AuburnSports - Malzahn’s subterfuge seals Auburn win
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Malzahn’s subterfuge seals Auburn win

AUBURN | Jaylen Waddle had already returned a kickoff for a touchdown and the nation’s most dynamic punt returner was lined up to return a punt with just over a minute left and Alabama trailing Auburn 48-45.

But Waddle never got his opportunity thanks to a little subterfuge from Gus Malzahn.

Malzahn and Auburn's sideline celebrate a big fourth-quarter play.
Malzahn and Auburn's sideline celebrate a big fourth-quarter play. (Robin Conn/

“What we were going to do is try to keep their punt returner off the field,” said Malzahn, Auburn’s seventh-year head coach. “So we put our punter at X and we had our offense on the field. They had their punt return and then they rushed their defense on and they forgot about their punt returner so that’s how they had 12 guys on the field.

“We were going to go ahead and shift and have him punt it. We were just trying to find ways to keep him off the field in that moment. We felt like if we could get the defense, we could kick it and flip the field.”

Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas bounced a potential game-tying 30-yard field goal off the left upright with two minutes left, turning it over to the Tigers at the 20-yard line. The Tide, with two timeouts left, desperately needed a stop while Auburn just needed one first down to seal the win.

JaTarvious Whitlow carried the ball three times for six yards as Auburn faced a 4th and 4 with just over a minute left. That’s when the Tide brought out their punt return team while Auburn brought out punter Arryn Siposs with the offense and lined him up at wide receiver.

Alabama was flagged for illegal substitution, Auburn awarded the first down, and two kneel downs later the final seconds wound off the clock as the Tigers won the 84th Iron Bowl 48-45.

“We’ve had (the play installed) but this kick returner will make you do things that you normally wouldn’t do,” Malzahn said. “Our whole goal was not to let him beat us. Of course, he housed-called one, that’s was huge, but we were just trying to find different ways. Bo punted one, it went in the end zone, we’d been working on all year.

“Then we had the punter with the offense just trying to keep their defense on there without the punter. That’s what caused all the confusion and caused 12 guys on the field and it worked out pretty good.”

No. 15 Auburn finishes the regular season 9-3 while the 5th-ranked Tide falls to 10-2. The Tigers will receive their bowl bid a week from Sunday.