Iron Bowl Musings: The Auburn-Alabama Game

Here are some random thoughts and memories on the “Auburn-Alabama” game from my vantage point.

There’s nothing like the first time. You’ve often heard that phrase, I’m sure. But it does ring true. Thanksgiving Day 1964. Me and my daddy, my brother, Jerry, and my cousin, Richard in our 1963 Plymouth Fury headed for Legion Field. I doubt I slept that week. We stopped at the Twix and Tween BBQ joint, in Centreville, on the way to Birmingham.

It was the first season of the new upper deck on the east side of the stadium. Daddy and Jerry sat there. Richard and I sat in the north end zone. Alabama scored its first touchdown on a high punt snap in that end zone, right in front of us. David Ray missed the extra point. Tucker Frederickson went over the top for the only other TD of the first half. The extra point was good. AU 7-6 at the half.

Unfortunately Ray Ogden ran the opening kickoff of the second half 107 yards for a score. He came out of “our” end zone and took it southward. Bama converted the two point attempt. 14-7, Tide.

Later in the half, Joe Namath hit Ray Perkins, in stride, and he went untouched into “our” end zone. Alabama led 21-7. Auburn scored late in the game on a pass form Tom Bryan to Jimmy Sidle as he was playing wingback due to an injury on his throwing shoulder. 21-14 was the final score as the tigers failed to recover the onside kick.

I went down to the field, as was the custom of many a young boy in those days. It was allowed. But, at Legion Field, we were only allowed to encircle the fence. I waited at the gate where my beloved Tigers exited the field to their dressing room under the north end zone stands. I patted Frederickson as he strode through the gate with a somber look on his face. “Good game, Tucker!”, I told him. He looked at me and smiled.

I will never forget that day, nor any of the other Iron Bowl Saturdays I’ve experienced.

I have attended 41 Auburn-Alabama games over the years. My record is 19 wins and 22 losses. We will continue to gain in the win column as we don’t go to T-Town any longer. The last one was in ’08 and it was a nightmare. A 36-0 rout that broke Auburn’s 6 game winning streak. Just games at Jordan-Hare now. We hope to break even anywhere from 5 to 10 years from now. “Keep on the sunny side…”

Now that I think of it, we haven’t seen Auburn lose one, in person, since 2011. Another debacle. 42-14. We did not attend the 2015 game, in Auburn, which Alabama also won, 29-13.

The most memorable game in Iron Bowl history? That depends on which team you pull for. There are a long line of highly memorable games in which Auburn was the victor. There was “Punt, Bama, Punt” in ’72. “Bo over the top” in ’82. “Reverse to victory” in ’86. “11-0, Nix to Sanders” in ’93. The “Kick Six” in 2017 and last year’s 48-45 heart stopper.

But THE most memorable one, IMHO, was the first time Alabama played in Jordan-Hare in 1989. There has never been one like it, before or since, and I don’t know think any college football game EVER has seen such an electric atmosphere. Incredible. Monumental. Astounding. Choose any superlative you like. Nothings compares. The Tiger Walk? Merciful Lord! Grown men crying. Players hyperventilating. And Coach Dye’s pregame speech which I’ve heard about. Bill Curry was confident Alabama was going to win. it was 10-0 and ranked number two in the country. I don’t give a hoot if it had been 20-0 and beaten every opponent by no less than 28 points per game, NOBODY was going to beat Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium on December 2, 1989. It was not going to happen, I knew it as well as I knew my name. 30-20, and it wasn’t as close as the score indicated. I never thought I’d see the day, but danged if it didn’t happen. And both sides can thank Pat Dye for that. It was one of the best things ever to happen in the series, moving the game to each team’s campus. There were some great memories made at Legion Field, but it was no neutral site and the the only thing that made the atmosphere as good as it was, was the 50/50 ticket split. That was an awesome sight seeing half the stadium in burnt orange and navy blue and half in crimson and white. And the pom poms just a shakin’!

Now, we have to get this thing back around to 2020. It is truly strange this year. Auburn will play three more games, hopefully, after the Iron Bowl. Alabama could very well play more than that.

Nick Saban will not be on the sideline. He will be watching from his living room. Say what? NO communication with his team or coaches, per the rules. Oh well. I will miss seeing him on the sidelines and I love it when he pitches a fit. But, “the hay is in the barn” and Coach Sark will lead them well, I have no doubt.

Auburn is “extremely excited” about this one, so I’ve heard. I think they are ready and the Crimson Tide will get our best shot. I do expect Auburn to try to run the football and control the clock on offense. It will have to take at least 4-6 deep shots. If Tank Bigsby is limited or out then that will really hurt Auburn. Shivers and D.J. Williams are good but Tank is special. Bo will have to be at the top of his game and get the ball in the hands of his best playmakers ( Seth and Schwartz and Stove. Pegues, Fraser and Shenker at tight end.)

Defense? Pray I guess. I’m glad I’m not Kevin Steele having to prepare for this onslaught. I am very happy Auburn has Kevin Steele, though. Three man rush with eight back? Timely blitzes? You can’t get caught on an island with that ultra-talented receiving corps. Even if Waddle is out, that is an enormously gifted bunch. Najee? watch out!

There are enough sources for you to read about strategy. The game line. Stats and facts. We shoot the breeze here on SEC football at Bird’s Banter.

And so, a pick. I almost always pick Auburn to win because I never expect it to lose. Bama is a 24 point favorite and rightly so. The game is a home game for them. They are undefeated and even if they lose this one, the SEC Championship game with Florida remains. Alabama will move the football and score some points. No way around that. Can Auburn keep up like it did last year? I don’t know. I do know it will have to have help on special teams and on defense. Like those two pick sixes last year. Or a blocked punt. Ya’ think?

What I do think is that this will be a very close game into the second half, hopefully the fourth quarter. If it is, then Auburn has a chance. The visitors will leave everything on the field. They will have nothing to be shamed of. But, Alabama has a better football team and will prevail and pull away a bit at the end. Alabama 38, Auburn 24.

“Leonardish” columns are put to bed now. COVID threw us off the beam for a couple of Saturdays. Mild cases, though, and for that we are ever so thankful. Just me and Mel on Thanksgiving Day as we had our family deal this past Sunday. Here’s hoping you and yours have a glorious Thanksgiving and a great Iron Bowl.

War Eagle or Roll Tide. Whichever way your bread is buttered.

And, stay safe out there and be sure to love your neighbor as yourself!

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