Nick Saban‘s decision to try a preposterously long field goal with an untested freshman at the end of regulation will be second guessed for a long time. Critics will have good reason to second-guess this one, too, as Saban tried a desperation kick and it burned the Alabama Crimson Tide with the Auburn Tigers returning the miss for a touchdown to win the game as time expired. Instead of gambling on the leg of an untested kicker, Saban should have put his trust in AJ McCarron to win the football game.
With just one second in regulation, Alabama didn’t have a lot of options in their playbook to try and win the game before overtime. Saban had three options in front of him: Kneel the ball and go to overtime, attempt a hail Mary to win the game or go to overtime, or attempt a 57-yard kick. Saban opted the third option and then threw his backup kicker into the fray after the Tide special teams had already gone 0-for-3 on field goals on the day.
The replay of what happened will be played over and over again likely for the rest of time as the instant-classic finish will haunt Alabama in Iron Bowl history forever. The more prudent option would have been to put the ball into McCarron’s hands and let him take one last shot at the endzone. Even if the ball fell incomplete or was intercepted, regulation would have ended in a heap in Auburn’s endzone rather than a celebratory dog-pile in Alabama’s.
And if Alabama didn’t score on the desperation throw into the endzone at the end of regulation, then they would have had their opportunity to handle business in overtime. McCarron is a seasoned leader for Alabama and Saban a savvy coach. The Tide would have rallied themselves and brought their best for Auburn in the extra period. Instead, they went with a desperation field goal and it cost them the Iron Bowl, the SEC title and the opportunity to defend their back-to-back BCS National Championships.
In a crucial situation at the end of the game, Nick Saban trusted the leg of a redshirt freshman kicker whose only career field goal came from 20 yards out to try a 57-yard attempt instead of his All-American senior quarterback. And that decision will cost the Tide dearly.