Yes, it was the biggest Iron Bowl in the history of the rivalry featuring No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn. There’s no question that it was one of the best games of this college football season, and the dramatic 109-yard (100 officially) field goal return for the game-winning score on the final play is arguably the best finish to any game in the history of college football.
Someday, there could be a better Iron Bowl finish than this one. But for now, it’s the gold standard.
Legends were born. Grown men cried – tears of agony or joy depending on the color of their t-shirt. The shockwave of the incredible 34-28 result was felt from Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Columbus, Ohio. As late as Sunday afternoon, I still couldn’t come up with the words to adequately convey what transpired in Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 30, 2013.
Two days after the greatest college football game I’ve ever seen, the best I can come up with is this: Auburn’s Iron Bowl win doesn’t matter anymore. The only relevant concern for the now third-ranked Tigers is how to beat No. 5 Missouri in Saturday’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta. Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn said as much on Sunday afternoon.
“Well, you know, we’re going to have to put that game behind us,” Malzahn said on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “We enjoyed it last night. Our challenge today is we have to flip the switch.”
By flipping the switch, Malzahn might as well be saying change the radio station. On Saturday night, Auburn was blasting Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” but this week’s theme song should be Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.” If Auburn can’t move past the emotional regular season finale, that monumental win could end up going for naught.
The SEC East Tigers have been a dangerous team all season, fully capable of beating their SEC West counterparts. Auburn had better be fully focused, because unlike having the extra week to process the miracle win over Georgia before facing the Crimson Tide in the Iron Bowl, the Tigers must dive headlong into their preparation for Missouri with no time to reflect on what transpired on Saturday night.
The Tigers’ players may never take the field in another game that matches it. The coaches may never call a game that brings more joy and pain to an entire state. 50 years from now, Auburn students will tell their grandchildren about how they rushed the field to celebrate the best Iron Bowl in the history of the rivalry.
After the season, every Auburn player, coach and fan will be able to look back at this Iron Bowl and realize how lucky they were to be part of it, but now’s not the time for reflection. Those stories won’t have as happy an ending if Auburn can’t refocus and beat Missouri on Saturday and keep its BCS hopes alive. For that reason, this monumental Iron Bowl is all but meaningless — at least for the next few days.