The start of every college football season in September brings new hope of a big ending. Usually, the dreams of a championship disappear soon enough because of a loss, and one accepts that the big ending will have to wait for another year.
I was beginning to wonder if Auburn would ever win a national championship in football in my lifetime. The Southeastern Conference is a tough place to play football, and 14 games is an awful lot of opportunity for something to go wrong. The fact that three SEC teams had won the last four championships is an amazing feat in that light, though both Florida and LSU were able to carry losses into their championship games because so few teams are able, in fact, to go undefeated. In Auburn’s case, the dream had been denied even in undefeated seasons because of various quirks of fate. As Auburn won each game this season, however, many in some of the most amazing comebacks in school history, even I started to believe this might be the year.
Cameron Newton was the hero all season, leading his team from behind when all seemed lost in the Clemson and South Carolina games. The team squeeked out a win against Kentucky after allowing Kentucky to pull from behind and tie them. Cam made amazing play after amazing play, running over linebackers like they were cornerbacks and throwing accurate passes from some of the most contorted body positions possible.
Lynette and I went to Auburn and watched them rout Arkansas, Auburn’s first real statement that this year’s team could be special. I followed every other game from afar … well, almost every other game. With Auburn trailing Alabama 24-0 late in the first half, my brother and I turned off the television in the Turks and Caicos Islands in dejection and left for an evening cruise with friends and family to celebrate his impending wedding. The dream was over.
But of course, it wasn’t over, and we were shocked and elated to discover when we returned to our rooms late that night that Auburn had pulled off the most dramatic comeback in the school’s history, against the much-hated Crimson Tide no less. The dream was alive again.
Everyone expected Cam to do the same in the BCS champiosnhip, but as occasionally happens in championship games and series, the stars don’t have their best days and someone else has to stand up and lead. Last night, the much maligned defense stepped up and showed once again that defense win championships. Young Michael Dyer took the ball and ran when his quarterback couldn’t, making the play of his short career by rolling over his would-be tackler and never allowing anything but his hand to touch the ground, jumping up in shock at the lack of a whistle to add more yards to the run and thus setting up the game-winning score. It all came together with Wes Byrum’s perfect field goal as the clock ran out, and the result was victory.
What a crazy, wonderful season. And the big ending finally came.