Auburn heads to SEC title game on a kick and a prayer

12/03/2013 5:24 PM

12/03/2013 5:24 PM

Some people call Auburn a team of destiny. Some even suggest a divine touch. Some just say the Tigers have been lucky.

There is absolutely no dispute, however, that first-year Auburn coach Gus Malzahns squad orchestrated two of the most unique and thrilling finishes in college football history en route to the SEC championship against Missouri at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

On Nov. 16, Auburn beat Georgia on a tipped Hail Mary pass from Nick Marshall to Ricardo Louis in the closing seconds after blowing a 20-point fourth-quarter lead: The Prayer at Jordan-Hare.

After a bye week, Auburn engineered an even more improbable win Nov. 30 against rival Alabama when Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 100 yards really, it was 109 yards for the game-winning touchdown with no time remaining: The Kick Six.

Good teams find ways to win games, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. Thats what theyre doing. Its great. They deserve all the accolades theyre getting.

As crazy as both endings were, Malzahn doesnt ascribe his teams success to any form of mysticism. He said his team, like most football teams, has practiced end-of-game situations as far back as preseason camp.

If its a close game, they believe theyre going to win, Malzahn said. Theyve had that attitude all year.

That belief has been rewarded, and you wont catch Missouri calling Auburns SEC West championship a fluke.

Luck comes through hard work, senior linebacker Andrew Wilson said.

Besides, as amazing as the endings to Auburns last two victories have been, there was a lot more that went into winning those games than the memorable grand finales.

I think theyve earned it, senior quarterback James Franklin said. I know that theyve won on big plays, but at the same time, it wasnt like it was one play that won the whole game. They worked to get there. At the end of the Alabama game, it was tied and they were going to go to overtime.

During Missouris bye week, Franklin watched The Prayer at Jordan-Hare from the bowels of the Sprint Center, where he and several teammates were honored at halftime of the mens basketball teams game against Hawaii.