Until Saturday, a football game had never been won on a field goal attempt returned 100-yards for a touchdown. So, the final play of the Iron Bowl broke new ground, figuratively speaking. And maybe kinda literally.
On Monday night, at the end of his report that a Seattle Seahawks home game had again registered on the Richter Scale, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams said: “Of course you can’t help but wonder what seismologists might have found had they been measuring for vibrations Saturday night in Auburn, Alabama.”
Steve Jones wondered the same thing. So, he decided to check.
Jones, a NASA electrical engineer, has a vertical-sensing seismometer that he built himself in the basement of his Huntsville home, the same kind of equipment found in earthquake monitoring stations across the globe. Jones, who maintains the website AlabamaQuake.com—al.com wrote about his hobby last year—has been keeping tabs on tectonics for years and calls himself an “advanced amateur” seismologist. And he is pretty advanced. The 9.1 to 9.3 magnitude 2004 Indian Ocean tremor? He picked that one up fine. Same goes for the 2.9 quake in Walker County last year.
And same goes for whatever that was over the weekend.
Jones says his equipment detected a “suspicious” seismic signature beginning at some point between 6:25 and 6:27 p.m. and lasting for approximately 45 minutes.
What time did that eternal second tick off the Iron Bowl clock?
(Can’t see the video? Try here.)
While Jones can’t say for certain that the massive celebration that erupted as Sports Illustrated cover boy Chris Davis broke into the clear on his jaw-dropping end zone to end zone touchdown dash produced the signature, he says the time stamp could certainly suggest it. He also says the blip definitely “looks man-made.”
“Looking at the overall envelope of the peaks in the data… something does seem to begin an appearance at about 6:25 to 6:27 pm, continuing through about 7:13 p.m,” Jones says. “Also, something appears to have occurred just after 6:19 pm, continuing for about 3 minutes.”
Perhaps a game-tying touchdown?
Jones’ isn’t the only seismometer that registered noticeable “noise” around the ending of what pretty much everyone with a major television network talk show agrees is the greatest football game ever. A heliplot coming from a seismic station in Brewton that reports to the Geological Survey of Alabama also picked up on something mysterious at around the time the game ended.
“The BRAL (Brewton) station in south Alabama is probably the closest one to Auburn and looks like a lot of noise during that time, especially near the end at about 6:23.”
What could explain the two minute-ish discrepancy? Why, seismic surface wave travel times, of course.
“A station in Huntsville seems to have also picked up some vibration noise near the end of the game, too,” says the GSA’s Dr. Sandy Ebersole.”If a touchdown or major play also occurred about that same time (as the heavy red—the irony!—squiggles start jumping), the chances are the BRAL station is recording the vibration noise from the football game then.”
The Brewton station also registered extra activity at around 2:30 p.m. You know, kickoff…
Lorraine Wolf, a professor of Geophysics at Auburn, says she would be surprised to see seismic activity from Auburn detected as far away as Huntsville, but admits that it’s possible. She says that if AU had monitoring equipment on campus, the movement created by the game definitely would have registered as mild earthquake. “We don’t curently have an operating station here. We used to have one at (Auburn) high school.”
Wolf said it would impossible to exactly determine the epicenter of whatever event registered in Huntsville and Brewton until the numbers from every reporting station are crunched.
But there are at least 87,451 people who would probably tell you there’s really no need to check.
More OMG Iron Bowl:
* Cremated remains found in Jordan-Hare Stadium after Iron Bowl
* Cam Newton ‘War Eagles’ throughout his post-game press conference Sunday after Iron Bowl
* New York Post: Iron Bowl ending ‘greatest in the history of sports’
* Pensacola bridge completely covered in Auburn graffiti after Iron Bowl
* Highlights, Iron Bowl, Highlights
* Watch Rod Bramblett, Stan White and the Auburn radio broadcast booth react to the final play
* Hear Rod and Eli back to back
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Jordan-Hare seats 87,451. Looks like it’s just a typo… but still.