There was one thing that became clear in the course of Saturday's wild and wonderful Iron Bowl, after the two teams combined for 99 points, 52 first downs and 1,171 yards of total offense -- the highest point and yardage total in the history of the series: Nick Saban still has not figured out how to stop Gus Mazlahn's offense. But that doesn't matter if he can figure out how to outscore it.
And that's exactly what the Tide did. It took five lead changes, it took Blake Sims recovering from throwing three interceptions, and it took almost every one of the 28 unanswered points Alabama scored in 15 minutes of total game time beginning with a little more than three minutes left in the third quarter. But one year after the Kick Six wiped away Alabama's hopes for winning the last BCS National Championship Game, a game that was almost as crazy kept alive the Tide's chances of winning the first College Football Playoff.
Sims started out rough, but threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the second half as the Crimson Tide mounted a furious comeback. Sims ended the game 20-of-27 passing for 312 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. Virtually all of his passes that went to an Alabama player went to Amari Cooper, who had 13 catches for an Iron Bowl record 224 yards and three touchdowns. Only one other Alabama receiver had more than one catch -- DeAndrew White, who had three. The Alabama running game ground out 229 yards on 33 carries; T.J. Yeldon led the way with 127 yards and two touchdowns on 17 rushes.
Auburn scored its points as well. Nick Marshall started out 2-of-7 passing for 41 yards -- with 42 yards coming on one of the passes -- as Alabama took an early 14-6 lead and looked like it might take over the game. From there on out, and even after struggling some later in the game, Marshall would go 25-of-36 for 415 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. Cameron Artis-Payne, who came into the game leading the SEC in rushing, was contained even if he wasn't completely stopped; his 77 yards on 25 carries was pedestrian but featured few truly bad runs. Sammie Coates had five catches for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and D'haquille Williams added seven grabs for 121 yards.
And, of course, there was the hype that came along with this game. Paul Finebaum had a sideline call-in show during which Charles from Reeltown threatened Marcus Spears -- who said he was willing to meet Charles at a place of the caller's choosing to settle the matter. That was after Phyllis from Mulga let her thoughts on the first-half performance be known:
Go to SEC Network NOW. https://t.co/n90kkf3Ldr— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) November 30, 2014
Even Boyz II Men weighed in on the game.
It was football as pure entertainment, a reminder why we watch college football -- whether our favorite teams win or lose or aren't even in a particular game. For a few hours on Saturday, we were riveted to the television, sharing emotions with 200 players and a hundred thousands fans in the stadium and the millions of people watching across the country -- from Charles in Reeltown to Boyz II Men.
In short, it was what we want football to be. And now that this kind of game won't keep him from his pursuit of the national championship, even Nick Saban might be able to admit that.