Iron Bowl 2013: How ‘The West’ was Won or How The ‘Three-peat’ was Done?

Iron Bowl 2013

How ‘The West’ was Won? Or How the ‘Three-Peat’ was Done?

Opposing Points of View Living Under One Roof

Unless you are in a mixed marriage, or you have a kid or sibling who thinks outside the fam, you will never know what it’s like to be in a House Divided, or as we like to call it “House United.” Our marriage is one such with an Auburn Fan and an Alabama Fan living under the same roof.  One of the first things we worked out when we started dating was how that would work.  We have certain rules that help and we’ll share them in future blog posts, but this is a story of our opposing views regarding “The Mother of all Iron Bowls,” 2013.

When it comes to The Iron Bowl, every year there are plays and different aspects of the big game and the events surrounding it that we disagree, so you can imagine how this particular Iron Bowl has been a hot topic in our house, debated daily since the game was played, Nov 30, In Jordan-Hare Stadium, where Auburn beat Bama, 34-28.

The 2012 football season at Auburn broke all sorts of records for being one of the worse teams in the program’s history with the fewest games won in 60 years, winning zero games in the SEC and only 3 all year.

At Auburn’s darkest hour, Athletic Director, Jay Jacobs, knew he had to get a winning coach for the Auburn football team and that the decision could spell the outcome of his job.  So he looked to former Auburn greats, Pat Sullivan, Bo Jackson, and Mac Crawford, to serve as a search committee.

They had an inkling of what Coach Gus Malzahn could do, considering he had a winning record everywhere he had coached including his Offensive Coordinator position at Auburn on the 2010 National Championship coaching staff.  Gus was only gone from Auburn for one year while in his first college head coaching job, he took the Arkansas State Red Wolves to the Sun Belt Conference Championship and won it.  Deciding it best for Auburn, the search committee brought Gus back as the Head Football Coach at Auburn University.

So was the West won with the hiring of a new head football coach?

The pre-season talk about Auburn around town, sports writers and sports talk radio was, will Auburn win 6, 7, or 8 games.  Al Del Greco was the only person with a differing point of view.  We recall a discussion on his WJOX Sports Talk Radio show saying that he would not be happy with 8 wins, he was looking for them to win them all.  It must be Al’s high expectations that allowed him to succeed as an NFL kicker and win a Super Bowl.

But let’s be honest.  A typical turnaround, for a 3-9 program in the SEC, would be to maybe win 6, 7, 8 games, which would be considered going in the right direction.  To finish the season with 12 wins and 2 losses, win the SEC Championship and play for a National Championship in your first year as a head coach after such a disastrous season the year before is unprecedented.  The Auburn players had to pick themselves up off the mat, not look back and only looking forward to the possibilities.

So what else was different?

Enter Ryan Russell, Strength and Conditioning Coach, who returned to The Plains with Coach Malzahn, also having previously coached at Auburn and worked for Gus at Arkansas State.  He helped each player on the team set individual weight training goals for themselves.  Some players needed to lose 10 to 20 pounds and others needed to put on a few pounds.   Russell had an individualized plan for every player.  And he didn’t waste any time implementing his plan.  We’ve always thought that the “secret sauce” at Alabama was their strength and conditioning coach, Scott Cochran.  Now Auburn has that going for them too.

So was the new strength and conditioning coach the key to so many wins?

A critical piece to re-building a college football team is to get the whole team to “Buy In” to the process of what you are trying to accomplish and believing that the way in which you are going about it, is in turn going to give you the best chance of achieving that accomplishment.  Ryan Russell instilled in this Auburn team very early on, the discipline that was necessary to win championships.

Jay Prosch said they started believing in themselves as they got stronger and better.  He said you could see it in the tempo at practice and how it built a lot of confidence.

Ryan Russell’s workouts were intense with no sitting down or breaks, just work.  The players responded well saying it was fun and hard and exactly what they needed to do.

As the season progressed, week to week, you could actually see Auburn’s conditioning paying off as they looked stronger in the fourth quarter while their opponents tended to have their hands on their hips.

Was it Auburn’s Will to Win?

You cannot underestimate the power of The Will to Win.  It’s no secret that painted in huge letters on one of the meeting room walls bigger than life, “BEAT BAMA,” was a theme the team read every day.  Many of the Auburn players were rated with four and five stars coming out of high school, but that can only carry them so far.  Then they have to dig deep within themselves and step into the ring and want it more than the next guy and that is in the weight room, on the practice field all year long – consistently wanting it more than the other guy.

