NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — Ricardo Louis got to his public speaking class that following Monday and was given a standing ovation.
Two weeks later, Chris Davis received the same reception when he walked into his geology and public finance classes.
Louis pulled off the play of the year against Georgia, a 73-yard touchdown catch off a tipped pass that couldn’t be topped — only it was when Davis returned a missed field goal 109 yards to beat archrival Alabama.
Without those two plays, No. 2 Auburn wouldn’t be anywhere near the Bowl Championship Series title game against top-ranked Florida State.
To make one of those plays in a season is incredible. Two? Impossible. Or so it would seem.
“Every time you walk by a TV, you get a chance to see one of those plays,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
The first occurred Nov. 16, with the Tigers trailing Georgia 38-37. Even more daunting, they had fourth-and-18 on their 27-yard line.
Louis told quarterback Nick Marshall in the huddle that he wanted the ball. Marshall had another receiver open underneath, but Louis’ confidence prompted him to go deep.
Marshall’s pass was overthrown, however, and two Georgia defenders were in position to knock down the pass or intercept it. But Josh Harvey-Clemons deflected the ball as teammate Tray Matthews was getting ready to intercept it.
“Nobody thought I could see where the ball was,” Louis said. “I lost sight of it. When they hit (the ball) up, I looked up. That was it.”
That deflection went to Louis, who turned to his left to grab the ball out of the air. He then scored easily with 25 seconds left to give the Tigers the improbable 43-38 victory.
“It was all in slow motion,” Louis said. “I wasn’t thinking at all. I was just playing football. After all that happened, that’s when I started replaying the play in my head. I was like, ‘Wow, man, how did I know to keep on running? How did I know to look up and stick my hand out?’ “
It was the play of the year.
Only it wasn’t.
That would come Nov. 30 against Alabama, then the No. 1 team and the two-time defending national champion.
The game appeared headed to overtime, but Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban challenged that time hadn’t run out, and after a review, a second was put back on the clock. He sent out Adam Griffith to try a 57-yard game-winning kick.
Davis positioned himself at the back of the end zone, which is where Griffith’s kick found him. He began to run right before cutting back to the left. Alabama reacted slowly at first, and with a field full of offensive linemen, didn’t have the athleticism to catch Davis.
“I was just trying to make something happen,” Davis said. “When I managed to stay in bounds, I knew I had a chance to take it all the way.”
He raced down the left sideline, with only holder Cody Mandell having a chance to tackle him. Davis easily made it past as Auburn radio announcer Rod Bramblett exclaimed, “There goes Davis! Davis is going to run it all the way back! Auburn’s going to win the football game! Auburn’s going to win the football game!”
Davis got to the end zone and was swarmed by teammates as the scoreboard went to 34-28. Fans ran onto the field, and some joined the pile.
It immediately became not only the top play of the 2013 season but also an iconic moment in college football history.
Until Davis’ dash, the same argument could have been made about Louis’ catch.
“I know how (Davis) feels now watching my play,” Louis said. “It’s crazy to think a 109-yard missed field goal to the crib against Alabama in the Iron Bowl. That’s bigger than my play.”
Most observers agree with Louis. But not the one who pulled it off.
“Because if it wasn’t for his play, we wouldn’t be in the situation that we’re in right now,” Davis said. “And you could say the same about my play. But I always say that his play was better than mine because I actually got the opportunity to watch it.
“But both the plays kind of changed college football, especially this season.”
Contact reporter Mark Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2914. Follow him on Twitter: @markanderson65.