Auburn Road Trips, Part Two- Baton Rouge

I promised back in March to deliver another road trip adventure. Here she is, folks! We go back to the 1997 season when the Auburn Tigers journeyed deep into Bayou Country for a very important conference game with the LSU Tigers. Auburn stood at 2-0 with victories over Virginia, in Charlottesville, and Ole Miss, at home. The Bayou Bengals were also 2-0. Their wins came in Tiger Stadium versus UTEP and in Starkville against Mississippi State. Both teams were ranked. Auburn was No. 12 and LSU No. 10.

My son, Luke, and I hit the trail on Friday, September 19 for the Saturday game down in Louisiana. The trip would take us from Atlanta, down I-85, eventually hitting I-65 in Montgomery, AL and on to Pascagoula, MS for the the evening. We stayed at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott there on the Gulf Coast, but not before stuffing ourselves on a buffet at a nearby casino and losing a couple of rolls of quarters. We were hoping that was not a portent of things to come. After watching some Mr. Show, with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, we hit the hay.

A bright, hot and humid Saturday morning greeted us for the remainder of the drive to the Red Stick. Our entire family had made the trek in 1988 only to see our Tigers’ national championship hopes derailed, 7-6, in what is now infamously known as the “Earthquake Game.” Luke and I also attended the 1995 game at Tiger Stadium. LSU, 12-6.

We were hungry for a road win over the other Tigers, to say the least.

We checked into the Courtyard by Marriott, rewards points are nice, and went to get some lunch at a famous place, now closed, that served up some mighty fine po’ boys. We were the only patrons representing the visiting team in that eatery, and we did not get hassled either. We were ahead of the game!

Then it was time to circle back by the hotel and check on the Bama-Arkansas game which the Hawgs won, 17-16. That was an excellent choice of scores. For the uninformed, Auburn stunned no.2 Alabama by the same score in the epic “Punt, Bama, Punt” game in 1972.

Now it’s off to the lovely campus of Louisiana State University for a night game. Shudder!

We found a good tailgating spot which was not terribly far from Tiger Stadium. We were plenty early to take time and roam around the venerable, but highly inhospitable, ole gal. On the way there, and back to our vehicle, various insults about our team and our garb, were hurled at us. Welcome to Baton Rouge.

In all fairness, we did receive some welcoming words from a group or two. Tailgating in the SEC is one of life’s great pleasures and they do it very well at LSU. The boiling pots of crawfish, jambalaya and other Cajun creations is a sight to behold and smell. Yaaaaay Heeee!

Before long, though, we had to scurry back to the ’93 blue Saturn sedan for a couple of rounds of courage and the walk to the game. This is a time when your anticipation, and anxiety, is completely off the charts and your heart is beating like a rabbit’s. The excitement is at a fever pitch!

Now, let me emphatically say this. There is nothing like a night game in Baton Rouge at Tiger Stadium. Nothing! If you are a college football fan, and have a bucket list, put this at, or near, the top of it. Now! Get your pen, or pencil, and paper. Write it down. Now!

Luke and I squeezed through the crushing crowd at our gate which lead us through a portal and into a lower seating section of the south end zone.

Buckle your seat belts! Here we go!

The visiting Tigers came out on fire. They scored first on a 26 yard-pass from Dameyune Craig to fullback Fred Beasley. Craig, oddly enough, recently departed his position as wide receivers coach at Auburn to take an assistant coach position at LSU. Hicks Poor hauled in a 25-yard TD pass from Craig to go up 14-0 with 7:28 still remaining in the opening stanza. Wow!

LSU struck back on three-yard run by Cecil “The Diesel” Collins to cut the margin to seven. Collins ran over, around, and through the Auburn defense that night for 232 yards on 27 carries. Day-um!

At halftime the score was locked at 21. It appeared that Auburn could not stop Collins and that could, very well, spell their demise in the last quarter as he would continue to pound that defense.

At halftime we happened upon some old friends of mine from down in Lower Alabama and my hometown of Camden. We so enjoyed meeting again but soon it was time to get the second half underway and break the deadlock.

