Prayer at Jordan–Hare
|2013 Georgia vs. Auburn
"Prayer at Jordan–Hare"
|Date||November 16, 2013|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Verne Lundquist (play-by-play)
Gary Danielson (color)
Tracy Wolfson (sideline)
The Prayer at Jordan–Hare refers to a college football game between Auburn and Georgia and more specifically to the game-winning Hail Mary pass. The play occurred on November 16, 2013 at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the home team No. 7 ranked Auburn hosted No. 25 ranked Georgia in the 117th meeting of what is known as the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry.
Down 38–37 with 36 seconds remaining in the game, Auburn faced 4th down and 18 yards to go when junior quarterback Nick Marshall threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Ricardo Louis. The pass was tipped by Georgia's sophomore safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. The pass would have been overthrown had Harvey-Clemons not deflected the football and Louis was unable to find the ball after the deflection until a moment before it landed in his hands. The score allowed Auburn to win the game 43–38.
As teammates sprinted to congratulate Ricardo Louis in the end zone, Auburn IMG Sports Network commentator Rod Bramblett exclaimed "A miracle in Jordan-Hare! A miracle in Jordan-Hare!" in utter jubilation, his voice carried across the nation on radio stations broadcasting the game. Within four days, T-shirts were being sold with Bramblett's words "Miracle at Jordan-Hare" printed across the top. Other sources modified the phrase, The War Eagle Reader dubbing the moment "The Miracle in Jordan-Hare," The Gadsden Times proclaiming the play "Marshall's Miracle" and USA Today pitching several titles including "The Marshall Miracle."
But given time to reflect, journalists and fans began to pitch clever sobriquets within hours of the game. That evening at 10:44 p.m. CST, a story entitled "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare! Auburn wins 43–38!" was posted to the website of Huntsville's NBC affiliate WAFF. Within days the title had been replicated or simultaneously concocted by writers with The Birmingham News, USA Today, The Montgomery Advertiser, WRBL in Columbus, Georgia and Fox Sports among many others. The phrase gained popularity among Auburn fans, the slogan incorporating their stadium with a catchy rhyme and the phrase seemingly intertwined with the 1986 Bon Jovi hit "Livin' on a Prayer," a popular anthem played at Auburn football games. Many titles sprung forth over the following week including "The Hail Aubie" in reference to the name of Auburn's mascot tiger, "The Saint Louis Arch" fusing the receiver's surname with the arc-like path of Marshall's throw as a pun on the famous landmark arch in St. Louis, "Tip to the Lou" as an alteration of the children's song "Skip to My Lou" and "The Inaccurate Reception" as a modification of the renowned "Immaculate Reception" in the 1972 AFC semifinals.
The website AL.com even posted an online poll to allow fans to vote on the above titles, adding "Tip, Georgia, Tip" as a takeoff of the legendary game Punt Bama Punt, "Dawg Gone Miracle" as the victory came against the Bulldogs, "Nick of Time" using Marshall's first name, "The Miracle on the Plains" as the nickname for Auburn, Alabama is "The Loveliest Village On The Plains" penned by poet Oliver Goldsmith and "The Miracu-Louis Reception." The poll included another frequently published title "The Immaculate Deflection," in fact one of the three most popular in the voting results along with "Tip to the Lou" and "The Prayer at Jordan-Hare." The title was even printed on shirts and posters by various companies. But another SEC game had already coined that term, the 1983 matchup between Ole Miss and Mississippi State in which a 40 mph wind deflected Mississippi State's game-winning field goal inches from passing through the uprights with seconds remaining in the game.
Auburn's biggest rival is Alabama, considered by Yahoo! Sports to be the greatest rivalry in all of college football and ranked among the most intense by numerous sources. However the Auburn–Georgia rivalry is one of the oldest in the NCAA dating back to 1892, one year older than the Alabama–Auburn rivalry and nicknamed the "Deep South's Oldest Rivalry". In fact just weeks before the 2013 Auburn–Georgia game, The Roosevelts website ranked this rivalry as the 13th greatest in college football. In the 121 seasons preceding 2013, many memorable battles were waged in the 116 matchups between these two foes, perhaps the most memorable in 1982 when two future Heisman Trophy winners faced off in Auburn. Featuring two of the greatest athletes in the history of college football, junior running back Herschel Walker led No. 1 ranked Georgia to a narrow 19–14 defeat of unranked Auburn with freshman running back Bo Jackson, the only occasion in which these two famous athletes would ever face each other.
On November 16, 2013, the two adversaries faced each other at Jordan–Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama in their 117th meeting. Auburn, ranked No. 7 in the nation with a 9–1 record (5–1 in the SEC) hosted Georgia, ranked No. 25 with a 6–3 record (4–2) with the series tied at 54–54–8. Auburn was seeking revenge for a 38–0 loss to Georgia the previous season.
