Chris Davis runs to glory with his 109-yard field goal return to win the 2013 Iron Bowl
By Charles Goldberg
AUBURN, Ala. — Rod Bramblett was preparing to call the Iron Bowl figuring he had already witnessed one of the most unlikely finishes in Auburn history just the game before, the one in which Ricardo Louis caught a deflected pass for a touchdown to somehow beat Georgia in the final minute.
Even the biggest Iron Bowl in forever, the one that was coming up in 2013, couldn't beat those dramatics. Could it?
"I said there's no way that Alabama game was going to top that Georgia game. There's no way. I was wrong."
Wrong indeed. Chris Davis returned a missed Alabama field goal 109 yards on the game's final play to carry Auburn to a 34-28 Iron Bowl victory in Jordan-Hare Stadium in a game that will go down in football lore. The game, the play, earned its own name: Kick Six.
Bramblett, Auburn's broadcaster, called it, and with a prophetic beginning.
"I guess if this thing comes up short he can field it and run it out. All right, here we go. Fifty-six-yarder. It's got...no, it does not have the leg. And Chris Davis takes it in the back of the end zone. He'll run it out to the 10, 15, 20...25-30...35-40...45-50...45... There goes Davis! Davis is going to run it all the way back! Auburn is going to win the football game! Auburn is going to win the football game! He ran the missed goal back! He ran it back 109 yards! They're not going to keep them off the field tonight! Holy cow! Oh, my God! Auburn wins! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl! Auburn has won the Iron Bowl in the most unbelievable fashion that you will ever see! I cannot believe it!"
Alabama returns to Auburn for the first time since that call, since that game, at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Bramblett will be there forever linked to the greatest finish in Iron Bowl history, and, considering the stakes, perhaps the best finish in college football history. The winner was going to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game with a shot to advance to the national championship game. Alabama was favored to do it as the No. 1 team in the country. But it was No. 4 Auburn that made it.
"Some days it seems like it was a decade ago, and some days it seems like it was yesterday," Bramblett said. "Everywhere I'm fortunate enough to go speak, people want to talk about that game."
CBS, which televised the game, remained on the air well after Davis crossed the goal line. They showed the tens of thousands of fans who rushed the field. They showed the reaction of offensive lineman Avery Young time and again, putting his hand over his mouth in disbelief. That scene has become a trademark of the game, too.
"They're probably showing it on TV as we speak," Young said Tuesday. "I think they show my expression more than they show the actual kick. Chris Davis made that happen, I was just on the sidelines shocked. It was a great experience."
Before it left the air, CBS would show the replay the Davis' return with Bramblett's call.
"I did not hear the call in its entirety until I was on my way home from the game," Bramblett said. "I remember brief little moments of the call, but I didn't really remember what came out of my mouth in what order. It was odd because the next day we had to get on plane to go to Ames, Iowa for basketball to play Iowa State. I knew it was a big deal, but didn't know how big. But by the time Monday morning rolled around after that game I was inundated with interview requests. I think at that moment how big a deal it was.
"It wasn't cool because it was career changing, or it changed my life for the next two weeks, and even to this day, what was neat about it was everybody wanted to talk about Auburn. Auburn was the darling. To be able to talk about Auburn football, Auburn athletics, Auburn University over the next two weeks, months and years because of that call was the thing that came out of it. Everybody wanted to hear about Auburn."
Avery Young is still around. He'll start Saturday against Alabama. He has some memory of the camera pointed in his direction at the end of the 2013 game.
"I saw him, but I didn't think it was going to blow up like that. At that particular time, I didn't care who saw me. It was insane."
Auburn, don't forget, was already in a dramatic way before the Davis return. Nick Marshall threw a touchdown pass to Sammie Coates to tie the game with just 32 seconds left. Young, who was on the field for that, was on the bench when Adam Griffith tried his field goal.
"I was sitting there just watching the kick and I thought he made it," Young said. "We had just gone in to score, so I was a little winded and everybody went crazy. I stayed in my seat the whole time until he passed the 50. I guess it was so crazy how it was happening I didn't run over there to the sideline real quick like everyone else. I was stunned it was happening."
There goes Davis!
A YouTube video of that play from Auburn Athletics has been viewed, at this count, 3,689,499 times. There are other versions of that play that have been watched many, many times as well.
There was more to call, at least there was for Stan White, the former Auburn quarterback and Bramblett's football broadcast partner. Alas, you only hear part of that. White's famous 'Oh, my God!' captures the excitement as Davis crosses the 35. But then...
"I guess people know this by now: Our engineer cut his mic off after he yelled that because otherwise you wouldn't have been able to hear anything else I said the rest of the way," Bramblett laughs.
Bramblett said Davis would score early on as the returner picked up an escort from teammates Robenson Therezie and Jonathon Mincy.
"I thought it was a pretty-sure touchdown when he hit the Alabama 45 or 40," Bramblett said. "Looking back at it now, I see how close Robenson Therezie came to him. I would have really been in trouble if he had tripped him up because I was declaring a victory at about the 35 or 40-yard line. If he had fallen down, nobody would have remembered that call, that's for sure."
Davis instead landed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The return won the ESPY for the best play of the year.
Chris Davis returns a field goal try a million miles for a touchdown with with no time left. Auburn WINS 34-28
-- Auburn Gold Mine (@AUGoldMine) December 1, 2013
First there was that memorable Georgia finish. Then Chris Davis. Bramblett said he was fortunate to call them both.
"The Georgia game may have been more unlikely than the Alabama play because that was a deflection, right place at the right time," Bramblett said. "The odds were really stacked against Auburn then. The Alabama play, in my opinion, was already part of the greatest Iron Bowl ever played because you were headed to overtime for the first time with all that was on the line."
Except there was no overtime thanks to Chris Davis.
"Most broadcasters will tell you, especially the ones in our league where the fans care so much about their radio broadcast, you can't plan for it, but you have to be ready for it," Bramblett said. "You have to be ready for that unlikely moment.
"What's so great for me, and all the other guys broadcasting in the league, are the fans that want to hear their guy's passion, to know that he cares, to know that he sometimes gets frustrated when things go bad.
"That's one play that I've done that I don't mind listening to because it meant so much to Auburn people. I think we captured the moment, the surprise of what we were seeing, the finish and the exuberance."
Auburn coach Gus Malzahn, left, and Rod Bramblett talk football on Tiger Talk
Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @AUGoldMine