Auburn eased into their schedule with two non-conference games and two wins, Washington State and Arkansas State, before playing an SEC opponent MS State, which was their first SEC win since 2011.  They went in to Death Valley, to face the LSU Tigers both teams 3- 0 and lost in a pouring rain.  At this point in the season, fans really didn’t know what they had, but were cautiously optimistic.

The tipping point for Auburn was facing Johnny Manziel and the Texas A&M Aggies on their turf in College Station, TX.  Auburn 5 – 1 and unranked against the previous year’s Heisman trophy winner.  The Aggies had already taken a loss to Alabama.  Beating A&M the team and the 12th Man, on the road, gave Auburn fans more than just hope.  It wasn’t just that they beat the Aggies, but that their score, 45-41 was nearly the same as Bama’s victory over A&M, 49-42.  Did Auburn’s defense perform as well as the number one defense in the country. Yep.  Auburn fans were starting to see a different Iron Bowl outcome this year.  Confidence on the team grew too.

Even Coach Saban says you need to have the ball bounce your way a couple times in a season to win a championship and that’s what Auburn got.  Two GA defenders falling all over themselves and a stadium so quiet that Auburn WR Recardo Louis could hear one of the silver britches tip the ball up, allowing him to catch it and score for Auburn’s biggest comeback touchdown of the season.

Magic, ball bouncing your way, destiny, hard work, will and determination all came together for the strangest play any of us had ever seen in the 2013 Iron Bowl, “The Mother of all Iron Bowls.”

As the clock clicked down to zero, in most spectators’ minds the game was already in overtime.  Then Coach Saban talked to one of the officials and after review, they put one lonely second back on the clock.  It was all set for a 57-yard field goal that might trump Van Tiffin’s 52-yard kick from 1985.  As the ball fell short of the goal posts, Auburn fans immediately felt a sense of relief that they were headed to overtime now.  But it didn’t.  Chris Davis fielded the ball and ran down the sideline with it, managing to stay in bounds and break one last tackle  – Touchdown Auburn!

Top 5 Reasons the West Was Won

  1. Hiring a new head football coach.
  2. The new coach putting together a great new staff including a new strength and conditioning coach
  3. Installing discipline and determination to the team
  4. A hungry team determined to overcome the previous year’s shortcomings
  5. Two miraculous plays over the last two SEC games

Not so fast, everybody knows big games are not won they are lost.


The West was not won, it was lost.


According to psychology professor Ian Robertson, of Trinity College in Dublin, “Winning’s probably the single most important thing in shaping people’s lives.”

Robertson argues in his book, “The Winner Effect,” that the reason it’s so much fun to win is largely chemical. “Winning increases testosterone, which in turn increases the chemical messenger dopamine, and that dopamine hits the reward network in the brain, which makes us feel better.”

But how much “better” can we feel?

The Alabama team carried the honor and weight of being number one in the country for several years now.  The new recruits coming in feel like they are a winner on signing day, their teammates have fists full of championship rings.  This creates a sense of entitlement, which seeps throughout the attitudes at practice and in games.  It was an issue in 2010, which Coach Saban was able to overcome in 2011 to get the two-peat in 2012.  But as he hoisted the crystal ball in Miami, a monster looked on patiently awaiting him. Before the last piece of confetti fell, there he was, the ugly huge 10,000- pound monster with claws, teeth and mind-control… the chance for a three-peat.  He rode Saban’s shoulders all the way back to Tuscaloosa and his name, Chokappotamus.

The Conundrum

The two-peat is the enemy of the three-peat the same way good is the enemy of great.  But you cannot achieve the latter without first achieving the former.

What would Bryant Say?

Ask Coach Bryant, who must be looking over Coach Saban saying, I’m sorry Coach, I couldn’t do it either.”  Bryant had two shots of a 3-peat after two historical 2-peats and couldn’t manage a 3-peat.

Turned out to be a bigger problem than Coach Saban, Ms Terry and Dr Elko could overcome.

It was apparent in every game every week, they won, sometimes dominated, but something never looked right.  They weren’t passing the eye test of a champion, even though they went to the Iron Bowl, their final regular season game, undefeated.

