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Look closely at the photo of Chris Davis' return. To the Auburn player's left and directly behind Alabama's No. 29 is Auburn assistant Tim Horton, a former Conway High and University of Arkansas star and UA assistant coach
Look closely at the photo of Chris Davis' return. To the Auburn player's left and directly behind Alabama's No. 29 is Auburn assistant Tim Horton, a former Conway High and University of Arkansas star and UA assistant coach

Saturday proved that Nick Saban is not infallible.

Saban, supposedly the king of college football coach who has acquired an aura of invincibility, did not handle very well the final seconds of Auburn's upset of Alabama — the game and the finish that almost everyone I encountered was talking about Saturday night and Sunday.

The whole scene illustrated that no one in charge of 18- to 20-somethings playing a high intense game can get it right all the time.

With the score tied and the game apparently headed into overtime, Saban begged for another second to be put on the clock after a sideline pass.

Obviously, he wanted one more play so overtime wasn't his first choice.

He had two other choices: Try a Hail Mary with Heisman candidate A.J. McCarron or attempt a 57-yard field goal. McCarron had completed a 99-yard TD pass earlier. How amazing would it have been for Alabama to beat Auburn in about the same incredible way Auburn had beaten Georgia in its last game.

Because his regular place-kicker, Cade Foster, (11 of 12 for the season) had missed three earlier field goals and Auburn had blocked one with not much more of an effort than a lineman raising his hands.

Saban brought in a freshman place-kicker (Adam Griffith) who had not booted one beyond 40 yards, but we'll give him the benefit of the doubt here because he probably knew his capabilities from practice.

What this 57-yard represented, if missed, was a kickoff without the regular kickoff team, which is usually well-schooled in tackling and angles.

Here's the irony. In Saban's mind (particularly after the block), the worst case scenario was probably having the field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. Stacking the field goal unit with big guys, slow guys and linemen used to blocking seemed the safe kick choice.

However, when the attempt was fielded by Chris Davis 9 yards deep in the end zone, Alabama was caught with what Auburn coach Gus Malzahn described as "probably only two or three guys who could tackle."

And one of the best athletes on the field for Alabama at the time was the place-kicker. Once, Davis got to the sideline under a full head of team and the initial line of coverage was passed or blocked (many of them probably still fuzzy or what was happening or how to cover the field), Davis just had to make a couple of players miss and had clear sailing.

What Saban thought was the worst case scenario was not. Auburn was in return mode. Alabama was in confused mode.

And consider this. Alabama had earlier been stopped inches short on fourth down. And if that field goal attempt had been just a couple of feet farther, Davis might not have been able to field it. And if Saban hadn't gotten that final second back.

Ifs.

Even with great teams at the highest level, it's still a game of seconds, inches and luck.

That's what makes college football so captivating and exciting.

We had a buzzer-beating NCAA basketball tournament ending to a football game.

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