Written by Cole Locascio
My Saturday begins in a sleepy haze. A ringing of the phone, "One missed call: Abs". Then the blood quickly rushes to my head -- Iron Bowl. That's enough to throw myself out of bed at seven in the morning, throw on my navy jacket and jeans, and grab my hat on my way out the door.
As some of you may know, the Alabama game is the one game I've never experienced as an Auburn fan of sixteen years. Living in Atlanta my whole life, I could never relate to the level of hatred "Barners" bestowed on the "Bammers". My hate, being in the heart of Georgia, used to lie with UGA. That was, until the 2009 season. The so-called Alabama "fans" appeared in flocks after Saint Nicky coached his first championship season with the Tide. The bandwagon was overflowing from side to side in a sea of crimson and white.
The girl I went with, Abs (just a friend, I swear), was in the same boat. She had never attended an Iron Bowl, but no, not just that -- she had never been to a college football game. Unheard of, right? And the fact that the first game she'll ever witness was the most hyped game in Auburn history is just flat out spoiled. It's funny, earlier in the week I texted her to tell her to look up the "Roll Tide/War Eagle" special on Netflix since it was about the Iron Bowl. Her response? "What's the Iron Bowl?" I swear to God. We're sitting here, on the day before Thanksgiving, and she has no clue what the biggest rivalry in sports is named. Not gonna lie, I was seriously considering selling her ticket that day. $400 looked mighty fine at this point.
Luckily for her, I held off with the sale, and the two of us made our way to the Plains for gameday, bright and early Saturday morning. In hindsight, Abs and I had no idea what was coming. Our first sign should have begun with something I rarely ever see in Auburn -- traffic.
Backed up beyond two miles, the traffic was outrageous, and it was only 9:30 in the morning at this point. I had never seen anything like it, as the two of us were forced to take back-roads I have never encountered before in Auburn -- it was like a completely different town. We passed the hayfields where I've heard RV's were parking the week prior, and then saw parking spots going for over $100 over by Toomer's.
After grabbing a parking spot about two miles from the stadium (worth it), we made our way over to the white tents/gameday set in front of Jordan-Hare. Here's the logic of ESPN: "Oh, you have all of your tailgate tents already set up here?" LET'S STICK THE FREAKING SET RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF IT. Logical.
Abs and I reached my usual seats in the north endzone, right in the middle of the goal posts, with about thirty minutes to kick. This is when I entered shutdown mode -- my hands were shaking, I showed little emotion, and I just wasn't myself. Sure, I looked calm and collected on the outside, but on the inside, I was dying. Auburn has nothing to lose, we were playing with house money, as many people have pegged this week, and hey, NOBODY expected Auburn to even have a chance in this game. So why was I so dang nervous? Because it's Auburn football. I'm sorry, call me crazy, tell me to stop "barning" so hard, and tell me to temper my expectations, but Auburn has never, should never, and will never settle. Sure, 10-2 would be a great year, but 11-1, with a win over Bama -- now that would make a statement, a statement that Auburn is no little brother to high and mighty Crimson Tide.
The eagle soars, the band marches, and the team trots out to the screaming chaos of 87,450, clad in navy with orange shakers, on their feet. I left one person out for a reason -- me. I was sitting, silent, and a nervous wreck. Call me crazy, I know I take a "game" too seriously, but this is what I live for, it truly is. All I could think about was my grandfather at this point. There's a reason as to why Abs was with me instead of him. My granddad, Big Daddy, is emotional unable to watch the Alabama game. It's been that way as long as I've known him, so at least 16 years. He just can't handle the stress and implications that each and every Iron Bowl carries. Oh how I wished I would be able to give him that call after the game, to utter two words, and only two words to the man -- "We won."
All of you know how the next 3-4 hours fared. The struggles for Alabama's special teams, the dominant Auburn rushing attack, and the radio call heard 'round the world courtesy of Auburn's very own, Rod Bramblett and Stan White. Never, not once in the game, did I think Auburn was going to win. I'd love to be able to come out and say, "Yeah, I had a great feeling about this one", but it was the complete opposite for me. Auburn scored first, I knew Bama would respond. Auburn came back from a 14-point deficit? I knew Alabama would overpower us in the fourth-quarter. It's just who I am. I'd like to say I'm a "realist" when it comes to Auburn football, but no -- I'm just a simple pessimist. I never believed. Even before the game, I made the comment that Alabama's players just looked so much bigger and physically stronger than our guys.
Tie ball game now, 21-21. Steven Clark just pegged his punt on the one-yard line for the second time of the night, and Auburn fans were living pretty high at this point. A safety here could really shift the whole momentum in Auburn's favor. So what does Bama do? They see we stick nine guys in the box, and they call a play-action, roll out pass to Amari Cooper, who broke it free for a 99-yard touchdown, the longest in Alabama history. Now this wasn't the only moment of the night when I thought all hope was lost. Alabama could have, and should have put this game away on three separate occasions. Call it what you want: luck, a miracle, divine intervention, but Auburn did what they had to do to win the football game -- they took advantage of Alabama's lack of execution to pull out the victory. That's just good coaching.
