Auburn: Past, Present and Future

THE PAST
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This week in Auburn Football History:+

The first football game ever played on November 19th was versus Georgia in 1932, Auburn 14, Georgia 7. The game was played in Columbus, GA. The Tigers went 9-0-1 that year and were Southern Conference Champions.The next year Auburn would join the newly formed Southeastern Conference.+

In 1960 Auburn trounced the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 57-21. Ed Dyas kicked his 13th field goal of the season which broke his own national season and career records. But, unfortunately, he was tackled into a bench on the sidelines later in the game and sustained facial fractures. Auburn finished 8-2, ranked 13th in the AP poll and 14th in the UPI.+

On 11/19/2005 the Auburn Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. The final score was 28-18 but did not reflect the dominance the Tigers displayed on that sunny afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was sacked 11 times prompting bumper stickers urging motorists to “Honk If You Sacked Brodie.”+

The last time Auburn played a game on 11/19 was three years ago in 2011. They overcame a spirited Samford team, 35-16. The Bulldogs were coached by Auburn’s first Heisman trophy winner, Pat Sullivan. That bring’s us back to…+

THE PRESENT +

Auburn (7-3) vs. Samford (7-3). Pat Sullivan remains the head coach at the Baptist school located in Homewood, AL. He heads the list of total wins in a career for a Samford coach with 47. More on Coach Sullivan shortly. First a few, quick notable takes on Samford past.+

In 1841 the institution was founded in Marion, AL as Howard College. It is a private school affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention. It was named in honor of John Howard who was noted for his work in prison reform in England.+

In 1895 women were first admitted to Howard College.+

Bobby Bowden played quarterback at Howard from 1949-1952. Bowden was named offensive coordinator there in 1954 and he went on to become the head coach of the Bulldogs from 1959-1962. Bowden compiled a sterling record of 31-6 during his tenure.+

Bowden’s son, Terry, was the head coach at Samford from 1987-1992. He was also quite successful there. He won 45 games while losing 23. One game ended in a tie. Most of us know what occurred with this Coach Bowden in 1993; he took over as the head coach at Auburn where he put together a 47-17-1 record. His .731 winning percentage remains first in Auburn Football history.+

Current Florida State head coach, Jimbo Fisher, played quarterback for Terry Bowden at Samford in 1987. He was named Division III national player of the year.+

Now back to Pat Sullivan. I have been following Auburn Football very, very closely for the past 54 years. My favorite players, through the years, include Bobby Hunt, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Terry Beasley, Terry Henley, Phil Gargis, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Dameyune Craig, Rudi Johnson and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. Also near the top of that list would be former Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Cam Newton. +

I have followed and loved, lived and died with these and a host of other Tiger greats throughout these five plus decades. But the player at the very top of that list of favorites is Patrick Joseph Sullivan.+

Pat Sullivan is the epitome of an Auburn man.+

In his career, 1968-1972, as varsity quarterback on The Plains he led Auburn to regular season records of 8-2, 8-2 and 9-1. These years included 49-26 and 33-28 wins over cross-state rival Alabama. The 49-26 win over the Tide in 1969 is the most points EVER scored on a Bear Bryant coached team.+

In 1968 Sullivan brought the Tiger freshman back from a 27-0 deficit to defeat the Crimson Tide frosh, 36-27.+

In the 33-28 victory over Bama in 1970, Super Sully, as he was fondly known, brought Auburn back after trailing 17-0 in the first half. The game, played at Birmingham’s Legion Field, was the first win that I ever witnessed over the Tide. Coach Bryant said that the only thing Sullivan didn’t do that day was sell hot dogs and take up tickets. He was masterful on that beautiful Saturday afternoon.+

I can still hear Gary Sanders, the voice of the Auburn Tigers during the Sullivan years, on the small, white Philco radio we were glued to on autumn Saturdays… “At quarterback number 7, Pat Sullivan, a 6 foot 190 pound sophomore form John Carroll High School in Birmingham.”+

The biggest victory, to this point, in Pat Sullivan’s life did not occur on the football field.+

In September of 2003 Sullivan was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw and tongue. This resulted from years of smokeless tobacco use. It was grave. He was given less than a 50% chance of survival. It was the toughest battle he ever fought. He was found clear of cancer cells in April of 2004 but the disease took a tremendous toll on Sullivan’s body.+

God bless Pat Sullivan.+

Sullivan will bring his Bulldogs to play Auburn’s Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday in a 6 PM CST kickoff. I shudder at the sound of that Samford mascot nickname after last week’s drubbing ‘between the hedges’ in Athens, GA. Auburn will not be drubbed Saturday. They will win decisively. I will be pulling for Auburn to win. I will also be pulling for Coach Sullivan. It will be an emotional night for him and for those of us who love him dearly.+

THE FUTURE+

What does the future hold for Auburn?+

When this weekend’s clash is said and done their record will stand at 8-3. They will move up from their current position of 14th in the College Football Playoff poll if someone above them loses. The way things are going here in 2014, that should happen.+

Then, on November 29th, they will face the team ranked number one in that poll. The Tigers will face off with the Alabama Crimson Tide, in Bryant-Denny Stadium, that evening at 6:45 PM CST. If Auburn were to upset Bama they would vault in the polls and in the minds of college football fans everywhere.+

A win in these next two games would make the Tigers 9-3. That would then conclude a very good regular season and a spot in a prestigious bowl game. That would be a great building block toward 2015 and beyond.+

We shall see. +

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