The 2013 Iron Bowl was one of the best college football games I have ever seen. Chris Davis will forever be remembered in Alabama, and throughout the nation, for his 109 yard return of a missed field goal that ruined Nick Saban’s dynasty and sent millions of Crimson Tide fans into a tailspin.
When Davis crossed the end zone Saturday night, I sat mystified in front of the television like everyone else in America. After the initial shock and several instant replays, I found myself thinking back to my childhood and reminiscing about other college football games I will never forget. So here are the other four games that make the top five in my lifetime:
5. The 2006 Rose Bowl: I am far from a Texas Longhorns fan, but after Vince Young ran into the end zone and struck the Heisman pose, everyone in the country had to feel like he got robbed. The Longhorns took down the University of Southern California Trojans at the height of their power 41-38. This gave Texas the national championship and ended Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush’s career with a rare loss. Young had 200 yards on the ground and Bush had over 150 yards of offense himself. That game deserves its number five ranking.
4. Appalachian State over Michigan in 2007: The two-time defending national champions rolled into Ann Arbor and destroyed the Michigan program. The Mountaineers were out-gained by nearly 100 yards, but the scoreboard read 34-32 after 60 minutes. Chad Henne and Mario Manningham were no match for Armanti Edwards and CoCo Hillary. The Mountaineers’ field goal with less than a minute left gave the little guys a reason to cheer and left Big Blue in shambles.
3. The 2007 Fiesta Bowl: Boise State’s rise to power started that night in Glendale, Ariz. Adrian Peterson and the Sooners came into the game dreaming of something better and were left with something much worse. Coach Peterson and the rest of the Boise State coaching staff feasted on an undisciplined Oklahoma University defense, running a hook-and-ladder that tied the game with only seven seconds left. Then, after exchanging touchdowns, the Broncos went with the playground-like statue of liberty play and scored on the two-point conversion and won the game. As if that wasn’t memorable enough, Boise State running back Ian Johnson proposed to a cheerleader after the game. One can only hope they lived happily ever after.
2. Auburn over Alabama in 2013: At the half it was 28-7 Alabama and it looked like the same story, different day for Crimson Tide opponents. Nobody can run the ball on Alabama, except Trey Mason and Nick Marshall. The Tigers ran for 296 yards Saturday night and only threw for 97. Marshall ran the ball more than he threw it, but he tossed a couple of touchdowns to keep the defense honest and keep them in the game. Then, with three zeros on the clock, A.J. McCaron could only watch from the sidelines as Davis’ return meant no three-peat. Maybe worst of all, his girlfriend, an Auburn grad, can’t even hold back her joy for one second as he walks to the locker room. Her mouth said “I’m sorry,” but her smile said “War Eagle.”
1. The 2003 Fiesta Bowl: This game was also the national championship game between storied programs Ohio State and Miami. The “U” had more playmakers than some NFL teams, with Andre Johnson and Kellen Winslow as their main pass catchers. Willis McGahee lined up in the backfield before being tragically injured in the fourth quarter. Not to mention a defense led by the great Sean Taylor, who picked off two passes in the contest. Ohio State countered with Maurice Clarett and run-first quarterback Criag Krenzel. The two combined to score all four Buckeye touchdowns. Chris Gamble helped neutralize Johnson as a cornerback and moonlighted as a receiver, catching two passes for 69 yards.
The game went into two overtimes before Ohio State finally won the game, but not without controversy. It appeared as though Miami had finished off the Buckeyes in OT with a fourth-down stop, but a flag came down for pass interference and eventually lead to the Buckeye victory. Ohio State’s victory ended the ‘Canes’ 34-game winning streak and put the Buckeyes back on the map.
Many have deemed the 2013 Iron Bowl the best game they have ever seen. In fact, I initially agreed. But looking back at the ’03 Fiesta Bowl swayed my judgment and left me with this list. The list can be debated, but Davis’ return being replayed on every Alabama vs. Auburn commercial for the next 30 years”¦ that is pretty much cast in iron.