AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama’s championship hopes collapsed under a flurry of missed kicks and opportunities and one utterly improbable final play.
The top-ranked Crimson Tide, seemingly invincible at times this season, wound up losing 34-28 to No. 4 Auburn on Saturday when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 100-plus yards for a touchdown on the final play.
As a result, Alabama (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) won’t get a chance to make history with a third straight national title. In fact, the Tigers (11-1, 7-1), not the Tide, will play for the SEC title in Atlanta.
“We told our team that this is like March Madness,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “Coming into this game that if you want to keep playing in the tournament you have to keep winning.”
And presumably, the Tide is eliminated. Though strange things happen in college football at this time of year.
Davis caught the ball about 9 yards deep in the end zone after freshman Adam Griffith’s 57-yard attempt fell short. He then sprinted down the left sideline and cut back with nothing but teammates around him in a second straight hard-to-fathom finish for the Tigers (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference).
“I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run,” Davis said. “I knew they would have big guys on the field to protect on the field goal.
“When I looked back, I said, ‘I can’t believe this.”’
The Tide several times seemed poised to continue its run toward the first three-peat in modern college football, but couldn’t put the Tigers away.
The Tigers put it away just when overtime was on tap.
The public address announcer in the stadium had already declared the game 28-28 at the end of regulation.
But Alabama got 1 second restored and one more play after a review of T.J. Yeldon’s run to the Auburn 39.