Let's fast forward to our final touchdown pass on offense. With thirty seconds or so to go on the clock, Nick Marshall and Gus Malzahn telepathically knew what they had to do. Marshall, noticing the corner was biting on the run, ran what looked to be another read-option. Now I sit on this side of the field, but never, not a single point during that play, did I notice Sammie Coates wide-open with thirty yards of space in front of him. But Nick Marshall sure did, as he forced in a touchdown pass with 36 seconds left on the clock. Tie ball-game, but here we go again...
Just like in the Georgia game, I knew Bama would have plenty of time. I believe they had two timeouts to work with, in a tie ball-game. They were due for a field goal, right? Right? They surely couldn't miss a fourth...
Draw play, draw play, ballgame. Wait a second. There's still one second on the clock after a pouty Nick Saban demanded a review for the game clock. Oh, here we go. I can just hear the Bama fans around me screaming, "THE KICK, THE KICK, PART TWO!!" Out comes the backup, Adam Griffith. I've heard about this kid -- he's from Calhoun, just north of me, and where a good bit of my family lives. I saw him before the game, too. He was hitting it from 60. My stomach dropped, I couldn't do it, I couldn't watch. My head was spinning, and I could feel my entire body shaking uncontrollably.
Here's the kick, wind with him, and it's lined up perfectly. "It has the distan...no, does not have the distance." Then, something I didn't notice -- a return. Okay, trash me all you want, but the second Chris Davis caught that ball in the back of the endzone, I was screaming, "GET DOWN, GET DOWN!", because God forbid he fumbles the ball and they get a chance at another try. It's a good thing he didn't listen to me, because I saw, for a split moment, space. Everyone around me was cheering as he pulled to the 30, 35, 40, but not me -- I was shocked, waiting for a penalty flag, or a whistle to signify he stepped out of bounds, but nothing came -- 45, 50, 45. Then... eruption. Davis broke the holder's last-chance grasp and I squeezed Abs as hard as I could and let out a noise I wasn't sure my body was possible of even creating. I screamed like this until I become dizzy to the point of falling down and smacking my head on the cold, metal bench below me. The students stormed the field, and the police lining the field didn't even bother to stop them. 87,451 just witnessed the single greatest second in college football history, the defeat to the juggernaut of college football, and the most powerful coach in the country left without answers. I immediately grabbed Abs by the hand to direct her down to the field. My all time dream of storming Pat Dye Field would become a reality, and boy was it a mess down there. Tears shed, strangers hugging, and the CBS camera panning up and down the field to capture as much footage of the chaos as possible.
Abs, the girl who had never been to a college football game, was now joining the congregation of orange shakers to "All I Do Is Win" and the loudest "Reverse Rammer Jammer" I have ever heard. She finally understood my love, my passion, and all the craziness wrapped around a simple game. We sang, we screamed, and we basked in the moment. Nothing would ever come close to the scene in Jordan-Hare on that November night.
Finally winding down, it was time to make a phone call, so we pushed and we fought all the way to find an opening to actually get off the field. "Western Division Champs" was flashed across the jumbotron. It was all sinking in at this point -- a year removed from zero conference wins, Auburn was now sitting atop the SEC conference and heading to Atlanta in a week. "I said it's great, to be, an Auburn Tiger!" rang clearly through my ears all the way to the Haley Center, where I finally managed to receive two bars on my cell phone. "Calling: Don Rooks". Big Daddy answered the phone, and I could tell he was bracing himself for the bad news (He's a pessimist, just like me). "WE DID IT! WE BEAT BAMA!" He responded with, "No, did you say we beat Bama?" "YES!" I explained, in rushed detail, the final second of the game, and on the other line, it went silent. I thought the call dropped. Then, out of nowhere, "WAR EAGLE, COLE-MAN!" He got the message. I realized I was jumping up and down, pacing back and forth, when something wet hit my mouth. I was bawling. Tears were streaming down my face, and I could hear on the other line that he was getting choked up, too. Even though we were a good 120 miles apart, this was easily the most memorable few minutes we have ever shared.
After hanging up the phone, I was perfectly content with curling up into a ball on the sidewalk to fall asleep in a puddle of my own tears. All of the drama in my life, and all of my problems back in Atlanta, were suddenly irrelevant. I know I have serious issues. I'm shedding tears of sheer joy over a football game, a football game in which I didn't even play. But Auburn football helps me find peace within myself. It provides the ability to break loose from my daily life, and it's the one consistent thing to keep me going. No, you never know who will win the game, but what you do know is that the game will be played, and you know that each and every Saturday in the fall, there will an opportunity to experience either agonizing defeat, or miraculous victory.
This is not a team of destiny. This is merely a preview of what is going to become "norm". For the first time, in a long time, I believe in Auburn football. I believe in Gus Malzahn, I believe in our players, and I believe that we will beat Missouri this weekend. War Damn Eagle, everyone.