The only score in the third quarter was a 34-yard field goal by Auburn’s Jaret Holmes. The score stood 24-21, Auburn, as quarter four got underway.

Cecil Collins continued his land assault on Auburn’s D and Dameyune Craig did likewise, through the air, to LSU. Collins broke off on a 42-yard scamper, early in the final quarter, to give the hometown Tigers a 28-24 lead.

Both defenses held their ground and neither allowed a score for 12 or 13 minutes. The drama was as thick as the humidity enveloping Tiger Stadium. LSU was forced to punt with about three minutes left in the game. Auburn took the ball deep in its own territory. Luke buried his head in his hands and said he couldn’t watch as the East Alabama Felines would get one more crack at the, now formidable, LSU defense.

Ten Auburn players stood ready for huddle as Craig got his last second instructions from head coach Terry Bowden. Craig then began a gallop to his awaiting band of brothers. I told Luke that our Tigers were going to win and asked that he look up as I pointed to Craig and boldly stated, “And there is the reason why.”

The noise in Death Valley rose to a crescendo and was, literally, deafening. You could not even carry on a conversation amongst the roar in that bowl. Auburn began a march toward us and the south end zone. One first down, then another, and another as the clock ticked, ticked, ticked away and Auburn made its way deep into LSU territory.

There were now 46 seconds on the Tiger Stadium clock and Auburn found itself at the LSU one-yard line.

Timeout.

As Craig, again, jogs onto the field, the 80,538 fans assembled in this hallowed venue create an ear-shattering twelfth man. One inhales and the smell of bourbon opens the nasal passages.

Auburn comes to the line of scrimmage. Craig makes every effort to communicate with his troops as he barks up and down the line-of-scrimmage. It seems as though we can reach out and touch the 22 Tigers there before us. Craig takes the snap. The visitors offensive front, pads low, makes a huge surge forward. A hole, that I could run through, opens on the right side of Auburn’s line, and tailback Rusty Williams rumbles through it and falls into the purple and gold of LSU’s end zone with 30 ticks remaining on the clock.

There is a moment of stunned silence as the LSU Tiger faithful sit in disbelief.

The Auburn band plays “War Eagle” over and over.

Shortly, the game itself is over.

Auburn 31, LSU 28.

The two teams of Tigers, ultimately, tie for the SEC West title and Auburn goes on to play the Peyton Manning-led Tennessee Volunteers for the SEC Championship.

Football on Saturday night. Church on Sunday morning.

Life in the Deep South.

Y’all come!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

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SEC Football: Yesterday and Today

Last week I introduced myself to you as your SEC blogger for Campus Pressbox. I know that was exciting. Try to contain yourself. We’re only in week two and I don’t want you to peak even before all of the spring football games have been played. I’m not going to rehash any of those drama-filled debacles for you in this space, that is unless you need a good sleep aid. Just turn on the SEC Network, record one of those barn burners and play it near your bedtime. The sandman will be pounding you into submission before the first quarter has come to completion. A good night’s rest is very important.

We now move on to a short history lesson. Where else can one get all of this, and more, in a thousand words or less? Exactly!

Follow me deep into the bowels of the Library of… Ok, nooooo, just into that bastion of academia, Wikipedia.

“The SEC was established on December 8 and 9, 1932, when the thirteen members of the Southern Conference located west and south of the Appalachian Mountains left to form their own conference. Ten of the thirteen founding members have remained in the conference since its inception: the University of Alabama, Auburn University, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, the University of Kentucky, Louisiana State University (“LSU”), the University of Mississippi (“Ole Miss”), Mississippi State University, the University of Tennessee, and Vanderbilt University.