Entering the 2013 season Auburn fans had endured a particularly tumultuous year having suffered through a lackluster 2012 season, the program's worst since 1950, finishing with a 3–9 record while going winless in the SEC. The team's plummet from 2010 national champion to the bottom of the conference was the worst two-year decline for any college football team since the introduction of the Associated Press poll in 1936 resulting in the November 25, 2012 firing of head coach Gene Chizik. Adding insult to injury, on April 23, 2013 Auburn's landmark oak trees at Toomer's Corner were cut down, declared unsalvageable after being poisoned by an Alabama fan during the weekend of December 3, 2010. The 130-year old trees held a special place in the hearts of Auburn fans who rolled them with toilet paper after each football victory for at least forty years. The earliest documentation of this tradition dates back to a 35–20 victory over Georgia on November 13, 1971.
The 2013 Auburn-Georgia game was held on November 16, the 11th anniversary of the David Greene comeback game, and featured two programs moving in opposite directions. The Georgia Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in the preseason AP Poll, had dropped to a disappointing No. 25 after losses to Clemson, Missouri and Vanderbilt. Meanwhile the Auburn Tigers had been unranked until the 8th week of the season when they debuted in the AP Poll at No. 24, riding a six-game win streak in their ascension to the No. 7 spot by the Georgia game. There was no doubt that the return of the Bulldogs' starting running back Todd Gurley from an ankle injury would bolster Georgia's chances of an upset.
At 2:40 p.m. CST, with overcast skies and 66 degrees, Georgia's Marshall Morgan kicked off to Auburn whose 16-play, 56-yard opening drive stalled at the Georgia 5-yard line. The Tigers settled for a 22-yard Cody Parkey field goal. Auburn dominated the first half, scoring on five of their first six drives. With 1:07 remaining in the half, the SEC touchdown leader Tre Mason scampered for a 24-yard touchdown giving the Tigers a commanding 27-7 lead. Meanwhile Georgia had gone three-and-out on three of their first four drives. They rounded out their final two drives by throwing an interception and scoring a late field goal to make the halftime score 27-10. Both teams squandered an opportunity for three additional points during the game, points that would have been crucial to the outcome of the game. With 3:10 left in the 2nd quarter, Auburn's Cody Parkey had a 36-yard field goal attempt blocked. In the 3rd quarter, Georgia elected not to allow sophomore kicker Marshall Morgan to attempt what would have been a 56-yard field goal despite the fact that he had hit that distance before. Morgan had booted a 59-yard field goal for American Heritage School two years prior, a kick that would have ranked among the NFL's ten longest field goals at the time. Instead Georgia went for it on fourth down, an incomplete pass thrown by Murray, and the Bulldogs turned the ball over.
Through the first 50 minutes of the game, Auburn had scored on seven of nine possessions with 29 first downs building a 37–17 lead. In contrast, when Georgia began their first possession of the fourth quarter they had only reached the end zone once on their previous six drives. Auburn maintained that 20-point lead until 9:35 left in the game when the momentum suddenly shifted. At that moment, Aaron Murray threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior Rantavious Wooten to cut the deficit to 13 points. In fact Murray would lead his team to three touchdowns in the span of 7:46, the final touchdown giving Georgia their first lead of the game with 1:49 remaining.
On the third and final scoring drive Georgia had taken over at Auburn's 45-yard line after a short punt, driving 38 yards setting up 1st-and-goal at Auburn's 7-yard line. Down by six, the drive seemed to stall when the Bulldogs gained a paltry two yards on three plays. But facing 4th down and goal, Aaron Murray scrambled from the 11-yard line on a quarterback sneak scoring a controversial touchdown that gave Georgia the 38–37 lead. Upon instant replay it appeared as though Murray's left knee made contact with the ground prior to the football crossing the goal line after colliding with Auburn defenders Jake Holland and Ryan Smith. That would have nullified the score and Auburn would have taken over on downs with a 6-point lead. But all replay angles proved inconclusive, the officials unable to find indisputable evidence to overturn the touchdown ruling on the field. The score stood, the final touchdown on an opponent's field in Aaron Murray's illustrious career.
While the Bulldogs had scored on three consecutive drives, Auburn failed to earn a single first down in the entire fourth quarter until one minute remained on the clock. After the ensuing kickoff, Georgia leading by 1, Auburn's offense took over at the 22-yard line having notched a mere three points in their previous four drives. Their stagnant offense had not found the end zone in over 23 minutes of play and had only crossed the 50-yard line once since their opening drive of the second half. After attaining a first down at their own 35-yard line, Auburn crumbled losing eight yards on the next three plays culminating with Jordan Jenkins' sack of Nick Marshall. With 36 seconds left and the impending fourth down, Gus Malzahn burned his second of three timeouts to consult with his team. As Auburn retook the field, Georgia coach Mark Richt immediately used his first timeout to assess his defensive strategy. Auburn needed 18 yards for a first down that would keep their slim chance for a victory alive. The home crowd remained optimistic throughout Auburn's offensive collapse.
