Tigers' turnaround season picked as top sports story in Alabama - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Tigers' turnaround season picked as top sports story in Alabama for 2013

Posted: Updated:
Auburn's turnaround is the state of Alabama's top sports story for 2013 (abc3340.com) Auburn's turnaround is the state of Alabama's top sports story for 2013 (abc3340.com)

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — The Auburn Tigers started the season amid modest expectations and little fanfare, and didn't do much to change that in the first month.

But the Tigers piled up wins before and after a loss to LSU on Sept. 21 to earn first respect then a Southeastern Conference title and finally a national championship shot.

Auburn's turnaround from 3-9 to 12-1, matching the biggest one-year improvement in college football history, was chosen as the biggest sports story in the state for 2013 by The Associated Press' Alabama staff. Picked to finish fifth in the SEC West, the Tigers will face Florida State on Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif., for the national championship.

"Coming off last season, nobody wanted to lose again," wide receiver Sammie Coates said. "Nobody wanted to have that feeling of being the worst team in the league. When we came into the summer, everybody got together. We had seniors come in and talk to us and say they didn't want what we had last year. They really helped motivate us. They came out there and worked us hard and pushed us to the end."

The year began with rival Alabama claiming its second straight national title with a route of Notre Dame in south Florida, chosen as the No. 2 story.

The regular season ended with an Iron Bowl showdown for the ages (No. 3) decided on one of college football's rarest plays, when Chris Davis went the distance with a missed field goal on the final play for a 34-28 victory.

Auburn followed that up by beating Missouri in the SEC championship game. No. 2 Ohio State's loss to Michigan State later that night secured the Tigers' BCS title shot.

The team didn't really start getting noticed nationally until a win over No. 7 Texas A&M on Oct. 19. The Tigers ended September not receiving a single vote in the AP poll and didn't crack the Top 25 until Week 8, entering at No. 24.

Auburn shot up to No. 11 with the 45-41 victory over the Aggies, and continued to climb.

Following that game, defensive end Dee Ford brought up the possibility of winning a national title to reporters. The Tigers never gave him a reason to take grief for what at the time seemed an awfully bold notion.

"You can't say much when we don't lose," Ford said recently. "There's not really much to say."

Auburn fans were already excited about coach Gus Malzahn's debut season long before the winning started.

Gus Malzahn led the second-ranked Tigers' transformation into Southeastern Conference champions and has them in the national championship game Jan. 6 against No. 1 Florida State. Malzahn's quick work made him The Associated Press national coach of the year. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

More than 83,000 turned out for the spring game, the most ever for Auburn. That was a few months before quarterback Nick Marshall even arrived on campus and became an integral part of the success.

Marshall convinced his coaches and teammates he deserved the starting job with, of all things, a live scrimmage where even the quarterbacks were fair game. Hard-hitting practices in spring and preseason camp helped the Tigers regain their physical style.

"In spring, we were as physical as we could be every day," Malzahn said. "We thought it was important that we got our edge back. We were really physical in fall camp too. We were a little banged up going into the year, but we felt like that is what we needed. That is what Auburn is.

"We are probably the only team in the country that actually let our quarterbacks go live in the fall too. That really helped us get to where we are at. That is who we are." 

A list of the Top 10 sports stories of the year in Alabama as chosen by The Associated Press:

1. AUBURN'S TURNAROUND: Auburn went from 3-9 to 12-1 to match the biggest turnaround in college football history, going from 0-8 in the SEC to league champions in the process. That resurgence earned the Tigers a shot at the BCS championship Jan. 6 against Florida State in Pasadena, Calif.

2. TIDE'S TITLE: Alabama opened the year with a dominating win over Notre Dame to claim a second straight national championship and third in four years. The Tide fell short of the first three-peat in the AP poll era, going back to 1937.

3. IRON BOWL FINISH: It was one of the more dramatic endings in college football history. Chris Davis's 109-yard return of a missed field goal on the final play gave Auburn a 34-28 victory. It's the first time a major college game had ended on such a play and only the fourth TD scored in that fashion.

4. AWARDS: Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is AP coach of the year. AJ McCarron won the Johnny Unitas Award and the Maxwell Award and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Teammate C.J. Mosley captured the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. Auburn's Tre Mason was sixth in the Heisman voting.

5. MALZAHN'S YEAR: Besides coach of the year honors, Malzahn also collected a big pay raise. He agreed to a six-year contract worth $3.85 million annually on the eve of the SEC championship game against Missouri.

6. BAMA FALLS SHORT: Alabama is 11-1 and bound for the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. A great season by most standards, but Nick Saban and the Tide was hoping to add to its title collection. Saban did receive a hefty pay raise that silenced persistent scuttlebutt that he might replace Mack Brown at Texas.

7. PLAYOFF RUNS: Jacksonville State's football team advanced to the FCS quarterfinals for the first time before losing 35-24 to Eastern Washington, capping an 11-4 debut season for coach Bill Clark. North Alabama made it to the Division II quarterfinals before losing 42-39 to eventual runner-up Lenoir-Rhyne.

