Chris Davis' return of a missed field goal attempt against Alabama launched the Iron Bowl finish into lore and Auburn into contention for a BCS national championship berth.
(Photo: John Reed, USA TODAY Sports)
To recap the 2013 regular season, USA TODAY Sports is counting down some of the year's memorable moments, significant stories, noteworthy trends, biggest surprises and biggest disappointments. Today, we look at the regular season's five most memorable moments.
1. Kick Six
Against Alabama on Nov. 30, Auburn cornerback Chris Davis caught a missed 57-yard field goal as time expired and weaved his way 100-plus yards for the winning touchdown as time expired. No one-sentence description can do this year's Iron Bowl finish justice. It's less a question of where the ending sits in this year's pecking order - top of the list, obviously - and more one of historical perspective: Does it stand as the most memorable end-of-game moment in the history of college football? Time will tell. As of now, however, the "Kick Six" has the drama, the ridiculousness and the silliness, along with the idea that Alabama and Auburn were playing for a spot in the national championship game. Never before in college football has so much been decided in such unexpected fashion.
2. Prayer at Jordan-Hare
Two weeks before Chris Davis shocked Alabama, the Tigers pulled off a similar routine to escape Georgia and keep their SEC and national title hopes alive. It was slightly less dramatic, though not by much: Down 38-37 and facing a long fourth-down conversion with less than a minute to go, Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall stepped back and heaved the ball downfield toward wide receiver Ricardo Louis, bracketed by a pair of Georgia defensive backs. The ball - seemingly destined to be incomplete or intercepted - was tipped by Georgia's Josh Harvey-Clemons and grabbed in the air by Louis, who strolled into the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown.
3. Nebraska's Hail Mary
On Nov. 2, Nebraska eked out a 27-24 win against Northwestern after quarterback Ron Kellogg III's 49-yard, no-time-on-the-clock pass was batted into the air and into the arms of wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. Before Auburn's late charge in November, this was the year's best finish. The one difference, of course, is that the Cornhuskers' Hail Mary score to beat Northwestern led to an 8-4 regular season; the Tigers, on the other hand, used two miracles to reach the BCS National Championship Game.
The final score - Oklahoma 33, Oklahoma State 24 - is misleading: OU won by a whisker, not a touchdown-plus. How the Sooners won, however, may echo into next season and beyond. Oklahoma State entered the season's final full Saturday needing only a win to secure another Big 12 title and Fiesta Bowl berth. OU, on the other hand, was eliminated from the Big 12 race but still very much alive in the hunt for an at-large spot in the BCS. As if the rivalry needed the added emphasis. Oklahoma won despite a sputtering offense and a rotation of three quarterbacks, the last of whom, Blake Bell, found Jalen Saunders for a seven-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left. To even get to that point, OU needed a bend-but-don't-break defense, a touchdown from its kicker and a perfect game from Bob Stoops and his coaching staff. All this left Oklahoma State asking: How do we beat these guys?
5. Manziel to Evans
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel's 95-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Mike Evans in a 49-42 loss to Alabama stands as the year's best moment in a losing effort - and the year's most memorable single play that occurred outside of a game's final minute. A game of such hype and magnitude needed a Heisman Trophy-worthy moment from one of the most electric players in college football history; Manziel delivered, hitting Evans down the right sideline to pull A&M within a touchdown, at 42-35, after the Crimson Tide scored 35 points in a row to pull ahead in the second half. If nothing else, the touchdown pass served as a reminder of Manziel's brilliance in the most pressure-filled of situations.