College Football

McCombs: You had to be there -- and they were

Bluffton family witnesses Auburn's miraculous Iron Bowl win over Alabama

mmccombs@islandpacket.comDecember 7, 2013 

There's little doubt that what happened with one second left on the Jordan-Hare Stadium clock last Saturday evening will mark Auburn's 34-28 upset of No. 1 Alabama as the greatest Iron Bowl ever.

The question is where does it rank with the greatest games ever?

Was it bigger than The Play to lift Cal over Stanford and its band in 1982? The Harvard-Yale tie of 1968?

Does it rival the 42-39 win by No. 1 Ohio State over No. 2 Michigan in 2006? What about Doug Flutie's Hail Mary in 1983? The 0-0 tie between Army and Notre Dame in 1946?

How about Florida State's "wide right" against Miami in 1991? The 1971 Nebraska-Oklahoma showdown?

Only time will tell. But one thing's for sure -- Chris Davis' 100-yard return of a missed field goal with one second left, which sent Auburn to Saturday's SEC Championship game in Atlanta, will become a landmark moment in sports history.

Fans will be able tell their children where they were and what they were doing when Alabama's last-second kick went so wrong or so right, depending on your allegiance.

But for the Boyd family, that's already taken care of. They were there.

Jon and Sam Boyd and their three sons -- 16-year-old Hunter, 13-year-old Grant and 9-year-old J.T. -- made their way from Colleton River Plantation to the big game in Auburn.

"It was amazing," said Sam Boyd, whose father, Samuel L. Ginn, is on the Auburn board of trustees and is the man the university's engineering college is named after. "We were hugging strangers. It was crazy."

The family usually catches a couple of games each year, including the Iron Bowl when it's played in Auburn. But this wasn't the usual Auburn game.

"The field was just swamped within seconds," Jon Boyd said of the ending. "There was security everywhere, but there was nothing they could do. We went straight to Toomer's Corner from there. By the time we got there, it was crazy."

The ending was crazy, but there was no early indication there would be any drama.

"I told my wife, 'It's going to be a good first quarter, but Alabama is just going to wear them down,' " Jon Boyd said. "By the second quarter, it was 21-7. They'd completed the 99-yard pass. Alabama's defense was looking strong. I thought this was going according to script."

Boyd couldn't have been more wrong. Only in Hollywood are the scripts like this.

The Tigers pulled off a few minor second-half miracles, stopping the Crimson Tide several times on its end of the field and found themselves tied with a second remaining and Nick Saban sending out a freshman kicker to try a 57-yarder. It fell short and the miracle began.

"You could see the play develop," Jon Boyd said. "When (Davis) cleared a tackle at about the 40-yard-line on the sideline, you could see daylight in front of him, and the crowd realized what was about to happen.

"He had 60 yards, basically, of coronation."

"By the time (Davis) ran past, everybody in the stadium was screaming," Sam Boyd said. "They knew he was going to make it."

Then came bedlam.

"The lady behind us was really shaking," Sam Boyd said. "She was crying and hugging us, and we didn't even know her."

"The only fans that weren't excited were the Alabama fans," J.T. Boyd said.

"Everyone was jumping up and down and yelling. But the Alabama fans were like, ahhhhhh," J.T. said, putting his hands on his head.

A few minutes later, J.T. Boyd had a brief encounter with an Auburn old-timer.

"A guy ran into the bathroom and stopped J.T. and said, 'Kid, I don't know your name, but you just witnessed the greatest game in Iron Bowl history,' " Sam Boyd said. "And J.T. was like, 'OK.' "

Jon Boyd said what made the game special was simply the fact that most big games rarely live up to their hype. But this one did, and then some.

"It was like a war had ended," Sam Boyd said. "When you're from Alabama, you're either Alabama or Auburn. From birth, you have an allegiance. It's patriotic in a way. It's ingrained. It's not like any other game. It's more than a football game."

More than a game? This was a miracle. And not the first for Auburn.

"To get that incredible miracle against Georgia and then to get perhaps the most ..." Jon Boyd said and stopped. "We'll see the test of time. Is this going to be more famous than Stanford and the band? I can't think of too many things that are more miraculous than this."

And it might not be the last miracle.

The game shook up the SEC and BCS championship pictures. It put Auburn in Saturday's league title game against Missouri in Atlanta, where Jon Boyd will be with J.T and Hunter. And it let Ohio State step all the way into the championship picture.

An Auburn win today and an Ohio State loss in the Big Ten Championship would put the Tigers in the national championship game a year after a three-win season.

"It could be one of the greatest stories ever," Jon Boyd said.

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