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An Iron Bowl for the Ages!

Nix to Sanders in the Iron Bowl!
Auburn has had unlikely wins before...


     War Eagle, everybody! Iron Bowl week hums merrily along, and everyone's getting fired up for the big game! Auburn faces a well-documented uphill battle in this year's game, but that's nothing new for first year Auburn coaches. Today, we'll take a look back at another Iron Bowl at Jordan Hare Stadium featuring a first year coach. In 1993, Auburn faced the defending consensus national champion Alabama Crimson Tide with an undefeated season on the line. The game was not on television due to Auburn's probation. Alabama had erected a giant closed-circuit TV screen in Bryant Denny Stadium, and had filled the stands. This would be the only game in state history that had sold out TWO stadiums!


     Prior to the start of the 1993 season, you'd have been hard-pressed to find many people who thought Auburn had a shot at a winning record. There were too many holes, not enough depth, and no proven play makers. Somehow, Auburn had won 'em all coming into this Iron Bowl. Even as late as a week prior, the experts did not believe in this team. Oddsmakers had made Auburn an underdog going to Athens to play a 4-5 Georgia team. Auburn had powered to a 42-28 win over the Bulldogs. Few folks thought that Auburn would score at will on Alabama. The Tide defense was studded with all-stars, including Antonio Langham and Lemanski Hall. Bama was second in the league in total defense, and 4th nationally.


     The Auburn defense would face a tall order, too. Bama had proven quarterback Jay Barker, elusive running backs Sherman Williams and Chris Anderson, a speedy wide receiver in Kevin Lee, and all purpose offensive dynamo David Palmer. Bama had suffered an injury-marred season, but everyone who could tape up and run was playing in this Iron Bowl for the Crimson Tide!


Game recap, after the jump!



     It was a cool day in the upper 50s when the teams took the field. A brisk north wind blew, and Auburn won the toss. The Tigers deferred to the second half, and 5th year senior walk-on kicker Brian Karkoska booted the ball deep, and David Palmer returned it for the Tide to the 23 yard line. The Auburn D forced a three and out, then after a punt, the Tide defense returned the favor. Auburn forced the Tide to go three and out again, then Auburn went on a time-consuming, hard-fought drive.


     Auburn staved off 3rd and long with a gutty 15 yard Stan White toss to fullback Tony Richardson. Then, on 3rd and five and a half, the 5th year senior White got the ball to the other fullback, senior Reid McMilion for six. The drive stalled after that, and senior kicker Scott Etheridge came in for a 52 yard field goal attempt. Etheridge had missed his only other career attempt from this distance, and this kick was knocked down short by the wind. A yellow flag gave the Tigers new life. Alabama was penalized 15 yards for having too many men on the field! Auburn kept grinding out first downs with the tenacious running of junior All-SEC tailback James Bostic, and reached the Tide six yard line. The Tide defense rose up, and Auburn was forced to settle for a short Etheridge field goal. Auburn led 3-0 near the end of the first quarter, and the drive had eaten 7:19 off the clock!


     Alabama and Auburn again traded punts, but Auburn increased the time of possession advantage by eeking out a couple of first downs. Auburn's Terry Daniel punted one short, and Bama had decent field position at their own 29. This Tide drive didn't last long, either. On 2nd and 1, Bama receiver Kevin Lee took an end around untouched through the Auburn secondary for a 62 yard touchdown. Michael Proctor booted the Tide PAT through, and Alabama led 7-3 with 10:00 left in the first half.


     Auburn again managed to run the clock, and knock out a couple of first downs. From midfield, junior All-American punter Terry Daniel killed one on the Bama 6 yard line! Two plays later, Bama's Jay Barker dropped back into the endzone to throw, and was tripped up by sophomore defensive end Andre Miller for an Auburn safety! With 6:52 left in the half, Auburn had trimmed the Bama lead to 7-5.


     The teams traded punts again, and it looked like the half would end at 7-5. The Tide got the ball at their own 47 with under two minutes left in the half, and it only took them to plays to increase their lead. Barker connected on the post pattern to Kevin Lee for 34 to the Auburn 19. On the next play, Chris Anderson took the pitch on a short side sweep, snaked through the Auburn defense, and tightroped the sideline for a 19 yard Bama score. Michael Proctor added the extra point, and just like that, Alabama led 14-5 with 1:08 left in the half.


     Auburn could do nothing in the remaining minute of the half, and went to the locker room trailing the Crimson Tide 14-5. Auburn's offense had kept the ball for 21 of the first 30 minutes, dominating in time of possession, but Tigers trailed by nine. The Auburn offensive juggernaut of the past month had been effectively halted by the stout Alabama defense.


     Auburn took the second half kickoff, and was completely stoned on offense. The Tide took over, and drove into Tiger territory, looking to salt the game away early. A key sack of Bama quarterback Jay Barker, and a holding penalty stopped the Tide threat, and forced a punt. Pinned deep, Auburn again could do nothing. After another Daniel boot, Bama was again in Tiger territory threatening. The Tide drive stalled again, under the weight of mounting penalties. In the game, Alabama would total 12 penalties for 117 yards, killing Tide opportunities.


