AUBURN, Ala. — In a season of miracles for Auburn, all it has taken is one mistake to give the Tigers life.
No. 1 Alabama made just enough of them Saturday to change the course of history.
With no time left on the clock, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis caught a 57-yard field goal attempt by Alabama in the back of the end zone, ran it out down the left sideline and went 109 yards untouched to beat the Crimson Tide, 34-28.
No overtime. No three-peat for Alabama. No forgetting this Iron Bowl, which exceeded every bit of pre-game hype, all the way down to the final second.
Think fate is on Auburn's side this season?
There wouldn't have even been time left for such a miracle if not for an instant replay put a second back on the clock after an Amari Cooper reception, allowing Alabama to try a 57-yard field goal – after it had already missed three earlier in the game.
That followed another improbable play when Auburn, trailing 28-21, tied the game with 32 seconds left Quarterback Nick Marshall – who appeared ready to take off and scramble – stopped just before the line of scrimmage, freezing Alabama defenders and finding wide open receiver Sammy Coates for a touchdown, sending Jordan-Hare Stadium into a frenzy.
Auburn (11-1, 7-1 SEC) heads to next Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta with its eyes on a national title shot. Alabama (11-1, 7-1 SEC), which saw its win streak end at 15 games, will forever wonder what might have been if not for a boatload of special teams gaffes and empty trips inside the red zone that gave the Tigers a chance.
After it appeared Auburn had blown its shot to tie the game, coming up short on a fourth down run from its own 40-yard line with 8:28 remaining, the Tigers got one more shot with 2:33 remaining when it blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt – Alabama's third miss of the game and fourth empty trip inside the red zone.
That was one of several moments in which Auburn prevented the game from slipping away.
Trailing 21-7 late in the second quarter, Auburn responded with a lightning-quick, seven-play touchdown drive fueled by running back Tre Mason, who broke tackles and got tough yards inside, re-igniting the Tigers' offensive tempo and their hope – especially with the promise of getting the ball first in the second half.
Auburn cashed in on that, too, using its offensive pace to put Alabama on its heels, scoring on a 13-yard pass from Marshall to C.J. Uzomah after some nifty running got the Tigers into scoring position.
Then, when it appeared Auburn was ready to take control of the game by pinning Alabama at its 1-yard line, Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron heaved a 99-yard touchdown to Cooper with 10:28 remaining for a 28-21 lead.
But Alabama never scored again. And Auburn scored twice in the game's final 32 seconds. And one season after going 3-9, the Tigers are heading to the SEC championship game and possibly the BCS championship.