NCAA Football Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama: Nick Saban’s Gamble vs. Auburn Cost A.J. McCarron 2013 Heisman Trophy


John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

What transpired on Saturday afternoon on the Plains in Auburn, Alabama will go down in the archives as one of the greatest endings in college football history. For Auburn, the epic upset on the last play of the game could propel the Tigers to a possible BCS National Championship appearance. On the other hand, Alabama head coach Nick Saban will have to relive the decision to attempt a game-winning field goal on the last play of regulation for years to come.

Saban’s decision not only cost his team a possible third straight national title appearance, but by rolling the dice, he cost his senior quarterback A.J. McCarron the 2013 Heisman trophy.

Entering the 2013 Iron Bowl, McCarron had compiled a 36-2 record as the starting quarterback for the Crimson Tide and had led his team to two straight BCS titles. Through 11 games this year, McCarron had completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 2,399 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He was the leader of the offense and had saved his best performances for the Tide’s biggest games.

In Week 3 on the road in College Station against Texas A&M, McCarron ripped the Aggies for 334 yards and four touchdowns. He was 20-of-29 (68.9 percent) and outdueled 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johhny Manziel in a nationally televised game to give the Crimson Tide the 49-42 victory. During prime time in Week 11, McCarron burned the LSU Tigers defense for three touchdowns and no interceptions in routing LSU 38-17.

Saturday provided the ultimate landscape for McCarron to make his statement for the 2013 Heisman Trophy. Facing another top-10 opponent in Auburn on the road, McCarron started slowly in overshooting his wide receivers. However, as the game progressed, he started to catch fire and find his rhythm. His 20-yard touchdown strike to Kevin Norwood put the Tide up 14-7 early in the second quarter. McCarron’s poise and leadership was evident as Alabama held a 21-14 halftime lead.

With the score tied at 21, McCarron would make his statement for the 2013 Heisman trophy. As the Crimson Tide took over the football on their own one yard line, he connected on a 99-yard touchdown strike to a streaking Amari Cooper down the right sideline. The touchdown put the Tide up by seven points with just over 10 minutes to play and was McCarron’s third touchdown pass of the afternoon.

He would finish the game completing 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. In big games on a national stage this season, McCarron has been perfect. In three games this year against top-15 competition (Texas A&M, LSU and Auburn), McCarron has gone 51 of 78 (65.3 percent) for 790 yards with 10 touchdowns and no interceptions.

If Saturday’s game would have went into overtime, McCarron would have had the opportunity to lead his team to the victory and add another W to his outstanding resume. However, due to Nick Saban’s gamble, he was left standing on the sidelines and will certainly be left out of a chance to take home the Heisman Trophy.

Joseph Lisi is a writer for, follow him on Twitter @GoForthe2, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.