8. HOOPS STRUGGLES: The state of Alabama was shut out of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. Alabama did make it to the NIT quarterfinals before losing 58-57 to Maryland. Auburn, meanwhile, was 9-23 and lost 16 of its last 17 games. However, UAB turned heads with an upset of then-No. 16 North Carolina.

9. TOOMER'S TREES: Alabama fan Harvey Updyke, who fatally poisoned the iconic oaks at Auburn's Toomer's Corner, served six months in jail. The trees were cut down and Auburn fans settled for celebrating wins by rolling toilet paper over a series of wires above the intersection.

10. POINT SHAVING: Former Auburn point guard Varez Ward was arrested in June for allegedly trying to fix games and offering money to teammates to help during the 2011-12 season. Ward's trial has been postponed until Feb. 10 and could be called off if he's granted admission to a pre-trial diversion program. He has pleaded not guilty.

  • Central Alabama NewsMore>>

  • Lethal injections on hold in Alabama

    Lethal injections on hold in Alabama

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:19 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:19:47 GMT
    16 Alabama death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are waiting to be executed. But, lethal injections will not be performed in the state at least until next spring. Republican state Senator Cam Ward says that will be the earliest lawmakers will be able to pass new legislation that will allow Alabama to get the drugs used for executions.Ward says that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell Alabama more drugs until they can get some type of protection or immunity. It's because...More >>
    16 Alabama death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are waiting to be executed. But, lethal injections will not be performed in the state at least until next spring. Republican state Senator Cam Ward says that will be the earliest lawmakers will be able to pass new legislation that will allow Alabama to get the drugs used for executions.Ward says that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell Alabama more drugs until they can get some type of protection or immunity. It's because...More >>
  • Judge delays decision on abortion law

    Judge delays decision on abortion law

    Thursday, July 31 2014 1:54 PM EDT2014-07-31 17:54:07 GMT
    A federal judge is delaying his decision on an Alabama law that could close some abortion clinics. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson told attorneys in June that he hoped to rule by the end of July. But Thompson notified attorneys Thursday that he needs extra time and will have a ruling by Monday. Thompson said he needs time to consider a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that blocked a similar Mississippi law. Alabama's law requires doctors at abortion clinics to have approval to admit pa...More >>
    A federal judge is delaying his decision on an Alabama law that could close some abortion clinics. U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson told attorneys in June that he hoped to rule by the end of July. But Thompson notified attorneys Thursday that he needs extra time and will have a ruling by Monday. Thompson said he needs time to consider a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday that blocked a similar Mississippi law. Alabama's law requires doctors at abortion clinics to have approval to admit pa...More >>
  • Rainbow City woman, 56, killed in accident on I-59 near Argo Wednesday night

    Rainbow City woman, 56, killed in accident on I-59 near Argo Wednesday night

    Thursday, July 31 2014 11:48 AM EDT2014-07-31 15:48:12 GMT
    A Rainbow City woman was killed and her husband was injured Wednesday in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 59 near Argo, Alabama State Troopers said.More >>
    A Rainbow City woman was killed and her husband was injured Wednesday in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 59 near Argo, Alabama State Troopers said.More >>
  • Auburn University SportsMore>>

  • 2014 USA Today preseason coaches poll: FSU No. 1, Alabama No. 2, Auburn No. 5

    2014 USA Today preseason coaches poll: FSU No. 1, Alabama No. 2, Auburn No. 5

    Thursday, July 31 2014 1:40 PM EDT2014-07-31 17:40:23 GMT
    The 2014 USA Today preseason college football coaches poll was released Thursday and reigning national champion Florida State sits atop the rankings.More >>
    The 2014 USA Today preseason college football coaches poll was released Thursday and reigning national champion Florida State sits atop the rankings.More >>
  • Auburn football announces two-game series with Clemson

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 4:38 PM EDT2014-07-30 20:38:41 GMT
    Auburn and Clemson have agreed to a two-game series beginning in 2016. Auburn will host Clemson on Sept. 3, 2016 and play at Clemson's Memorial Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.The programs have played 49 times in the past, including three times in the last five years. Auburn leads the all-time series 34-13-2 despite losing the last two times it's played Clemson, in 2011 and 2012.The agreement with Clemson will fulfill Auburn's obligation to play at least one non-conference opponent from a Power 5 co...More >>
    Auburn and Clemson have agreed to a two-game series beginning in 2016. Auburn will host Clemson on Sept. 3, 2016 and play at Clemson's Memorial Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.The programs have played 49 times in the past, including three times in the last five years. Auburn leads the all-time series 34-13-2 despite losing the last two times it's played Clemson, in 2011 and 2012.The agreement with Clemson will fulfill Auburn's obligation to play at least one non-conference opponent from a Power 5 co...More >>
  • Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Auburn QB Nick Marshall pays $1,100 in fines for marijuana possession, window tint violations in Georgia

