive linemen, Davis ran all the way to the end zone to win the game 34–28. It was unofficially the longest missed field goal return in NCAA history, tying a 109-yard return earlier in the 2013 season by Odell Beckham of LSU. However, he was only credited with 100 yards; unlike the NFL, the NCAA does not count yardage inside the end zone for kick returns.
The crowd reaction registered on seismographs across the state of Alabama, in a manner similar to activity registered during the 1988 Auburn–LSU "Earthquake Game".
Lundquist's call of the last play:
On the way... no, returned by Chris Davis. Davis goes left, Davis gets a block, Davis has another block! Chris Davis, no flags! Touchdown, Auburn! An answered prayer!
Gary Danielson would later compare the game to the legendary Miracle on Ice, equating Auburn's upset of Alabama to the amateur USA hockey team defeating the powerhouse Soviet Union team during the 1980 Winter Olympics. Danielson commented on the moment stating "I just think it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing and I'm very proud to have been a part of it."
Bramblett's call of the last play:
Chris Davis is going to drop back into the end zone in single safety. Well, I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it and run it out. Alright, here we go. 56-yarder, it's got—no, it does not have the leg. And Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He'll run it out to the 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 45—There goes Davis! (White shouts "Oh my God! Oh my God!") Davis is going to run it all the way back! Auburn's gonna win the football game! AUBURN'S GONNA WIN THE FOOTBALL GAME! He ran the missed field goal back! He ran it back 109 yards! [fans streaming onto the field] They're not gonna keep them off the field tonight! Holy Cow! Oh, my God! Auburn wins! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl in the most unbelievable fashion you will ever see! I cannot believe it! 34–28! And we thought 'A Miracle in Jordan-Hare' was amazing! Oh, my Lord in Heaven!' Chris Davis just ran it 109 yards and Auburn is going to the championship game!
Gold's call of the last play:
Kick on the way, it's got leg, it is sailing, it is short. It is grabbed about eight yards deep in the end zone. Brought back to the near side, run down the near sideline. There's nobody there for Alabama! Auburn is going to win! Auburn is going to win the Iron Bowl!
Alabama failed to score on six of their last seven drives as they lost their first road game in over three years. Alabama also missed 4 field goals in the game.
McCarron finished with 277 yards passing and three touchdowns for the Crimson Tide while Auburn's Marshall completed 11 passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns, rushing for 99 yards and a third touchdown. Neither quarterback threw an interception.
Alabama's Yeldon rushed for 141 yards and 1 touchdown while Mason amassed 164 yards and one touchdown for the Tigers, the most rushing yards for a single player against Alabama in 2013. Cooper caught six passes for 178 yards for the Crimson Tide and Auburn's Coates finished with 60 yards receiving. 39 of Coates's 60 yards came on the game-tying touchdown and 99 of Cooper's 168 yards came on the 99-yard touchdown reception in the beginning of the 4th quarter.
Auburn made 22 first downs while Alabama made 19. The Tigers converted 53% of their third-down attempts while the Crimson Tide converted 31%.
Auburn's win not only ended Alabama's bid for a third straight national title, but vaulted Auburn to third in the BCS standings. The Tigers beat Missouri 59–42 in the SEC Championship Game. After #2 Ohio State's loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game later that same day, following the SEC Championship, Auburn moved into second place and secured a place in the BCS National Championship Game, losing to the Florida State Seminoles 34–31. Auburn's loss ended the SEC's streak of seven national championships. Auburn's Gus Malzahn won the SEC Coach of the Year award and received a six-year contract extension worth $3.85m per year. Alabama's A. J. McCarron and Auburn's Tre Mason were 2013 Heisman Trophy finalists, but the award was won by Florida State QB Jameis Winston. In the postseason, Alabama lost to the Oklahoma Sooners, 45–31, in the 2014 Sugar Bowl.
Pat Forde, then a columnist for Yahoo Sports, stated:
It was, quite simply, the most astounding ending ever to a college football game. I was at the Boise State–Oklahoma Fiesta Bowl in 2007; this tops it. More at stake, and even more shock value on the final play (minus the player proposing to his girlfriend on the field).
An article in USA Today described the back-to-back victories with the analogy that lightning struck twice, the Georgia game being "one of the greatest finishes to a college football game" and the Alabama upset "perhaps the greatest play in college football history". The Birmingham News called the Auburn victory their "latest miracle finish ... even more stunning than the first." The News & Record called the 2013 Iron Bowl possibly "the greatest college football game ever played." The website "Sports on Earth" ranked the Kick Six game third in their list of the best college football games of all time.
While the walk-off touchdown return was the game's most enduring image, SB Nation writer Ian Boyd argued in a 2014 story that its most significant play was not the return, but rather Marshall's touchdown pass to Coates with 32 seconds left, calling it a play that "brought football's future to the biggest stage." Boyd's story quoted longtime college defensive coach Manny Diaz as calling this play "the most significant thing to happen to college football." The play started out as a zone-read run play, but gave Marshall an additional option to pass; upon seeing the cornerback and free safety come up to stop the run, leaving Coates with no defender within 10 yards, Marshall pulled up just before reaching the line of scrimmage to throw to Coates. In the following years, "run-pass option" plays of similar design became more widespread across college football and the NFL.
After the game, the press identified Alabama's Achilles' heel: the kicking game. In reference to their four unsuccessful field goal attempts, writers called the game "Kick Bama Kick," in reference to the 1972 Iron Bowl, nicknamed "Punt Bama Punt". At 6:43 p.m., just 18 minutes after of the conclusion of the game, Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News posted an article titled "Kick Bama Kick", but included an online poll allowing readers to select their favorite moniker. Among seven proposed titles, "Kick Bama Kick" won by a landslide. Ryan Black of the Ledger–Enquirer in Columbus, Georgia titled an article "Kick, Bama, kick" within hours of the game's completion. Frank Cooney of Yahoo! Sports, who noted that the game will be "forever secured" in the discussion for the most dramatic college football game in history, also titled his piece "Kick Bama Kick" that evening. One year after the game, Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and Fox Sports referred to it as the "Kick Six".
The term "Kick Six" is also used, in general, to refer to other instances of blocked or missed field goals being returned for a touchdown, such as one occurring in an NFL game on November 30, 2015, as performed by the Baltimore Ravens against the Cleveland Browns. The term is a play on the term "pick six", which refers to an interception being returned for a touchdown.
At the 2014 ESPY Awards, recognizing the greatest achievements in 2013, the 2013 Iron Bowl won the award for "Best Game". The other two nominees were Game Five of the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals and the Indianapolis Colts first round playoff victory.
The game-winning touchdown return was named "Best Play" at the 2014 ESPYs. The play beat three other nominees including the play near the end of Auburn's game against Georgia.
The crowd reaction to the game's final play registered on seismographs across the state of Alabama in a manner similar to activity registered during the 1988 Auburn–LSU "Earthquake Game".
Cremated human remains were discovered on the field inside Jordan–Hare Stadium by Auburn's grounds crew the Monday following the game, presumably left by a field-rusher who was honoring a request from a deceased relative.
During the post-game celebration on Pat Dye Field, Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's visor was stolen by a fan. The incident was caught on camera. The thief later issued an apology; however, Auburn officials never responded to his offers to return the visor. The sweater vest Malzahn wore during the game was later auctioned off for charity.
A column on the game written the following week by Stanford student Winston Shi broke the single-day website traffic record for The Stanford Daily.