“Destiny vs. Dynasty”

The year was 1963.  Jimmy Sidle was the quarterback for Auburn and the first quarterback in NCAA history to lead the nation in rushing yardage. He was a consensus All-American that year.   His sidekick was Tucker Frederickson, an All-American the next year and the first player picked in the NFL draft in 1965.  
It was the first year that I have any memory of the Iron Bowl.  I listened to the game by radio, jumping up and down with every big play.  Auburn had not scored a point in the previous four games with Alabama.  By the age of nine, I already knew what this rivalry meant if you lived in Alabama.
The first time I ever personally attended an Iron Bowl game was in 1972.  It was the famous 17-16 game, more commonly known as the “Punt, Bama, Punt” game.   Auburn blocked two punts and returned each of them for a touchdown in the last five minutes of the game to overcome a 13 point deficit and win.  I came back to Auburn from Birmingham, went through Toomer’s Corner and headed straight for the Infirmary.  I remained there a week, never certain if my illness was the result of the game or not.
It remained the most unbelievable football game I had ever seen, including the “Prayer from Jordan-Hare” win over Georgia a couple of weeks ago.  Until this weekend.
As much as I love the Auburn-Georgia rivalry, it still doesn’t compare to the Iron Bowl, particularly if you live in Alabama as I did growing up.  Georgia and Auburn fans are like family.  They get together and play a hard fought game and then tailgate together.  It is the way football should be.
The Auburn-Alabama rivalry is like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.   There is no room for the middle ground.  You’re either for us or against us, even if you weren’t born in Alabama.  
This year’s Iron Bowl had all the hype that comes with modern day college football.  This Iron Bowl was the first time both teams played each other while ranked in the top four.  It was the first time that the win would decide the Western Division Champion of the SEC.  The list goes on and on.
Hype usually overshadows reality when this type of game is actually played.  Not in this case.  No one could have ever predicted what an incredibly exciting finish would occur.  I look at that final minute every day, actually several times every day, just to remind myself that it actually happened.
“Auburn has a chance if they keep it close” was what I had been saying to myself all week.  They managed to do just that, thanks in part to several missed Alabama field goal attempts.  Lost in the drama of the final second is that fact that Auburn had just tied the game with only 32 seconds left on the clock.
I stood like every fan in the stands to watch the long field goal attempt after one second was put back on the clock.  Surely it can’t end like this, I thought.  The kick was short and Chris Davis entered the history books for Auburn, the SEC and indeed, all of collegiate football by running the missed attempt 109 yards for a touchdown and victory.
Auburn’s David Langner returned both blocked punts for touchdowns in the “Punt, Bama, Punt” game in 1972.  Ironically, Langner went to the same high school as Davis who scored Saturday in what is now known as the “Kick, Bama, Kick” game.
Fifty years after I listened to my first Iron Bowl game and forty one years after I first attended an Iron Bowl in person, I saw the greatest football ending ever in that legendary rivalry.  
A team of destiny defeated a team with a dynasty.  Auburn versus Alabama.  Iron Bowl.  War Eagle!!  Football just doesn’t get any better than this.
o0o
Dan Ponder can be reached at [email protected]

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