Every once in a while, sports fans receive confirmation on why they love their games as much as they do. Last Saturday was one of those days.
Normally, a football game between Auburn University and the University of Alabama would not be considered of huge importance in this part of the country, but this was not a normal game.
Ohio State University football fans, after a raucous win over the University of Michigan earlier in the day, stayed glued to their TVs.
Even with a perfect season going, the Buckeyes likely would be excluded from an opportunity to play in the Bowl Championship Series national championship game without either Alabama or Florida State University losing one of their final two games.
I loathe to describe a game or a play as the greatest I’ve ever seen or, to borrow a term from ESPN, an “instant classic.”
That was until Saturday when Auburn’s Chris Davis and his teammates did something so extraordinary that without hesitation, I declared it was the greatest ending to a football game I had ever witnessed.
With just one second on the clock, placed there after the stadium timekeeper ran it a tick too long on the previous play, Alabama decided to try a 56-yard field goal. Another Alabama kicker had missed three earlier attempts, so Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban sent another kicker onto the field.
Sensing the Alabama kicker might not have a leg strong enough to get the ball to the goalpost, Auburn coach Gene Malzahn ordered Davis to stand in the end zone and return the kick if it fell short of the goalpost.
This used to be a tactic often seen on long field goal tries, but as the technique for kicking and the strength of kickers’ legs have improved, it is rarely seen today.
When the kick came up short, Davis and his blockers did the rest, breaking down the sideline and coming breathtakingly close to stepping out of bounds to avoid a tackler.
Realization hits both sides
Suddenly, there was no Alabama player to beat to the end zone. The realization hit both sides. The game was over and we all had just witnessed something amazing.
Ironic that the play happened in the same week that Sports Illustrated magazine ran a feature article on a “miracle” basketball play from last spring that turned into a YouTube sensation.
A high school player had an inbounds pass picked off, managed to get the ball back from the opponent, and then shot the ball from 55 feet into the basket to win a tournament game. And all of this was done in 2.9 seconds.
Alexander Wolff wrote these words about that miracle ending: “Even as onlookers, we’re called to complete our task - to watch until the reel runs out. For that clip isn’t merely of a shot. It’s a young man, a team, even a crew of referees, who model something for us all because they played things out. Played them out to the very end.”
Chris Davis may or may not be a NFL star someday, but he did something extraordinary on Saturday that will not be forgotten by sports fans.
Sports are about passion
Some believe a moment on a field or a court should not define a person’s life, particularly someone as young as Davis.
But sports are about passion. He brought about the greatest ending to a college football game that I and many others have ever seen and that is something we can always treasure in our hearts.
Bob Hyle covers sports and writes a weekly column for The Harrison Press. He lives in Bright.