Iron Bowl 2014: The Morning After


Tuscaloosa is a beautiful place, especially at night. Playing the Iron Bowl in Bryant Denny on a clear, cool, crisp Saturday night sounded like the perfect prime time setting for college football’s greatest rivalry game. Iron Bowl 2014 lived up to expectations as the best game in the country despite some interesting plot twists no one could have expected. The Crimson Tide was favored by 9 1/2 and covered the line in a shootout for the ages.

With the Mississippi State loss to Ole Miss earlier in the day, the Crimson Tide became the SEC’s only remaining playoff contended. Alabama had already clenched the SEC West title and a berth in the championship game against Missouri before kickoff. Auburn’s role for the season was reduced to playoff spoiler. They were almost successful in their mission.

The Crimson Tide started the game with 14 quick points. Then, as Coach Saban described it, misplaced emotions kicked in. A consistent QB threw two picks and one of the nation’s best defenses gave up massive yardage. Auburn settled in and took a lead going into the half.

Alabama fans always believe the Tide is going to win. Despite what Coach Saban called the worst half of football they had ever played, fans were confident he’d verbally peel the paint off the locker room walls during the break and a brand new, focused Tide would emerge to dominate the rest of the game.


Alabama returned to the field looking confused and off tempo. Sims tossed his third interception of the game—the most in any game under Saban—and backup QB Jake Coker started taking warm up snaps. The first part of the third quarter turned into an eternity as a new reality set it. The mighty SEC—which once had three teams in the top four—might not have a team in the playoffs at all. Then, at the 8:01 mark in the third quarter, the newly focused Tide emerged to score five consecutive touchdowns. The game was over long before the clock said it was. To their credit, Auburn never quits but only managed to score one meaningless touchdown in the last minute of play.

The simultaneous catch that wasn’t

There are always controversial plays in big games. Late in the third quarter, Nick Marshall dropped back and thew a long ball to Quan Bray down the sideline. The Auburn receiver jumped for the ball and Bradley Sylve, backup corner for Alabama, jumped too and appeared to control the ball as his toes touched the turf. Both players tumbled out of bounds. One official appeared to signal Alabama ball. Another called it for Auburn. Auburn quickly ran another play but officials had already called for a review. The ruling in the booth was a simultaneous catch which goes to the offense. Although, according to Fox Sports, it was a blown call. NCAA rules state—when both players leap for a ball—the player who lands first is considered to have caught the ball. It was not a simultaneous catch. It didn’t matter in the end and it might have motivated the Tide to clamp down.

The halftime spark

Fans expected a locker room rant at the half, but the psychology of the game often demands a different approach—just ask Will Muschamp. Instead, Coach Saban offered encouragement, briefly, and then the players reviewed some plays.

The record books

Amari Cooper took sole possession of the Alabama record books early in the game. Cooper is now the Tide’s all time leader in career receptions and career touchdowns. How good is he? He’s so good, Lane Kiffin celebrated a third quarter touchdown before the ball was even thrown. Although no NFL announcement has been made, many believe Coop has played his last game in Bryant Denny.

The Tide faces a solid Missouri, and SEC Coach of the Year candidate Gary Pinkel, on Saturday in Atlanta. The stakes are still huge for the conference. If Alabama wins, the SEC has a team in the playoffs. If Missouri wins, the conference will have cannibalized itself out of competition.