Alabama was supposed to win the Iron Bowl, right?

Alabama and Auburn played a total of 6 teams in common those were Texas A&M, Ole Miss Bears, The Hogs from Arkansas, Ten Vols, LSU and MS State.

Looking at the Offenses for Bama and the Tigers in head to head matchups with the same six teams, Bama scored more on three and Auburn the other three. They were equal in this aspect.

One SEC defense had a hold on both The Tigers and The Tide Offenses holding them to their season low and that was MS State.  The Bulldogs held Auburn to 24 and Alabama to 20, which was close to the same.

On the six games in common, the total offense for the Tide was 229 points and for Auburn, 210.  The offenses were ranked 16th and 18th, too close to call.

Looking at the Defense for each team. In the Six games in common, Alabama shut out two and held the six total to 76 points.  Auburn allowed more than 19 points per game in all of the six games giving up 158 points total.

On paper, it was a close call, but appeared that with their defensive edge Alabama should beat Auburn.  But the games aren’t played on paper.


The only way Auburn would beat Bama was for Auburn to play their best game and for Alabama to not play theirs.


When did you know Alabama was not going to three-peat?  There were clues along the way:

Mid-season –  Coach Saban said that the pressure on his team was more than the fans realized.

LSU Game – Coach Saban and A.J. had an uncharacteristic show of jubilation after beating LSU.  Why?  Because they had just made it through the last block to the three-peat or so they thought.

Terry Saban’s USA Today Interview –  made comments about pressure in an interview with USA Today the week leading up to the Iron Bowl.

These observations were cause for pause, but it was A.J. McCarron’s comments two weeks prior that told us for sure history would not be made, not this time.

Throughout the season the coaches and players concentrated on each game each week with no mention of playing for history and winning three national championships in a row.  But two weeks prior to the Iron Bowl, Alabama Quarterback, A.J. McCarron said that they aren’t supposed to talk about it, but they are thinking about the three-peat.  If that’s where the leader of the team’s head was, that’s probably where the team’s thoughts were too.  At that moment it should have been apparent to everyone watching A.J.’s interview, Alabama is not going to make this three-peat.

Alabama played the Iron Bowl with the weight of the three-peat and it was visible with the uncharacteristic mistakes made in the game.  Alabama lost the Iron Bowl and their chance to make history under the immense pressure of the quest for the three-peat.

Anyone watching the game could see that, like the Aggies, Auburn had a 12th man too.  Only theirs was on the field.  Auburn’s 12th man on Pat Dye Field that night was Chokappotamus and he had his ugly grip on the Crimson Tide.

That’s How The Three-peat was Done.




Recap of games and scores 2013 for Tide and Tigers


 Auburn Tigers Football 2013

Aug.   31 Washington   State Cougars Won   31-24
Sept.   7 Arkansas State Red Wolves Won   38-9
Sept.   14 Mississippi State Bulldogs Won   24-20
Sept.   21 at   LSU Tigers Lost   35-21
Oct.   5 Ole   Miss Rebels Won   30-22
Oct.   12 Western Carolina Catamounts Won   62-3
Oct.   19 at   Texas A&M Aggies Won   45-41
Oct.   26 Florida   Atlantic Owls Won   45-10
Nov.   2 at   Arkansas Razorbacks Won   35-17
Nov.   9 at   Tennessee Volunteers Won   55-23
Nov.   16 Georgia   Bulldogs Won   43-38
Nov.   30 Alabama   Crimson Tide Won   34-28

Alabama Crimson   Tide 2013 Football Season

Aug. 31 Virginia Tech   Hokies Won 35-10
Sept. 14 at Texas A&M   Aggies Won 49-42
Sept. 21 Colorado State Rams Won 31-6
Sept. 28 Ole Miss Rebels Won 25-0
Oct. 5 Georgia State   Panthers 45-3 Won
Oct. 12 at Kentucky   Wildcats Won 48-7
Oct. 19 Arkansas Razorbacks Won 52-0
Oct. 26 Tennessee   Volunteers Won 45-10
Nov. 9 LSU Tigers Won 38-17
Nov. 16 at Mississippi   State Bulldogs Won 20-7
Nov. 23 Chattanooga Mocs Won 49-0
Nov. 30 at Auburn Tigers Lost 34-28