Alabama vs. Auburn: That Controversial 12 Men on the Field Moment, Explained

Saturday's Iron Bowl battle between the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers was marked by multiple controversial moments, including head coach Nick Saban screaming at the officials at the end of the first half. However, the biggest on-field incident delivered a victory for Auburn. Alabama was penalized for 12 men on the field, which caught many by surprise considering that Saban's team is known for being well-coached. An explanation has now been delivered.

Saturday night, it was revealed that the 12 men penalty was actually owed to some trickery by the Auburn coaching staff. Facing a fourth-and-four with little more than one minute remaining in regulation, they lined up as if they were going for the conversion attempt deep in their own territory. However, the Crimson Tide players realized that the punter was actually on the field, but he was lined up at wide receiver. This meant that the Tigers could simply motion him back behind the center in order to punt the ball.

With seconds remaining prior to the snap, Alabama attempted a late substitution to get the special teams unit on the field instead of the defense. They ran out of time and were penalized. Instead of having to punt, the Tigers were given the first down and could simply run out the clock.

As Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn explained after the game, the unique formation was trotted out in an attempt to keep returner Jaylen Waddle away from the football. Auburn knew that he has the potential to score on every touch.

“We were going to go ahead and shift and have him punt,” Malzahn said about the punter. “We were just trying to find ways to keep [Waddle] off the field. In that moment, we felt like if we could get the defense, we could kick it and flip the field. They were trying to rush people, and they got 12 [on the field], and we ended up winning the game.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban also reacted to the penalty, calling it an "unfair play." In his opinion, the officials should have given him more time to send the punt team back onto the field. However, he can't change the penalty with the game over. Instead, he simply called the ending "disappointing."

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With two losses on the season, the Crimson Tide will now miss out on the College Football Playoffs after being considered a "shoo-in" at the beginning of the season. Auburn, on the other hand, will hold bragging rights for the next calendar year.

Photo Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty

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