"It will never happen" I thought as I stood next to Fox6 cameraman Brandon Riggins on the end zone line on a misty Saturday night at Auburn. I could see it in the eyes of Tiger fans, their fingers crossed as they stood behind me, more than a few with their heads hung low. Somehow, some way, Aaron Murray and the Georgia Bulldogs had erased a 20-point Auburn lead to take a 38-37 lead over an Auburn defense that looked as if it had run out of gas. The Tigers faced a 4th and 18 play with less than 30 seconds remaining in the game, the AU offense 73 yards from a touchdown they desperately needed.
Turning to Brandon I yelled, "Lets not chase after these Auburn players on the field- this is not going to be pretty- let's wait for them to cool off a bit and talk to them in the locker room." Then it happened. Nick Marshall lofted a desperation pass toward teammate Ricardo Louis. Georgia safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons suddenly turned into Curley & Mo. Rather than simply knocking down the pass to preserve the win, Harvey-Clemons tried to catch the football. You know the rest of story, as the ball, ricocheting into Louis' arms, resulted in one of the most emotional, draining, unlikely and improbable wins in Auburn football history. The Prayer At Jordan-Hare was answered, and the Tigers jumped to 10-1, ready to host top-ranked Alabama in an Iron Bowl for the ages.
Before mayhem ensued, Dee Ford had to force a valiant Aaron Murray to the ground as the Dawgs threatened to answer. As time expired, we ran toward Ricardo Louis, who was standing only feet from CBS field reporter Tracy Wolfson. The catch? Louis never had a chance to express his joy on national TV as after interviewing Gus Malzahn, Wolfson said "Back to you Verne!". Louis turned to me and gladly did an on-field interview. He told me that during the play, he quickly reminded himself. "Don't drop it" and then, after being asked by yours truly if he was ready for Bama yelled, "We're gonna beat them- we're gonna bet them- we're gonna beat them."
Bulletin board material for the big game? Hardly. At that moment, Ricardo Louis was a young man overcome with emotion- a young man who said he had always dreamed of making such a play.
Big-time athletes want to be the one: Louis told me that before the play, he walked to directly to Nick Marshall and told him, "Throw it to me, I'll make the play." I later asked Marshall if that was true and he told me "absolutely".
Now comes the big one: 10-1 Auburn hosting 11-0 Alabama. Could we see another crazy play from either team? The Prayer At Jordan-Hare was a once-in-a-decade type play, and it certainly brought back memories of the late-great broadcaster Jack Buck screaming "I can't believe what I just saw!" (see Kirk Gibson's World Series homer).
I believe the odds of us seeing a play like we saw the other night in the Iron Bowl is about are about as high as Shania Twain ringing my doorbell, but you just never know. What I do know is this: Iron Bowl 2013 is shaping up to be the mother of all Iron Bowls, and I am once again reminded of how an 8 year-old feels on Christmas Eve.