It kicked off at 3:41 p.m. Gainesville time and extended to 11:23 p.m. in State College, seven hours and seven minutes of college football the way it was meant to be, on campus, on grass, outcomes unsettled until the final Florida man and the last Auburn pass fell to earth.
Through the heat of the day and the white of the night, Saturation Saturday delivered. The Swamp took a bite out of Big Al. The White Out left a mark on Aubie. Grade the whole day an "A" for atmosphere and attitude, adventure and angst. Now we can say college football is back and mean it.
If you care about the sport in this state, if you like your tea sweet and your whiskey straight, not sour, there are things to remember every Saturday when fall semester is in session, but this day was different. Alabama 31, Florida 29 and Penn State 28, Auburn 20 gave 200,845 partygoers and millions more of us at home all the Oh no he didn't we could want.
Ain't no Happy Valley low enough to hold all the mad online. Phantom pass interference calls. The shifting sands of grounding and targeting. Dropped game-changing interceptions. An exploding cigar of a trick play. A clock that couldn't tell time. A missing quarterback who could've made a difference in the afternoon. A missing down that ultimately didn't matter after dark.
Alabama of all people couldn't run the ball or stop the run except when Florida's quarterback decided to marry his tailback at the mesh on the decisive two-point try to tie, allowing the beleaguered Crimson Tide defense to make the tackle that mattered most.
Remember when they said that defense would lead this team until the young offense grew up? They lied. Bryce Young is a baby-faced assassin already, and may Lane Kiffin have mercy on Pete Golding's soul.
Auburn went the other way in its futility. The Tigers couldn't throw the ball or defend the pass so of course, on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 3 minutes left, with a chance to tie with a touchdown and two-point conversion, Bo Nix didn't hesitate. He let it fly far too high.
It's too early in his Auburn tenure for anything more than a jab or two, but Big-Game Bryan Harsin, he wasn't. The new guy didn't exactly distinguish himself with his decision-making during the game or his 'splainin' afterward. Five options on that decisive play at the goal line? And that derisive fade route was one of them? Alrighty then.
It wasn't the only ominous occasion when At Least He's Not Gus curiously failed to deploy his Tank. On fourth-and-one to start the fourth quarter, Harsin settled for a field goal that still left the Tigers trailing by a point. From there, they would stay on 20, Penn State would add a touchdown and … fade out.
A suggestion: You have Tank Bigsby trucking guys and Jarquez Hunter vaulting them. When in doubt, run the dang ball. RPO. Something. Anything but that.
So what did we really learn on the first authentic regular-season Saturday in two years, when nobody backed down, everybody stood his ground and not a single player waved a white flag? Alabama is mortal but still Alabama. The Crimson Tide tasted its own blood and didn't choke on it. Auburn is game but still not Alabama. Short on Jimmies and Joes, the Fighting John Samuels refused to wilt in that blizzard of white noise.
It's too early for Alabama to celebrate. Don't expect Auburn to capitulate. It's already an odd year on the calendar, and you know what that means. We may not witness another stem-to-stern Saturday like this one, but just wait till we get another Iron Bowl on the Plains.