Joe Medley Commentary: Marshall Miracle saves Tigers

November 17, 2013 

AUBURN, Ala. -- Something happened on the way to Iron Bowl-mageddon, then something miraculous went down in the South's oldest rivalry.

As a result, Iron Bowl-mageddon is back on track.

Thanks to a Nick Marshall heave, a dumb play by two Georgia safeties and remarkable focus and hustle by Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Lewis to run down the tipped ball, No. 7 Auburn survived an epic collapse Saturday.

The Marshall Miracle means Auburn beat Georgia 43-38 after surrendering a 37-17 lead and will be 10-1 headed into its Nov. 30 showdown with top-ranked Alabama.

Auburn and Alabama will play for the SEC West Division title in Jordan-Hare Stadium, and the college football gods must have wanted it to happen.

They also must have wanted Malzahn to eat another ham-and-cheese omelet, like the one he and wife Kristi ate after Auburn gave him his first win as its head coach against Washington State on Aug. 31.

"This is definitely a Waffle House night," he said.

And when to start thinking of Alabama?

"I going to enjoy this tonight," he said. "That one aged me. I lost some years off my life."

The Tigers have an open date this week, and it was clear they didn't look past Georgia to in-state rival Alabama --- not for three quarters, at least.

After they built a 37-17 lead with 12:39 to play? Maybe.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray, the SEC's most prolific passer of all time who spent much of the first half dodging Auburn defensive end Dee Ford, started throwing quick passes. He got hot, an Auburn still gaining its footing in such moments melted.

Murray passed Georgia up and down the field. He ran for two touchdowns, including that controversial, go-ahead 5-yard run that held up on replay review.

Suddenly, Auburn found itself down 38-37 with 1:49 to play and needing a miracle to sustain its miraculous turnaround season from 2012's 3-9 collapse.

It didn't come on first down.

It didn't come on second down or third down.

It came on fourth down and 18 from Auburn's 27-yard line, and it came because Marshall's arm strength and Lewis' speed met up with a bad, in-the-moment impulse from Georgia's safeties.

Marshall threw a ball the covered nearly 60 yards in the air.

Georgia safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons tried to catch rather than knock it down but bumped. Harvey-Clemons' hand tipped the ball, which bounced up and five yards down field as Lewis' legs churned.

Lewis went from running down field and to his right to swinging his head left to locate the ball over the opposite shoulder. He stretched out, pulled it in and trotted into the end zone to a deafening roar from Jordan-Hare's sellout crowd.

But Murray, who had already done everything a great quarterback could do to lead his team to victory, had one more drive in him in the final 25 seconds.

It ended on Auburn's 20, as Auburn's defense suddenly relocated the form that helped it throttle Georgia for through the first half and into the third quarter. Ford hit Murray as Murray threw, and the ball fell on the grass.

Just like that, an Auburn team that seemingly grew up after a disastrous first half at LSU in September then found dominance in such a game hard to handle Saturday got to keep its miracle.

The Tigers got to survive their collapse keep the bounce that special seasons need to be special.

They got to keep the Marshall Miracle, which should get a place with "Bo Over The Top" and other great moments in Auburn football history.

Now, Auburn has an open date to come down from it before taking on the greatest challenge of is special turnaround season, Alabama, with everything on the line.

Something, indeed, happened on the way to Iron Bowl-mageddon.

Joe Medley is The Star's sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576. On Twitter,@jmedley_star.

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