During the timeout Malzahn called a play he dubbed "Little Rock," something he had drawn up late in 1998 while coaching Shiloh Christian School in the Arkansas state playoffs. The play involved one receiver running deep on a post route while another would run a shallow dig route far enough to make the first down. Typically this play did not call for sophomore Ricardo Louis to be on the field but Malzahn said "Let's put Ricardo at five (the deep post route) and Sammie on the boundary (the shallow dig route)." The pass was designed to go to the shallow receiver, sophomore Sammie Coates, for a first down. But the planned deep receiver Louis begged quarterback Nick Marshall to throw him the ball instead. Louis dreamed of making a big play, inspired by the words of his receiver coach Dameyune Craig who frequently challenges his players with the question "What's going to be your legacy?".
Both teams took the field after consecutive timeouts, Auburn facing 4th down and 18 from their own 27-yard line with 36 seconds remaining in the game. Marshall took the snap and made a five-step drop to his own 17-yard line. Sammie Coates found himself wide open near midfield, but Nick Marshall stepped up to the 20-yard line and heaved the ball 47 yards downfield to Ricardo Louis in triple coverage. Coates dropped his head, too nervous to watch the outcome. The overthrown pass sailed beyond Marshall's intended receiver as Georgia's freshman safety Tray Matthews leapt for the interception at the 23-yard line. But his teammate, sophomore defender Josh Harvey-Clemons, also jumped for the interception and tipped the ball with his right hand causing it to ricochet over Matthews' helmet. The redirection allowed the overthrown Auburn receiver to catch up to the pass.
Auburn's Louis could not initially find the deflection as the football fluttered over his head, but his peripheral vision located the ball over his left shoulder just as it reached his outstretched hands. Louis juggled the ball at the 15-yard line, finally gained control at the 9, looked over his left shoulder finding no one in pursuit and bounded into the south end zone for the touchdown with 25 seconds remaining. Terrified suspension turned into roaring triumphant celebration from the stunned crowd as Louis reeled in the catch. A 7-play, 78-yard drive had just been capped off by a miraculous 73-yard score as the Tigers took the lead 43–38. Penalty flags lay on the field, but the fears of Auburn fans were alleviated when the touchdown stood, as the flags were against Georgia for a few players taking their helmets off while the play was ongoing.
It was a moment of déjà vu for Marshall's former teammates at Garden City College who watched the quarterback win the team's final game of 2012 in similar fashion. On December 2, 2012, with his team trailing 29–28, Marshall threw a 62-yard bomb that was deflected by a defender and caught by his receiver lying on his back with 20 seconds remaining in the game setting up the winning field goal.
- Commentators Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson called the game on television nationally for CBS's SEC coverage.
This is how Lundquist called the play:
|“||Fourth-and-18 … lets it GO … OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH NO! Ricardo Louis! Talk about a Hail Mary.||”|
Gary Danielson added his assessment:
|“||It's the play of the year! Number 25 Josh Harvey-Clemons actually knocks it out of Tray Matthews' hands Number 28. It bounces up in the air for the most improbable touchdown you'll ever see … and Louis a miracle of miracles.||”|
- Commentators Rod Bramblett and Stan White called the game on radio for the Auburn IMG Sports Network. When Bramblett later reflected on calling the play, he doubted anything would ever compare to it and admitted he was not sure of the words he had chosen in his excitement.
Here is how he called the play:
|“||Alright, here we go., fourth-and-18 for the Tigers. Here's your ballgame. Nick Marshall … stands in, steps up, is going to throw downfield. Just a homerun ball and uh, it is tipped up … AND LOUIS CAUGHT IT ON THE DEFLECTION! LOUIS IS GOING TO SCORE! LOUIS IS GOING TO SCORE! LOUIS IS GOING TO SCORE! TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! A MIRACLE IN JORDAN-HARE! A MIRACLE IN JORDAN-HARE! SEVENTY-THREE YARDS AND THE TIGERS WITH 25 SECONDS TO GO LEAD 43–38!||”|
Bramblett concluded the game by calling the final play and celebration as follows:
|“||Here's Murray. Steps up, in trouble, he's on the run, hit as he throws, INCOMPLETE! TIGERS WIN! TIGERS WIN! DEE FORD KNOCKED THE BALL LOOSE! AND AUBURN HAS DONE IT IN UNBELIEVABLE, REMARKABLE, UNLIKELY, INCREDIBLE FASHION! 43–38! WAR EAGLE EVERYBODY!||”|
- Scott Howard and Eric Zeier called the game on the radio for the Georgia Bulldogs Sports Network.
