Anders Carlson wouldn’t have it any other way.
There’s no better place, no better time, no better opponent — and no better game.
Carlson was a perfect 4-for-4 in the Iron Bowl last Saturday, kicking through the game of his life in the moment of his childhood dreams, the son of Alabama alums and the brother of another Auburn star making his own mark on the Iron Bowl series.
It’s storybook stuff. Carlson’s grandfather, Deacon Jones, played baseball at Alabama. Both his parents went to school in Tuscaloosa.
His house has always been like so many others in the state, where the Iron Bowl and all of its magic mark the biggest game of the year, every year.
“The word that just comes to mind is I’m blessed, man,” Carlson said, trying to put it into words.
Carlson drilled field goals of 43, 52, 43 and 44 yards in the sophomore’s second Iron Bowl, perfect at the perfect time. He drilled another 50-plus-yarder on a play that was negated on a penalty. He was 5-for-5 on extra points.
The Iron Bowl runs through his blood, so it seems.
Saturday, so it seems, that Iron Bowl magic was running through his foot.
“This is a small piece,” he said. “I’m a field-goal kicker. I did what I could do. The offense and defense did what they needed to do as well.
Still: “It’s incredible,” he shook his head.
Carlson is the younger brother of former Auburn kicker and Oakland Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson.
For both, the Iron Bowl is a family thing.
“Thanksgiving, we always get the day off. So I was hanging out with them and the parents,” the younger Carlson recounted. “The parents are all on board for Auburn but grandpa always makes jokes about field goals. He wants field goals and not extra points.
“But I think we’ve got a little bit of both today,” he smiled.
Carlson’s unbelievable game came in seemingly the most unbelievable circumstances.
Carlson entered the Iron Bowl having missed six straight kicks of 40-plus-yards.
He nailed all four of his field goals from 40-plus in the big game.
Unbelievable to most — but maybe not to head coach Gus Malzahn, who has held firm his confidence in Carlson all through his late-season slide.
“Coach Malzahn has always been great with his kickers,” Carlson said. “You know, if you show him in practice, he’s going to believe in you. So I’m confident in what I do in practice, and I hope it carries onto the field, and today it did.”
Carlson drilled his 52-yarder in perhaps the most difficult of circumstances. Just before he half, a review placed one running second back on the clock, allowing the special teams unit to line up tasked with snapping the ball and kicking it not when the unit was ready like usual, but on the whistle from officials and within the one second to be run off the clock.
He drilled it to provide a big momentum swing, sending Auburn into the locker room down just four points as Jordan-Hare Stadium cheered.
“I told my holder and snapper, ‘Get ready for whistle kick,’” Carlson looked back.
“Once that whistle was blown we snapped and did what we did.”
Later in the third quarter, Carlson hit his “unofficial” 54-yarder, drilling a kick on fourth-and-4 that was ultimately taken off the board when an Alabama offside penalty gave Auburn a first down and sent the offense back out on the field.
The offense couldn’t muster another first down, so Carlson had to go back out there and attempt a 43-yarder. He nailed it.
“To execute it and it to be called back is a little unfortunately, actually,” he smiled. “But we got the points at the end of the drive. That’s what’s most important.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever done that,” he said, asked if that’s as difficult as it gets, to go back out there and kick again after having one taken off the board. “But it worked well this time.”
Everything worked well for Carlson in that game.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.
Neither would Auburn.