There goes Chris Davis into Auburn football history
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — They'll return to where it all happened Saturday, to Jordan-Hare Stadium, to college football, to history.
Auburn will kick off a new season at 3 p.m. Saturday against Arkansas, and it will be the first official play at Jordan-Hare since Chris Davis shocked the football world by returning a missed field goal try 109 yards as time expired to beat Alabama 34-28 on the way to the Southeastern Conference championship and spot in the BCS title game.
You know the play.
It took a last-second substitution with one second left to make it happen.
Auburn special teams coach Scott Fountain will have a new cast of characters on his kicking and return teams Saturday. But on a November Saturday last fall, he had everybody just so.
It started like this: Alabama's T.J. Yeldon ran out of bounds and the clock hit 0:00, but upon review, the officials determined there was a second left. Auburn's first thought? Alabama would throw deep.
"Our thought was they probably would," Fountain said. "but if they tried to kick a field goal 'what should we do? Let's get a guy back there deep.'"
Auburn called time out.
"We knew we'd ice the kicker, and then I looked and saw Ryan Smith back there deep and said, 'Ryan has never returned a punt, ever.'
"So we made the switch to put Chris back there. We knew if they tried a field goal it would give us an opportunity to make something happen. I didn't think the kicker could make it, but we knew he had a strong leg. We thought it would be a heck of a field goal if he did."
Adam Griffith's 57-yard field goal attempt was high and long, but fell short in front of the goal post. Davis caught the ball just in front of the end line and took off.
"He did a nice job setting them up to the right, and that took the five linemen out. They were out of the equation," Fountain said. "Then he went back to the left, and we set the wall up."
Fountain said Cassanova McKinzy and Gabe Wright "made great blocks."
"Once Chris got to the corner, I thought he was in good shape," Fountain said.
Everybody watched. Some in person. Some on TV. At least one watched on the big video board in Jordan-Hare.
That was head coach Gus Malzahn.
"I saw him pass Coach Malzahn, and I took a peek at Chris, and I took a peek at Coach Malzahn, and Coach Malzahn turned and started walking the other way. He said he was watching the scoreboard for flags," Fountain said. "But as soon as Chris passed Coach, I saw him throw up his hands signaling a touchdown, and that was different for him."
It was named the national play of the year at the ESPYs. And it was special for Fountain, who had an uncle play at Auburn, an uncle play at Alabama, and was a high school coach in the state.
"It was kind of a dream…a good dream," Fountain said.
Auburn has played in Jordan-Hare since, in the spring A-Day Game. That one didn't count. Saturday, it does.
It will be different. Chris Davis is gone. Quan Bray is in. Punter Steven Clark and kicker Cody Parkey are gone, and Daniel Carlson will handle both of their jobs.
"We've got a lot of new people on special teams — a new punter, new kicker, new short snapper on field goals, new holder, new punt return guy even though he's had some opportunities to do it in his career," Fountain said. "But a lot of foundations were laid last year that hopefully we can build on this year."
Here's the play (more than 3,100,000 have watched this YouTube video from Auburn Athletics...)
A new category in Auburn's media guide* *with official NCAA distance pic.twitter.com/LY8SDDODrN— Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) August 21, 2014
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine