Can it get any closer than this?
Relax. You aren’t going to have to read another article about close elections and why you should always vote. Even I have been getting a bit burned out on the subject of Donalsonville’s recent close race for mayor.
That was just another reason why I was looking forward to attending the Auburn – Georgia football game this past weekend in Auburn. Much of our kinfolk would be attending, including both the Auburn and the Georgia branches of our family.
We stayed at the same hotel, attended the same wonderful tailgate party, visited with friends, showed off our grandchildren and generally just enjoyed the atmosphere of a beautiful Saturday afternoon of college football.
Auburn is in a really good place from a fan’s standpoint this season. The Tigers have won several more games than anyone ever expected. They have had a couple of upsets, generally played hard and aggressive, and amazingly had put themselves in the position of controlling their own destiny.
From midway through the season, I said to myself that it was all gravy from here on out. Besides, any Auburn fan would tell you they would rather beat Georgia and Alabama than go 10-2 and lose to those two archrivals.
If we won, a fairy tale season would continue. If we lost, it was still going to be a fantastic year. No pressure. Yeah, right.
By now, any fan that follows either of these teams knows that Auburn dominated the first half, before Georgia came roaring back in the fourth quarter. It seemed as the Tigers had inadvertently awoken a sleeping giant. Murray couldn’t miss a pass, and Gurley was hitting all the right holes.
Auburn’s offense seemed to come to a complete stop and even the most devoted fans of Auburn sensed that the clock for this Cinderella team was about to strike midnight.
Murray took the Dawgs into a tie with a gutsy run where he was stopped at the goal line. Just over or just short. It doesn’t matter. Georgia’s point after gave them the lead for the very first time in the game.
Auburn missed two passes and then their quarterback was sacked making their last possession 4th and 18 yards for a first down. There were only 30 or so seconds left on the clock. The Auburn faithful began to shout, “I’m proud to be an Auburn Tiger”. The cheer was more a recognition of the players who had fought so hard this year than it was a belief that this team might actually win.
Nick Marshall, formerly of Georgia and now Auburn’s signal caller, lofted a long pass into the middle of double coverage. When I saw it tipped I thought we might have a chance. And we did.
In the stuff that legends are made of, Ricardo Louis had the tipped ball land in his hands and trotted into the end zone for the go-ahead score. I still get goose bumps thinking about it. My great-grandchildren, should they become Auburn fans, will one day watch reruns of that incredible play and know that their Granddaddy and Granny were there.
The election was close, but it didn’t begin to approach how close this football game was at the end. Both teams and their fans had the rug jerked out from under them and Auburn was a victor only because of the most unlikely set of circumstances.
I was proud of both teams. It was easy to say “Go Dawgs” and “War Eagle” in the same sentence. Two tight races in one week. I am getting too old for this.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org