The other charter members were:

The University of the South (“Sewanee”) left the SEC on December 13, 1940, and later de-emphasized varsity sports. It is currently a member of the Division III Southern Athletic Association.
Georgia Institute of Technology (“Georgia Tech”) left the SEC in 1964. In 1975, it became a founding member of the Metro Conference, one of the predecessors to today’s Conference USA. Georgia Tech competed in the Metro Conference in all sports except football, in which it was independent (the Metro did not sponsor football). In 1978, Georgia Tech joined another Southern Conference offshoot, the Atlantic Coast Conference, for all sports, where it has remained ever since.

Tulane University left the SEC in 1966. Along with Georgia Tech, it was a charter member of the Metro Conference. Unlike Tech, however, Tulane remained in the Metro Conference until it merged with the Great Midwest Conference in 1995 to form Conference USA. Tulane remained an independent in football until C-USA began football competition in 1996. Tulane left C-USA in 2014 for the American Athletic Conference.”

“Sewanee! How I love you! How I love you! My dear old Sewanee!!!” I do Al Jolson too! And hey, folks, it’s free!

Did I hear a cackle? Harrumph! “I didn’t get a harrumph out of you!” $1 to Blazing Saddles.

In 1899 Sewanee recorded a sterling record of 12-0. Not only that, but they outscored their opponents 322-10! The lone team to score on them was Auburn, War Damn Eagle!, with John Heisman at the helm.

The “Iron Men”, as Sewanee was affectionately known back then, dominated Southern Conference football.

There’s more! The “Iron Men” won five road games in six days that season!!!

Now, speaking of former SEC teams, how many of you knew that Georgia Tech and Tulane used to play in the SEC? And how well have these teams done since their departure? MmmmHmmm.

How many of you know that Missouri is in the SEC? Don’t snicker! When was the last time Georgia won the Easy and played in two consecutive SEC Championship Games?

I do soooo love having a third team of Tigers in the conference, but I also seem to often come up with thirteen when counting up the total number of SEC squads; or I come up short of seven teams when counting the Easy. (Dang! I keep hitting the “y” key instead of the “t” key when referring to the “other” division in the SEC.)

I thought I heard groans from fans of the teams in said Easy. Alrighty then! When was the last time a non-West division team won an SEC Championship Game? I can hear Jim Morrison even now, “The west is the best.” Name that song!

OK! OK!, in the spirit of fairness, when was the last time Ole Miss won the West?

When was the last time Mississippi State won the SEC?

When was the last time Arkansas won the SEC?

(Now don’t forget! We’re talking football here. God bless the non-revenue sports. I’ll say ten ‘Hail Marys’ and ten ‘Our Fathers’. Wink wink. I’m not Catholic, but I did date one once.)

Aggies, you get a mulligan.

Vanderbilt and Kentucky, your baseball and basketball teams get you a mulligan. You may pass ‘Go’ and collect your bowl money, and it’s a helluva lot more than $200.

Well, that’s all we have time for, today, boys and girls! Say your prayers and eat your vegetables. And whatever you do, join us here, again, next week. Same Bat Time! Same Bat Channel!

Adios!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

SEC Football Previews and Picks

Hello, I’m Bird and I’ll be your SEC Blogger! I really hate it when servers greet you that way at a restaurant. So why not begin this, new, weekly column in such a manner? Does that make sense? No, but neither does picking SEC football at this juncture. Being that this is my initial SEC blog, I thought I would divulge my spring divisional picks and crown a winner of the SEC Championship Game. I will also take a look at the most intriguing intersectional match-ups involving teams in the Southeastern Conference for the 2016 season. I love predictions and speculation on what lies ahead for us college football fanatics.

So here we go! Mind you, this is only April and the landscape can change, sometimes dramatically, by September. We will take another look at it when the season draws much closer and freshmen arrive on campus. Injuries, suspensions, and unforeseen events can also alter our perceptions over the next five months.

