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On Fourth And A Zillion, Alabama Crushes Auburn’s Spirits

Isaiah Bond catches a last-minute touchdown pass for Alabama
Michael Chang/Getty Images

In a play that will power a million angry phone calls to Paul Finebaum, Alabama defeated Auburn 27-24 in Saturday’s Iron Bowl with a last-minute touchdown pass that now lies in freshly settled terrain somewhere between Kordell Stewart's Miracle at Michigan and “OWENS! OWENS! OWENS!

Some context is required here. No. 8 Alabama came into this game at 10-1, on the verge of crawling back into the national title picture (ugh, again), while Auburn was 6-5 and unranked. The Tigers needed a victory against the Crimson Tide so they could avoid a losing conference record, and so that every one of their fans could spend the offseason shouting "War Eagle"—at teachers, grocery store clerks, local hospice workers—and still have it mean something.

And goddamn if Auburn didn’t nearly pull it off. Despite completing a grand total of six passes yesterday, the Tigers racked up 244 rushing yards and held a 24-20 lead with less than five minutes to go in the fourth. They even forced Bama’s offense into a three-and-out after that, forcing the Tide to punt with five minutes left. The crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium could feel it. This was gonna happen.

And then backup punt returner Koy Moore slipped on the turf while signaling for a fair catch, muffing said punt. Fuck a duck.

After that brutal turnover, Bama QB Jalen Milroe—who plays like a future No. 1 overall pick for roughly one-and-a-half quarters every game—deftly guided the Tide down to the 8. Once there, Milroe then committed the cardinal boner of letting a shotgun snap fly 18 yards past him, and then was pinched for an illegal forward pass on the subsequent third down, setting up fourth-and-goal from the 31.

What looked like an epic choke job by Auburn was now shaping up to be easy business. All the Tigers had to do to seal the win was rush a few guys at Milroe and not let any Tide receiver get behind the rest of them. You could have drawn up this defense the palm of your hand and had it work.

Instead, Auburn rushed only two guys, with a third defender spying Milroe to no good end. That allowed Milroe time to count off to 10-Mississippi while sophomore receiver Isaiah Bond worked himself free in the back of the end zone on a play design called, oh so appropriately, Gravedigger. Milroe let the ball fly and dropped it squarely into Bond’s hands. Here now is the mandatory display of this game’s win probability EKG:

Honestly, they just make these graphs up.

I'm not an Auburn fan, and I still can’t process that this play happened. Imagine how long those poor bastards will need to come to grips with it.

We are now 10 years from the Kick Six, which also happened at Jordan-Hare. That God would offer the Tide retribution for that legendary play seems cruel—did anybody REALLY want Alabama to weasel their way back into the College Football Playoff?—but also fitting of a rivalry in which cruelty is baked into nearly every meeting. Memories run long in the Iron Bowl, and the Gravedigger on fourth-and-31 could run the longest of all.

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