Auburn kicked to Alabama to open the game, held Bama then took the ball and scored a quick touchdown. Auburn then caught Bama off guard with an on-side kick which Auburn recovered leading to another quick score. Before you knew it, the under dog was dictating to the second ranked team in the nation. Then Alabama woke up. Sort of. Bama answered with a pair of touchdowns before half-time to even the score.
Second half was every bit of exciting as the first half with Auburn again scoring first. Bama kicker Leigh Tiffin added a couple of field goals but Auburn still led 21-20 with only eight minutes and change left in the game. That is when the second ranked team in the nation took over. Led by quarterback Greg McElroy, the Crimson Tide marched steadily down the field chewing up yardage and time on the clock. Then I knew Bama was going to win. With just over 8 minutes left on the clock I made a picture of the scoreboard as a sort of marker in my images. Alabama ground its way down the field finally ending up inside the Auburn five with a third and goal with about a minute and a half on the clock.
Like everyone else in the building, I just knew that Alabama was going to run the ball up the middle. If they scored, fine, but if they didn’t they would be set up for a field goal to go ahead and Auburn would have about one minute and one time out to try and win. I positioned myself so I could see Tiffin’s face when he kicked the game winner. Then to my utter surprise, and apparently to the surprise of everyone else in the stadium including the Auburn defense, McElroy faked the middle hand off and sprinted out to his right finding running back Roy Upchurch in the right flat all by himself. Upchurch raced into the end zone and Bama had a lead that would force Auburn to try to score a touchdown and not simply go far enough for a field goal try. This sealed Bama’s victory.
Great game unless you were me. I was out of position for every touchdown except one. The game winner happened on my side of the field but I was up near the 25 yard line setting myself up to shoot the field goal I had anticipated. Instead of a really nice picture, which Mark Almond from Birmingham News made, I got a lame photo of Upchurch just after he caught the ball. Then to my complete chagrin, the entire jubilation after the touchdown was blocked from my view. I literally missed the whole thing. Maddening! But it was that kind of day. I was so out of position on Auburn’s touchdowns that I was literally 100+ yards away when they scored. No joke.
The story of game was Alabama. Sorry to all you Auburn fans but if Alabama lost then the story was not that Auburn won but that Alabama lost. If Alabama won the story was that Alabama made it through to the SEC Championship unbeaten. Unfortunately for Auburn fans, the Tigers were merely the foil and not the primary combatant. I know that chafes the Auburn folks but sometimes that is just the way it is. The point is that I was positioned to cover Alabama’s defense meaning that I was behind the Auburn offense which put me behind the back of the end zone. Two of the three of Auburn’s TDs were long plays that caught me far, far away from anything meaningful because I was shooting to cover Alabama.
That is the trick when covering a big game like this one. You have to decide before the game starts what is the most important thing and go with that. I couldn’t clone myself to be on both ends of the field so you have to know there are some photos you are going to miss. I anticipated a one-sided Alabama victory; therefore, I positioned myself to cover that. Auburn decided not to play along with my scenario. This threw a monkey wrench into my coverage and frustrated me all day long. Because the game stayed close I had to stick with my plan. Even doing that I missed almost every touchdown or got nothing more than a record shot from them. I had photos of all three Alabama touchdowns but none were impressive photographically. That is the way it goes some of the time. You just have to hang in, read the game and try to make adjustments on the fly.
I shot the game with the Nikon D3, Nikon D2H and the 300 f2.8, 80-200 f2.8 and the17-35 f2.8. I leaned most heavily on the D3 for obvious reasons. I yearned for longer glass but there was nothing that could be done about that. I spent a lot of the game sprinting behind the bench from one end of the field to the other trying to stay in position to shoot with the shorter 300. That would be a 50 yard sprint loaded with gear multiple times during the game. I know, I know, don’t cry for me. I was shooting the Iron Bowl. Still, I am getting older and 50 yard sprints are a long way in the past.
The slide show included with this post shows you the action photos that I actually transmitted and a secondary edit I did today for our follow up stories so the total output from the game will probably be around 50 action shots and maybe a dozen feature type shots and I really took it easy on the features this year.
Photos copyright Gary Cosby Jr., The Decatur Daily. These photos are for the viewing pleasure of this audience and may not be reprinted or reused in any fashion without written consent by the copyright holder and the athletic governing bodies. So look but don’t touch! The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of my employer.