East

Tennessee (No surprise here. Most forecasters will probably lean in this direction.)
Georgia (I’m basing this on the winner of the World’s Largest…, no we can’t say that. Ok, the Jacksonville Drunk Fest).
Florida (Will lose to both the Vols and Dawgs and they need a quarterback.)
Missouri (A very good defense, per usual, and new head Coach, Barry Odom, will pull an upset or two out of his pocket.)
Kentucky (The Wildcats continue to improve and will make a bowl.)
Vanderbilt (Derek Mason will also see improvement in the monumental task he finds himself in.)
South Carolina (Will Muschamp wasn’t very good at Florida or Auburn and will not be at USC East either.)
West

Alabama (Sigh. As long as Nick Saban is at the helm in Tuscaloosa, it’s foolish to call it any other way.)
Ole Miss (Hugh Freeze is doing a remarkable job in Oxford. Two-in-a-row against Saban. Also remarkable. Chad Kelly returns.)
LSU ( Leave Les alone! He’s 112 and 32!!!)
Auburn (The Tigers will be much improved but I don’t know how this will reflect in their overall record. They absolutely must find a quarterback.)
Arkansas (Bret Bielema fields another good team but the loss of Brandon Allen, Alex Collins and others will hurt.)
Texas A&M (The turmoil in College Station mounts.)
Mississippi State (Dak Prescott is long gone. Dan Mullen has built the Bulldogs into a good program but they’re in the SEC West.)
Who will win the SEC Championship Game on December 3? The University of Tennessee will upset the University of Alabama… in Knoxville on what actually will be the Third Saturday in October in 2016. The Crimson Tide will defeat the Vols in the Georgia Dome to, once again, capture the SEC crown.

And now, the intersectional match-ups:

Alabama vs. USC West (Sept. 3)
This one has fans all over the country chomping-at-the-bit for some foot-damn-ball and the Lane Kiffin storyline makes it even more compelling. It will be played in Jerry World. Does Bama play a game there every season, or is it just me?

Auburn vs. Clemson (Sept. 3)
An enormous opportunity for Gus Malzahn’s felines to take a quantum leap in the eyes of the football world with what is, possibly, the number one team in the country coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium.

Georgia vs. North Carolina (Sept. 3)
Larry Fedora had this thing rolling until undermanned Baylor rushed for a new bowl record of 645 yards in the Russell Athletic tilt. The Bears won 49-38 but it wasn’t that close. This is the Chick-fil-a Kickoff Game in Hotlanta.

LSU vs. Wisconsin (Sept. 3)
From Lambeau Field in Green Bay! How much fun will that be? Should be a donnybrook! You need this, Les. The critics could be howling if you lose. But it’s not a conference game.

Missouri vs. West Virginia (Sept. 3)
In Morgantown. Great chance for Odom to get some positive press and whet the appetite of the Tiger faithful.

Texas A&M vs. UCLA (Sept. 3)
Jim Mora, Jr. brings his Bruins into College Station. Kevin Sumlin could, at least temporarily, quell the storm in Aggieland with a victory.

Ole Miss vs. Florida State (Sept. 5)
The Labor Day special. A huge game with far-reaching national implications and two highly-ranked teams. It will be played in Orlando. I smell a wide-open affair.

Arkansas vs. TCU (Sept. 10)
The Hawgs will be traveling to Ft. Worth for a monster showdown in Cowtown. They will win their opener, the previous week, against LA Tech. This one will be just a bit more demanding. It’s hard to see them coming away with a win.

Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 10)
At the Bristol Motor Speedway in the tri-city area of Eastern Tennessee. The place holds 160,000. It will be strange to not see Frank Beamer patrolling the sideline of the Hokies. Maybe Butch Jones can get people’s minds off the off-the-field issues surrounding the program.

Vanderbilt vs. Georgia Tech (Sept. 17)
The Dores will make the trip to Atlanta in a game both schools have to think they can win. This could result in a very good ball game.

Mississippi State vs. Brigham Young (Oct. 15)
The Bulldogs travel to Provo, Utah for a mid-season clash with the Cougars. They play Auburn the prior week in StarkVegas and could be beat up both physically and emotionally.

Now I’ve gotten myself revved up for some SEC Football! Hey, it’s only 150 days until Vanderbilt and South Carolina tee it up in Nashville!

E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter @Autull.

