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SEC Play Of The Year (For Real This Time)



Two weeks ago we were pretty sure we’d seen the play of the year in the Southeastern Conference.

Seriously … what could possibly top Auburn’s game-winning “immaculate deflection” against Georgia (which set up an Iron Bowl matchup for all the marbles in the SEC West)?

Well we got our answer on the final play of the Iron Bowl … a play which almost didn’t happen.

With No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn tied at 28 (thanks to a Tiger touchdown with just 32 seconds left in the game), Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon broke off a 24-yard run to the Auburn 38-yard-line as time expired.

Or so we thought …

Officials reviewing the play noted Yeldon’s foot stepped out of bounds with one second remaining on the clock. That gave Alabama one final chance to win the game in regulation – and head coach Nick Saban opted to try a 57-yard field goal attempt.

Here’s the complete sequence of events as it unfolded …

Wow …

For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 109-yard missed field goal returned by Auburn cornerback Chris Davis for the game-winning touchdown. Or “Kick Bama Kick” as the play has been christened (a reference to the 1972 “Punt Bama Punt” Iron Bowl in which Auburn’s David Langner returned two blocked punts for touchdowns in the fourth quarter to give the Tigers a 17-16 win over another undefeated Alabama team).

Obviously Davis’ return is something much bigger than just the “play of the year” in the SEC. In fact there’s a spirited debate underway as to whether this is the greatest play in the history of college football.

It might be …

Initially, we rank it just ahead of 1984’s “Hail Flutie” and just behind “The Play” from the 1982 California-Stanford game – but bear in mind Davis’ return just happened. History will ultimately judge how a Top Five rivalry matchup with national championship implications stacks up to the absence of band members on the field.

Yet while no musicians were harmed in the making of this memory, there’s plenty of lore …

Of particular interest? Davis was originally positioned on the line of scrimmage when Alabama first lined up to attempt the field goal – hoping to scoop up a blocked kick and return it for a score. His roommate, fellow senior defensive back Ryan Smith, was the original deep man.

During a timeout, though, Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn decided to make Davis – the nation’s top punt returner – his deep man.

“I didn’t know that we had a returner back there at first until coach called a timeout and told them to put me back there,” Davis said after the game.