Auburn vs. Alabama: Tough Times at Legion Field

Our Managing Editor, at the behest of our Executive Editor, asked some of us here at Campus Pressbox to do a piece on our chosen team’s rival. Auburn has a few exciting rivalries bubbling and brewing as the 2016 season fast approaches. In the SEC West, LSU has become a very good one since the divisions were aligned in 1992. Arkansas has reared its Hawg head with Bret Bielema making noise out in Fayetteville, and this game has become a little testy at times.

Over in the SEC East, Georgia has and will always be Auburn’s biggest rival. Although, the Bulldogs have had the better of it, by far, lately, winning eight of ten in The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry.

Ok, ok! You know, as well as I do, where this is going…

Auburn vs. Alabama

The game is better known as… everyone, all at once… The Iron Bowl. But I don’t prefer that designation for the greatest and grandest rivalry in college football today. It’s the Auburn-Alabama game, or the Alabama-Auburn game, depending on which side you are affiliated with. Here is my take on that subject.

Back to the business at hand. We were asked to speak to which of these games are our team’s best and worst losses in the series, which ones we would like to live, re-live, do over, or delete; and the implications any changes in the outcomes would have on the current teams or traditions.

Auburn’s Best Loss

The 1981 game would have to be my choice as the Tigers’ best loss to the Crimson Tide. Pat Dye was in his first year as Auburn’s head coach. His record was 5-5 coming into this game and a win would have put Auburn in a bowl game for the first time since 1974, when Auburn annihilated Darrel Royal’s Texas Longhorns, in the Gator Bowl, to the tune of 27-3.

To heighten the drama, Alabama head coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant, stood at 314 total wins which had him tied with Amos Alonzo Stagg for the most ever in college football history. No one gave Auburn much of a chance to deny Bryant his place as the winningest coach ever. Bama was an 11.5-point favorite.

Somebody forgot to tell Auburn.

Bama scored first to take a 7-0 lead, but the Tigers knotted it on a 63-yard touchdown run by George Peoples in the second quarter.

Both teams tallied a touchdown in quarter number three and it stood 14-14 entering the final stanza. Auburn kicked a field goal to take a 17-14 lead early, and the Legion Field crowd held its collective breath as the often non-functional clock continued to tick. A shovel pass to Jesse Bendross put Bama in front 21-17 and Linnie Patrick ran for a 15-yard TD to cap the scoring and give Bryant his 315th win, by the hardest.

The mood of Auburn fans, after the game, was not dejection, at least from those whom we interacted with at that time. Optimism was palpable as Coach Dye’s team had laid the foundation for what was about to become the Golden Era of Auburn football.

The Tigers did indeed upset the Tide the following year, to end a nine game losing streak, as a young freshman named Vincent “Bo” Jackson went “over the top” late in the fourth quarter to give Auburn a 23-22 victory. Starting with that monumental win, Auburn’s record against Alabama stands at 18-16 in this classic football series.

And so, if I had to re-live a loss to our arch-rivals, it would have to be this 1981 game. I could full well live with that knowing what was in the offing. If we got a do-over on it, I would have Auburn pick off that shovel pass and run it back the other way for a touchdown, take a 10-point lead, and win by a field goal, 24-21. The Bear would not have gotten his 315th win that day, and it would have been the beginning of a three-game winning streak for Auburn.

This would not have huge implications on the current team or traditions, but it would provide an immense sense of satisfaction for Tiger players and fans, and put Auburn one game closer to tying the overall series record.

Auburn’s Worst Loss(es)

Oh me, oh my. I’d rather not go there. Sigh. Ok.

Well, I don’t know how you can separate the ’84 and ’85 games. Both were last-second, gut-wrenching losses for my Tigers.

’84: Auburn was 8-3, with their only conference loss coming to Florida. The Gators were SEC Champions on the field that year, but they were on probation. If Auburn had won the game it would play in its second consecutive Sugar Bowl. Alabama was 4-6 and about to suffer their first losing season since before Paul Bryant began coaching the Tide.

Auburn came out flat that day for some odd reason. It scored first, but Alabama, the designated home team at “neutral” Legion Field, rallied and led 17-7 as the fourth quarter began to wind down. Then the Tigers’ Brent Fullwood streaked for a 60-yard TD and the two-point conversion was successful, 17-15. Later in the quarter, on fourth down, Auburn found itself at the Alabama one-yard line. I jumped up and began screaming at the TV, “Kick the field goal. Kick the damn field goal. Let’s get outta here.” Dye opted to go for it and Fullwood was stuffed for a three-yard loss when Bo Jackson thought he was going to get the ball, went the wrong way, and did not block for his teammate.

Auburn did have an opportunity to kick a last second field goal which missed badly. Game over. Nightmare.

’85: Nightmare Deux, in spite of Bo Jackson making a final, emphatic case for the Heisman Trophy. He put forth a brilliantly gallant effort, and he was playing with two broken ribs. The game went back and forth like a heavyweight prize fight. Auburn went up 23-22 very late in the game. The prospects of a win looked quite promising, especially when Alabama found itself at its own 12 yard-line with 37 seconds remaining and no timeouts on the board. A couple of plays later Mike Shula got off a pass to Greg Richardson coming across the middle, and he managed to somehow get out-of-bounds with six seconds left on the clock.