Rainy Days And Mondays

I got nothing. How many people have ever sat down, put their hands on a keyboard and come up with that? Countless? Usually I have an inspiration. Sometimes I just sit down and begin to write, and it comes.

So here we go…

It’s dreary outside. Been raining since yesterday. Gray. Supposed to quit soon if it hasn’t already. I think of the Carpenters song ‘Rainly Days and Mondays’,  which was written by the great Paul Williams, BTW. If you are not familiar with Paul, then “Google” him up. He has been overlooked and underrated.

Paul also wrote ‘I Won’t Last A Day Without You’, ‘An Old Fashioned Love Song’, ‘Rainbow Connection’, ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’, ‘You And Me Against The World’, ‘Let Me Be The One’ and ‘Evergreen’, among many MANY others.

I remember watching Paul on The Tonight Show, many times, back in the 70’s. I particularly remember him singing ‘Isn’t That What friends Are For’ on one, or more, of the shows with Johnny.

Here he is at the Bluebird Cafe, in Nashville, back in 2012…

Melodye wanted ‘We’ve Only Just Begun’ sang at our wedding. I nixed it as she did ‘War Eagle’  as the processional. I wish both of these had been used back on that sultry summer day in 1977.

The song(s) are great descriptors of our life together. I thought it wasn’t “cool” enough to use a Carpenters song. Really? How short sided we can be in our youth. In old age too, if we don’t watch it.

Live and learn. And, hopefully, change. If one is resistant to change then “one” will be a dull/embittered boy or girl, indeed.

We don’t have to change for ‘change sake’ but we must be open to “sharing horizons that are new to us” and embracing them, often for the better.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Rainy Days and Mondays

“Talkin’ to myself and feelin’ old
Sometimes I’d like to quit, nothin’ ever seems to fit
Hangin’ around, nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

What I’ve got they used to call the blues
Nothin’ is really wrong, feelin’ like I don’t belong
Walkin’ around, some kind of lonely clown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems I always wind up here with you
Nice to know somebody loves me
Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
Run and find the one who loves me
(The one who loves me)

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
(Talk it out)
We know what it’s all about
Hangin’ around
(Hangin’ around)
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Funny, but it seems that it’s the only thing to do
(Only thing to do)
Run and find the one who loves me

What I feel has come and gone before
No need to talk it out
(Talk it out)
We know what it’s all about
Hangin’ around
(Hangin’ around)
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down

Hangin’ around
(Hangin’ around)
Nothin’ to do but frown
Rainy days and Mondays always get me down.”

And so, it’s come down to ‘rain’ songs, huh? OK!

Rain – The Beatles, Rain – Uriah Heep; Feels Like Rain – Buddy Guy; Drivin’ Rain – Gov’t Mule; Rainy Night In Georgia (covered, famously, by Brook Benton but written by Tony Joe White, who writes his best songs while driving to Arkansas, $1 to Tom Kimmel); I Love A Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbit; Who’ll Stop The Rain – CCR; Have You Ever Seen The Rain – CCR; Raindrops Keep falling On My Head – BJ Thomas (written by Bert Bacharach and Hal David); Purple Rain – Prince.

Got any more? Feedback always welcome at birdlecroy.com, my FB page, or @autull on Twitter.

Have you ever read a blog so bereft of quality? But it’s free folks. We’re doin’ this for tips. And speaking of tips, be generous to your waitresses. They work very hard to make sure you have a drink in front of you. Thank you! We’ll be here all week at the Lizard Lounge! Drive safely! We love you!

Summer Shower – Poem by Emily Dickinson

A drop fell on the apple tree,
Another on the roof;
A half a dozen kissed the eaves,
And made the gables laugh.

A few went out to help the brook,
That went to help the sea.
Myself conjectured, Were they pearls,
What necklaces could be!

The dust replaced in hoisted roads,
The birds jocoser sung;
The sunshine threw his hat away,
The orchards spangles hung.

The breezes brought dejected lutes,
And bathed them in the glee;
The East put out a single flag,
And signed the fete away.