     With the clock under 7 minutes in the third quarter, quarterback Stan White took matters into his own hands. On a crucial third and 9, White scrambled for 11 and a first down. A 16-yard strike into tight coverage to Frank Sanders set Auburn up at the Bama 30 yard line! Alas, the Tide defense flexed its muscle again. Auburn faced 3rd and 9 at the Bama 29, and White dropped to throw. The middle of the pocket collapsed, and Bama tackle Jeremy Nunnely slammed White to the turf for a 6 yard sack. White would not get up, suffering a blown-out knee for the second Iron Bowl in a row.


     With six and a half minutes left in the third quarter, and the starting quarterback out for the rest of the game, Auburn coach Terry Bowden faced a decision. A pooch punt could be tried, or another 52 yard field goal against the wind. Bowden opted for neither. Backup quarterback Patrick Nix did not warm up. He barely had time to find his helmet, and went out for the 4th down play. Auburn was going for it! Alabama defensive coordinator Bill Oliver was known as one of the best in the game, but he seriously messed up on this particular play. Oliver called for an all-out blitz, with man coverage on Auburn's two wide receivers. To make matters worse, All American corner Antonio Langham was paired with Auburn's Thomas Bailey, and not the Tiger go-to guy, Frank Sanders. Auburn went with a max-protect shotgun formation. Both backs and the tight end stayed in to block. The Bama blitz was blunted, and Nix heaved it to Sanders, who was well covered by Tide defender Tommy Johnson. Sanders posted up at the three, jumped, and snagged it. Frank then turned and dived into the endzone over Johnson, for the Auburn touchdown! Bedlam ensued. A quiet crowd erupted with a thunderous ovation! Scott Etheridge kicked the PAT through, and with 6:09 left in the third quarter, Auburn trailed Alabama 14-12.


     Bama needed a drive to halt the Auburn momentum and rest their wounded defense, but Auburn was having none of it. Pressure on Jay Barker by Gary Walker and Jason Miska forced the Bama junior to chunk one up for grabs, and Auburn safety Brian Robinson came down with the ball!


     The Tiger offense went to work on the ground, chewing up 51 yards, and eating 5:28 off the clock. The Tide defense did make a stand, and held Auburn to a field goal attempt. Scott Etheridge's kick was true from 26 yards out, and with 14:14 left in the 4th quarter, Auburn had taken the lead, 15-14!


     Alabama decided to get physical after a Brian Karkoska touchback kick. Three straight handoffs to Sherman Williams brought up 4th and 1 for the Tide, at their own 29. The Tide went for it, handing off to fullback Tarrant Lynch from a split backfield. Auburn's front seven just BLEW UP the Tide front, and Lynch was spilled for a loss of a yard!


     Taking over on the Tide 28, Auburn ground 3 plays for a first down. Three more runs produced a first and goal. Desperately, the tired Tide defense dug in, finally forcing a 4th and goal from the 1 yard line. Auburn sent in Scott Etheridge again. A low snap was bobbled by holder Shawn Carder. Carder scooped up the loose ball, and angled for the pylon. Bama outran Carder, and stopped him for no gain. Bama took over at their own one yard line, with Auburn clinging to a 15-14 lead.


     A first down Tide run went nowhere. On 2nd down, Barker was scrambling from the Auburn pressure, and threw up a wounded duck. SOMEHOW, the fluttering ball went right to Tide receiver David Palmer, who was lying flat on his back at the 24. Palmer made the huge grab to give the Tide a first down. The clock was becoming a factor, and Jay Barker dropped to throw on first down, picking up a pass interference flag on Auburn and a new set of downs at the Tide 30. Three more futile plays brought up 4th and 10. With the clock now under two and a half minutes, and Auburn's offense chewing up first downs, Bama's Gene Stallings and offensive coordinator Mal Moore were afraid that they would not get the ball back. A 4th down pass was dialed up. Bama managed to isolate speedy receiver Toderick Malone on Auburn nickel back Dell McGee, exactly like Moore drew it up. Barker let fly with the ball on the corner route, but McGee played it perfectly. On 4th down, it might have been better to swat the ball down and give the Tigers great field position at the Tide 30, but McGee was taking no chances. Dell McGee pulled it in and went to the turf, securing possession for the Tigers at the Auburn 30! The Tigers had only to run the last 2:30 off the clock!


     Alabama set up in a goal line defense, determined to stop the Tiger running game, call timeouts, and get the ball back. On first down, Auburn ran a counter over left guard Jason Taylor. The line blew out a HUGE hole, and James Bostic was trucking into the Tide secondary! Wide receiver Frank Sanders peeled over and LEVELED a Tide defender. Bostic crashed through two would-be tacklers, and set sail for the end zone! Bama's Tommy Johnson caught Bostic inside the five, but it was way too late. Bostic rumbled for paydirt, and Auburn had stuck a 70-yard dagger into the Tide! Scott Etheridge added the PAT, and Auburn's lead was now 8. With 2:19 left in the game, Auburn had a 22-14 lead!


     Jay Barker tried to lead a Tide comeback, but Auburn pass rushers were swarming in the Tide backfield. Barker went down with a knee injury, and Tide backup Brian Burgdorf came in. Burgdorf would lead the Crimson Tide down to the Auburn 41, but Auburn hurled Bama back. Burgdorf's last gasp 4th down pass was knocked down with 21 seconds left in the game, and Auburn took over.


     Patrick Nix took a knee, and the crowd counted it down! Auburn defeated defending national champion Alabama, 22-14! The Tigers were, in the immortal words of the late Jim Fyffe, "11-0! 11-0! ELEVEN and OH!"