NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - Do you believe in miracles? For Auburn, fortune's favorites, they have become a way of life, a means to explain how a team could go 0-8 in the SEC one season and wind up in Monday night's BCS championship game against Florida State the next.
Running back Tre Mason says the Tigers aren't so much destiny's team as they are a team of hard work. But their remarkable turnaround was made possible by two once-in-a-lifetime plays that occurred two weeks apart.
First was the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare," the monicker that Auburn wide receiver Ricardo Louis prefers for his remarkable 73-yard touchdown catch on a tipped ball in the final seconds of the Tigers' 43-38 victory over Georgia.
In their next game, the regular-season finale against Alabama, Chris Davis returned a failed field-goal attempt 109 yards on the final play for a stunning 34-28 win.
"Those two plays changed college football this season," Davis said Saturday during BCS Media Day. "No one will let us forget those plays."
Davis' return, dubbed the "Kick Six," turned the season on its ear because it came against the two-time defending BCS champs. But Davis said he enjoyed Louis' play more because he got to watch it unfold along with the delirious home crowd at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn, which had blown a 20-point lead and trailed Georgia by a point, faced fourth-and-18 with less than a minute to play. Louis, who had kept badgering receivers coach Dameyune Craig to put him in the game, got his wish, even though he wouldn't normally have been in for the play called.
During a timeout, Louis spoke to Tigers quarterback Nick Marshall on the sideline.
"I looked Nick in the eye and said, 'Throw me the ball,' " Louis said. "He didn't say nothing, so I said it again: 'Throw me the ball, Nick.' He said, 'OK,' and we ran out there. As I was running past him, I just said 'Nick' so he knew everything was real."
Recalling the moment, Marshall said, "I saw the look in his eyes and how it looked like he really wanted the ball. It was just an unbelievable play."
Louis ran a route deep down the middle between Georgia safeties Tray Matthews and Josh Harvey-Clemons, the latter of whom leaped to tip the pass. For a moment, Louis lost sight of the ball.
"Then I looked up and saw the ball coming down, and I just stuck my left hand out and reeled it in," Louis said. "You never imagine end of the game, fourth-and-18, 25 seconds left. I'm trying to figure out what possessed me to keep on running. If I had stopped running, the ball would have gotten out in front of me.
"I heard the crowd roaring. That's the loudest I ever heard Jordan-Hare Stadium get. I knew greatness had happened."
Auburn fans thought nothing could top that. Then Alabama coach Nick Saban, who wanted Adam Griffith to attempt a tiebreaking 57-yard field goal against the Tigers, convinced the officials that a second should be put back on the clock.
At first, Tigers safety Ryan Smith dropped back, but coach Gus Malzahn called time to ice Griffith and told Davis to field the kick.
Davis knew he could make a play if the ball stayed in bounds. It came to him one yard short of the end line, and he raced up the left sideline behind a wall of Tigers, nearly went out of bounds, then steadied himself to complete the runback.
"I kind of tip-toed down the sideline," Davis said. "I knew once I stayed in bounds, the game was over . . . It's a good feeling. If it wasn't for Ricardo's play, we wouldn't be in the situation we're in right now, and you could say the same about my play."
When Louis and Davis run into each other on campus, they can't help but smile, shake hands and joke about the plays they made.
"Sometimes," Louis said, "I'll be like, 'You know people think we're legends, right?' ''