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Auburn 34, Alabama 28

Amazing finish propels Auburn past Alabama

Chris Davis’s 100-plus-yard return on the game’s final play allowed Auburn to shock No. 1 Alabama.


Chris Davis’s 100-plus-yard return on the game’s final play allowed Auburn to shock No. 1 Alabama.

AUBURN, Ala. — That crazy tipped pass for a long game-winning touchdown is now the second-most stunning and improbable play of Auburn’s wild season.

Yes, the Tigers found a way to top ‘‘The Immaculate Deflection.’’

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Chris Davis returned a missed field goal attempt more than 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play to lift No. 4 Auburn to a 34-28 victory over top-ranked Alabama on Saturday, upending the two-time defending national champions’ BCS hopes and preserving the Tigers’ own.

‘‘We’re a team of destiny,’’ Davis said. ‘‘We won’t take no for an answer.’’

Davis caught the ball about 9 yards deep in the end zone after freshman Adam Griffith’s 57-yard attempt fell short. He then sprinted down the left sideline and cut back with nothing but teammates around him in a second straight hard-to-fathom finish for the Tigers (11-1, 7-1).

‘‘I knew when I caught the ball I would have room to run,’’ Davis said. ‘‘I knew they would have big guys on the field to protect on the field goal.

‘‘When I looked back, I said, ‘I can’t believe this.’ ’’

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Auburn clinched a spot in the SEC championship game in Atlanta with the stunning victory over the powerhouse from across the state. The Tigers will face No. 5 Missouri, which defeated 19th-ranked Texas A&M, 28-21, to earn the SEC East division title.

Alabama’s Adam Griffith watched his 57-yard field goal try come up short — with a disastrous result.

Butch Dill/Associated Press

Alabama’s Adam Griffith watched his 57-yard field goal try come up short — with a disastrous result.

Auburn, which went 3-9 last season, also has a shot to play in the BCS championship game.

Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs told reporters it would be ‘‘a disservice to college football’’ if a one-loss SEC champion was left out of the national title game for No. 3 Ohio State (12-0).

Asked if it was the biggest win of his career, Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said: ‘‘It ranks right up there.’’

‘‘That’s what you coach for, that’s what these kids play for, to get a chance to win the SEC championship,’’ Malzahn said.

The Tigers put it away just when overtime seemed destined. The public address announcer in the stadium had already declared the game 28-28 at the end of regulation.

But Alabama (11-1, 7-1) got one second restored and one more play after a review of T.J. Yeldon’s run to the Auburn 39.

That gave Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban a chance to try the long field goal — and now he probably wished he never did, given the stunning result.

‘‘It was a great game,’’ Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said. ‘‘Sometimes luck just isn’t on your side.

‘‘It’s one of those crazy plays. It’s almost like a video game. That’s something you do on Madden or NCAA. It’s just a wild play.’’

The entire field looked like a sea of orange shakers as the celebration continued long after the climactic finale of one of the biggest Iron Bowls in the rivalry’s 78-year history.

According to NCAA records, it was only the fourth time that a missed field goal was returned for 100 yards, with LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. doing it against Alabama-Birmingham earlier this season.

This finale even one-upped Auburn’s last-gasp win over Georgia two weeks earlier. A deflected 73-yard touchdown pass from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis dubbed ‘‘The Immaculate Deflection’’ with 25 seconds left set up only the second top-five Iron Bowl matchup and first since 1971.

On the final play, Alabama turned to Griffith to replace Cade Foster, who had missed three field goals, with a potential clinching 44-yarder getting blocked in the final minutes. Griffith was only 1 of 2 all season with a long of 20 yards.

‘‘We told our team that this is like March Madness,’’ Saban said. ‘‘Coming into this game that if you want to keep playing in the tournament you have to keep winning. I was really proud of the way our guys competed out there today, but the fact of the matter is that we did not make plays when we needed to.’’

Marshall had tied the game with a 39-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Sammie Coates with 32 seconds left.

Marshall raced toward the line of scrimmage with two defensive backs coming after him. Then he pulled up just in time with the ball tucked in his left hand, deftly switching it to his right before lofting the pass to Coates standing all by himself.

McCarron, a Heisman Trophy candidate, staked Alabama to a 28-21 lead with a 99-yard pass to Amari Cooper for the go-ahead TD in the fourth quarter. McCarron completed 17 of 29 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns.

The Tide had a few chances to put the game away but had four missed field goals — one after a false start penalty negated a make — and a dropped potential TD in the end zone by Cooper.

Auburn ran 52 times for 296 yards against a defense that came in giving up 91 yards a game on the ground.

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