Van Tiffin then nailed a 52-yard field goal and that was that. 25-23, Alabama.

Alrighty then! That was a nice exercise in masochism.

Let’s go right to the do-overs. In ’85, either Richardson does not get out-of-bounds or Tiffin misses the field goal, and Auburn wins, 23-22, for the second time in four years. Back to ’84, Auburn kicks the 18-yard chip shot and wins, 18-17. The Tigers now, with my ’81, ’84, and ’85 do-overs, win nine-in-a-row. This trumps what would now be an eight-game winning streak for Alabama, ’73- ’80, in the series. Auburn goes 18-8 over these next 26 games, through 2006, and Nick Saban is not hired in 2007 as he wants no part of the turmoil in Tuscaloosa.

The implications? Auburn continues as the dominant team in the state, Alabama doesn’t win four more Natties, and all is well on the Plains.

Revisionist history. Pretty sweet, right?

Ramblin’ 10/11/16

Welcome back to Ramblin’!

It really feels like fall now. 71 degrees with a high of 75 on the way, and a low tonight of 47. Leaves are beginning to cover the side, fenced-in, yard. And Auburn is ranked. All is well!

I began reading Steve Spurrier’s autobiography, Head Ball Coach-My Life in Football, yesterday. A few chapters in and it is vintage Spurrier. Good stuff.

The book I completed last week, prior to starting on Spurrier’s, was one by crime-mystery novelist James Lee Burke. The Tin Roof Blowdown. It’s from his Dave Robicheaux series. Excellent writing. Brilliant prose. Intricate, compelling plot lines. Superb characters.

The Tin Roof Blowdown takes place in the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans, New Iberia, Lafayette, and environs.

Highly recommended.

On the old Apple Music turntable, Lester Young and Billie Holiday. The album is entitled ‘A Musical Romance.’ Also brilliant.

Backing up to bring Auburn into the conversation again. They have an open date this Saturday. That will leave our focus on the SEC at Knoxville and Oxford. Alabama-Tennessee and Ole Miss-Arkansas.

Me and Paul will be having near and dear Bama friends over for for the occasion. I look forward to a great day and night of football, food, and music. An adult beverage or two might be consumed as well.

Birthdays today include Eleanor Roosevelt, Daryl Hall, Luke Perry, Elmore Leonard (speaking of great crime-mystery writers), and rapper U-God of Wu Tang Clan.

Yes, I have been to a Wu Tang Clan concert. They opened for Rage Against The Machine. How did I find myself at this event you might ask. It was 1997 and I took my son, Luke, to what was then Lakewood Amphitheater. It was an experience to be sure. People running around bumping into one another, et cetera. Old Dirty Bastard and all.

RIP ODB.

I was just scanning my Apple Music recommendations for today and under ‘Albums’ spotted one by UB 40.

UB 40 covered my favorite Neil Diamond song which is Red, Red Wine. UB 40’s cut was, of course, done in reggae style.

Another aside involving Luke. I was driving him to school at Lee-Scott Academy in Auburn back in 1989. I was then the retail store manager for Tiger Rags (shout out to Don, Charlie, and Jerry!). We were listening to a Columbus pop/rock station and they played the UB 40 cover of Red, Red Wine. The DJ followed the song with non-sensical lyrics of his own. “Red, red wine I can see your fanny. Red, red wine you got a hole in you panty.”

It’s all about those moments. Ain’t it?

Speaking of moments, I had one that knocked me for a loop back on September 15th. I had a bout of Transient Global Amnesia or, duh, TGA. Click the link and check it out.

It was scary. And I can’t imagine how awful it was for Melodye. I didn’t know what day it was or who the president was. I didn’t remember Auburn was playing Texas A&M in two days.

Mel had me on the phone and I asked her, “Paul, what is all this A&M stuff doing on the table? Are we playing football?” (I keep programs, cups, and paraphernalia from the coming Saturday’s opponent on the kitchen table the week of that game.)

She knew, then, we were in big trouble. It seemed so but all’s well that ends well. TGA is, essentially, harmless. ‘Twas NO fun though.

And thanks again for your thoughts and prayers. Your calls, texts, and well wishes.

Back in the saddle with ‘Ramblins’ again! It’s been far too long.

Ok! Apple Music now twangin’ out a ‘My Favorites Mix’ that they rustled up for me. All country. The last two songs were Hag’s ‘Somewhere Between’ and Conway’s ‘To See My Angel Cry’.

Now? Kristofferson’s ‘Why Me Lord’. That’s a great “hymn.”

Wow! How poignant!

“Why me Lord, what have I ever done
To deserve even one
Of the pleasures I’ve known
Tell me Lord, what did I ever do
That was worth loving you
Or the kindness you’ve shown.
Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
Now that I know that I’ve need you so
Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.
Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way
I can try to repay
All I’ve taken from you
Maybe Lord, I can show someone else
What I’ve been through myself
On my way back to you.
Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
Help me Jesus I know what I am
Now that I know that I’ve need you so
Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.”
Amen.
(Photo me & Paul with our Bama friends, Terry and Lyndie Sims)