Here is Scott Howard's coverage of the notable touchdown:
|“||There's the snap, Marshall back, looking, looking, in the pocket, going to go DEEP DOWN THE FIELD, AND THAT BALL WILL BE … OH MY GOD! TIPPED AND CAUGHT! TOUCHDOWN AUBURN! HOLY SMOKES I DON'T BELIEVE IT … THEY HAD A MAN RUNNING IN STRIDE AND CAUGHT THE TIP for a touchdown, but there's flags back on the field.||”|
Eric Zeier responded to the penalty flags on the field by adding:
|“||That's going to be on us for taking off our helmets just in disbelief. And I'll tell you what, that ball should have been intercepted. If we don't touch it, nothing happens on the play. We bounced it up in the air right into the hands … I believe it was Ricardo Louis.||”|
Following the final touchdown, Auburn attempted a two-point conversion to extend the lead to seven points but Jonathan Wallace's pass fell incomplete. Georgia was left with 25 seconds in the game at their own 25-yard line after Auburn's Cody Parkey kicked the ball beyond the end zone for a touchback as he had on all nine of his kickoffs during the game. In the following 22 seconds, Aaron Murray threw two passes for 50 yards as Georgia reached Auburn's 25-yard line. When Auburn senior lineman and leading tackler Dee Ford jumped offside, Georgia advanced to the Auburn 20-yard line with a first down and three seconds on the clock. Auburn called their final timeout.
On the last play of the game Ford hit Murray at the 20-yard line as he released an incomplete pass sealing the victory for Auburn. Georgia coach Richt felt the hit could have been penalized for targeting but even Murray himself disagreed, calling it a clean hit.
The teams combined for 81 total points in the game, second only to the 1996 quadruple overtime thriller in which Auburn and Georgia combined for 105 points.
The play was featured on SportsCenter that evening as ESPN's top play of the day in the world of sports. Murray commented on the loss to Auburn stating, "It's like a nightmare. This is going to be a tough one to get over." One week later, as Georgia hosted Kentucky with 2:17 left in the 1st half, Murray suffered a torn ACL, ending his college career.
Auburn's victory propelled them into the AP top five over the next week. On the same day, No. 4 ranked Stanford was upset by unranked USC 20-17, allowing Auburn to be promoted to No. 6 in the subsequent AP Poll. The following Saturday during Auburn's bye week, two upsets occurred by a combined 58 points when unranked Arizona knocked off No. 5 ranked Oregon and No. 10 Oklahoma State defeated No. 3 Baylor. Auburn was promoted to No. 4 in the AP Poll as a result.
This loss, combined with South Carolina's victory over Florida the same day, knocked Georgia out of contention for the Eastern Division title. Georgia would fall out of the BCS standings and most of the major polls after this loss, and a win over unranked Kentucky the next week would not be enough to get the Dawgs back in the rankings. As noted above Murray tore his ACL in that game, ending his career at UGA. With backup QB Hutson Mason making his first start for Georgia, the Dawgs needed to come back from being down 20, and go to double overtime, to beat their in-state rival Georgia Tech. Georgia became ranked #22 in the BCS after that win. Georgia was defeated by Nebraska 24-19 in the 2014 TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl on January 1, 2014 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.
Auburn would win their next game on a crazy finish too. In the 2013 Iron Bowl against Alabama, Alabama elected to attempt a 57-yard field goal with one second left on the clock, even though their three previous kicks were unsuccessful. The kick was short enough that it allowed Auburn returner Chris Davis to catch the ball in the back of the end zone and return it for a touchdown, giving Auburn the six-point win.
Auburn's next game after the Iron Bowl was the 2013 SEC Championship Game against Missouri, whose closest games this season were a double-overtime loss to South Carolina, and a victory over Texas A&M by only a touchdown - all of Missouri's other games were wins by at least two touchdowns. Auburn would later defeat Missouri 59-42, and thanks to Michigan State's victory over the #2 Ohio State Buckeyes, Auburn rose to #2 in the BCS rankings and played in the BCS National Championship Game where they fell against the #1 Florida State Seminoles 34-31, ending the SEC's seven-year national championship reign.
Nominations and Awards
Nick Marshall's last-second 73-yard touchdown pass was recognized as one of four nominees for 2013 Best Play in the world of sports at the 2014 ESPY Awards under the name Auburn Hail Mary. But another Auburn play won the category, Davis FG return, which was the final play of Auburn's following game (the 2013 Iron Bowl).
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