    Thursday, July 24 2014 3:33 PM EDT2014-07-24 19:33:03 GMT
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.More >>
    Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall has paid the fines for possession of a small amount of marijuana and a window tint violation.
    More >>
Most Popular
Stories
Videos
loading...
  • Latest StoriesMore>>

  • Repairing burst Los Angeles main could take days

    Repairing burst Los Angeles main could take days

    Friday, August 1 2014 3:39 AM EDT2014-08-01 07:39:31 GMT
    Hundreds of cars submerged below murky water. A landmark basketball court, newly refurbished, showing signs of buckling. Soaked and stained carpets. An athletic track coated in mud.More >>
    Repair crews on Thursday were shoring up a giant hole in the middle of Sunset Boulevard caused by a ruptured pipe, as officials at the water-logged University of California, Los Angeles, continued to assess damage from the...More >>
  • Neighbors who rescued plane crash victims: "It's a miracle they survived"

    Neighbors who rescued plane crash victims: "It's a miracle they survived"

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:50 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:50:59 GMT
    A family of four traveling to Tennessee from Florida crash landed their plane in central Alabama. More >>
    A family of four traveling to Tennessee from Florida crash landed their plane in central Alabama. More >>
  • Embattled Homewood hotel forced to close, guests left looking for new accommodations

    Embattled Homewood hotel forced to close, guests left looking for new accommodations

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:50 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:50:02 GMT
    Guests at America's Best Inn Suites packed up and left Thursday. The Homewood hotel lost its business license and an extension to keep it running was denied.More >>
    Guests at America's Best Inn Suites packed up and left Thursday. The Homewood hotel lost its business license and an extension to keep it running was denied.
    More >>
  • Small plane crash in Helena sends 4 to hospital with serious injuries

    Small plane crash in Helena sends 4 to hospital with serious injuries

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:29 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:29:14 GMT
    Authorities are investigating a small plane crash in Helena Thursday afternoon, a fire spokesman said.More >>
    Authorities are investigating a small plane crash in Helena Thursday afternoon, a fire spokesman said.More >>
  • Lackey goes from Red Sox to Cards for Kelly, Craig

    Lackey goes from Red Sox to Cards for Kelly, Craig

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:26 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:26:42 GMT
    The Boston Red Sox have traded right-hander John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig before Thursday's deadline, a person with knowledge of the deal said.More >>
    The Boston Red Sox traded right-hander John Lackey to the St. Louis Cardinals for right-hander Joe Kelly and outfielder Allen Craig before Thursday's deadline.More >>
  • Lethal injections on hold in Alabama

    Lethal injections on hold in Alabama

    Thursday, July 31 2014 9:19 PM EDT2014-08-01 01:19:47 GMT
    16 Alabama death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are waiting to be executed. But, lethal injections will not be performed in the state at least until next spring. Republican state Senator Cam Ward says that will be the earliest lawmakers will be able to pass new legislation that will allow Alabama to get the drugs used for executions.Ward says that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell Alabama more drugs until they can get some type of protection or immunity. It's because...More >>
    16 Alabama death row inmates have exhausted their appeals and are waiting to be executed. But, lethal injections will not be performed in the state at least until next spring. Republican state Senator Cam Ward says that will be the earliest lawmakers will be able to pass new legislation that will allow Alabama to get the drugs used for executions.Ward says that pharmaceutical companies are refusing to sell Alabama more drugs until they can get some type of protection or immunity. It's because...More >>
  • Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

    Another decent start for Woods at Firestone

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:50 PM EDT2014-07-31 23:50:46 GMT
    Tiger Woods took another step on one of his favorite courses toward showing his game might be turning around.More >>
    Tiger Woods showed signs of a positive recovery Thursday at the Bridgestone Invitational.More >>
  • Alabama gets commitment from 4-star cornerback Rico McGraw

    Alabama gets commitment from 4-star cornerback Rico McGraw

    Thursday, July 31 2014 7:47 PM EDT2014-07-31 23:47:50 GMT
    Alabama picked off another school's cornerback recruit. Four-star cornerback Rico McGraw flipped, verbally committing to Alabama after he had been committed to Georgia since January.The 6-foot, 190-pound McGraw is the No. 142 rated recruit according to 247Sports composite. He attends Ensworth High School in Nashville.McGraw is Alabama's 21st commitment for the 2015 class, and the Tide's second verbal of the week. Safety Ronnie Harrison committed to sign with Alabama on Monday.More >>
    Alabama picked off another school's cornerback recruit. Four-star cornerback Rico McGraw flipped, verbally committing to Alabama after he had been committed to Georgia since January.The 6-foot, 190-pound McGraw is the No. 142 rated recruit according to 247Sports composite. He attends Ensworth High School in Nashville.McGraw is Alabama's 21st commitment for the 2015 class, and the Tide's second verbal of the week. Safety Ronnie Harrison committed to sign with Alabama on Monday.More >>