(Auburn mauls Alabama! Tommy Tuberville's Greatest Games!)
War Eagle, everybody! Time now, for another recap in the series of Tommy Tuberville's greatest games. And for this Tiger, this one is tops! In the stands at Jordan Hare Stadium, it was the highest point of Auburn football, in my life, in the first quarter. Us Auburn folk had made the hard journey through the wilderness, and now we were in the Promised Land. If there's such a thing as “football nirvana,” that was IT! Read on, remember, and enjoy the greatest game of Tommy Tuberville's Auburn career!
2005 was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Tigers, having had to replace four NFL first round draft picks, including all three starting offensive backfield members, who all were picked in the first round of the NFL draft. Despite the youth and inexperience, here the Tigers were, playing in the Iron Bowl for AT LEAST a share of the SEC West title. CBS picked up the Iron Bowl in 2005, a tilt featuring 8th ranked Alabama, and 11th ranked, defending SEC Champion Auburn.
2005 was the year that Bama was BACK! Under the leadership of senior quarterback Brodie Croyle, the Tide had started the season with nine straight victories. In their tenth game, the Tide had taken high-flying LSU to overtime, but lost on an overtime TD toss. Still, Alabama was playing for the Western Division Title. This edition of the Tide featured a NASTY defense, that had only given up 90 points in ten games. Joe Kines had built a terror of a unit, that had held Florida, LSU, and Tennessee to a COMBINED 16 regular-season points! On offense, the Tide relied on Croyle, and powerful runner Kenneth Darby.
The Auburn Tigers were coming off an emotional roller-coaster of a game with the Georgia Bulldogs, a game the Tigers won in the waning seconds, 31-30. Despite a season-opening 23-14 home loss to Georgia Tech, and an overtime loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, Auburn was very much still in the title hunt. The Tigers needed a win over the Tide, and an LSU loss to Ole Miss or Arkansas, to return to the SEC Championship Game.
November 19th, 2005 was a perfect fall football day, partly cloudy, and 60 degrees, with almost no breeze. Jordan Hare Stadium was packed, and a hostile crowd awaited the Tide. Auburn fans and players alike, were fired up. But I think no one could have anticipated the glory of the next quarter to follow!
Game recap, after the jump!
Auburn won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half. Matt Clark teed it up, and booted the opening kickoff to the goal line. The diminutive, speedy Brandon Brooks took the ball upfield, but was run out of bounds at the 17 yard line, by Montae Pitts. On the first play from scrimmage, Brodie Croyle dropped back to throw, and the pocket collapsed. Tackle Wayne Dickens got the sack, for a loss of seven yards! It was a nice start. On second and long, Bama dealt it off to Kenneth Darby, who burrowed for about 4 yards, with Dickens again in on the stop, after a gain of 4. On third and 13, Croyle again dropped to throw. Auburn ran a tackle-end twist, and Quentin Groves came free up the middle, burying Croyle for an 8 yard loss! On 4th and 21, Bama was in such disarray that the punt team took a delay of game penalty. Punting from near his own in-line, Jeremy Schatz popped up a wobbler, that Tre Smith fair-caught at the Bama 40. Auburn was in business, on Bama's side of the field!
On first down, Brandon Cox left it with Kenny Irons, who was stuffed by Freddie Roach after only a yard. Bama wasn't going to get run over, on the ground! On 2nd and 9, Cox dropped to throw, and immediately had DeMeco Ryans in his face. Cox, falling backwards, sidearmed the ball out in the flat, to fullback Jake Slaughter. Slaughter turned up the sideline, and picked up 14 yards to the Bama 25 yard line, for a first down! Auburn went back to the run, and Kenny Irons was nailed for a loss by Wallace Gilberry and Freddie Roach. On 2nd and 11, Cox dropped to throw, and dumped it off short to tight end Cooper Wallace. After releasing the ball, Cox took a forearm shiver to the back of the head, from Roman Harper. The officials saw it, and Bama took a roughing the passer flag. Auburn had a first down at the 11! Irons cracked off the left side, and was run out of bounds at the 7 by DeMeco Ryans. From there, Auburn went with the bunch-set right. Tre Smith snuck back across the formation, at the snap, and drifted out in the flat, drawing Bama defenders aplenty. Behind Smith, Ben Obomanu ran a flag route, and Brandon Cox lofted it over the defense, to Obomanu. Touchdown, Auburn! With John Vaughn's extra point, Auburn led, 7-0, with 10:05 left in the first quarter!
Matt Clark's second kickoff boomed nine yards deep in the end zone, and Bama was flagged for ripping Tony Bell's helmet off. The Tide would start at the 8 yard line. Kenneth Darby took it off right tackle, but was snowed under after only a yard gain. Next for the Tide was a slip-screen to Keith Brown, but David Irons took Brown's legs out from under him, as the ball got there, and the pass was incomplete. On 3rd and 9, a Croyle screen pass to Darby got absolutely nothing, run down by David Irons at the nine. Jeremy Schatz was back in to punt, and this one was shanked badly out of bounds, at the Bama 32, a 23-yard effort!
With great field position at the Tide 32, Auburn again tried the run. Irons snaked ahead for 2. Then Auburn went with the Ace formation, and Cox dropped to throw. Cox fired a bullet on the post, between 3 defenders, to Courtney Taylor, who dragged tacklers down to the Bama 8 yard line! Auburn brought motion back inside, to form a bunch set at the snap. A give on the counter play to Kenny Irons went right up the Bama gut, for a touchdown! The Tigers were up by double digits! John Vaughn kicked the point through, and Auburn led 14-0, with 7:24 left in the first quarter.
Matt Clark kicked off again, and this one was a high floater. Brandon Brooks took it at the one, and dodged tacklers out of the 20. Montae Pitts and Steve Gandy forced him out of bounds at the 25. It was the best Bama field position of the day, so far. Needing two touchdowns to tie, Bama dropped the snap, and was lucky to get it back for a five yard loss. Jordan Hare ROARED! On 2nd and 15, trying to beat a sure pass-rush, Bama went to the quick slant. It was Keith Brown on the route, off the weak side, against Antarrious Williams. Williams cracked down quickly, and raked it out, incomplete. It was 3rd and 15. Croyle dropped to throw again, and the rush came. Trying to spin out, Croyle was sacked again, this time by T. J. Jackson, with an assist from Quentin Groves, back at the Bama 12. On 4th and 23, Bama had to punt again. This time, Schatz got off a pretty good one, driving Tre Smith back to the Auburn 45, a punt of 43 yards, fair caught.
Auburn set up for the first time on their own side of the field, and Kenny Irons was on the bench. He had fumbled going into the end zone on Auburn's last possession. While the officials, after about a ten minute delay, had called it a touchdown, Eddie Gran did not tolerate loose balls in those days. In at tailback for this drive, was Tristan Davis. Predictably, Auburn passed on first down, a dump in the flat to tight end Cooper Wallace, who was forced out quickly, just across midfield. On second down, Davis got his first Iron Bowl carry on a draw, and was buried for a two yard loss by Chris Harris of the Tide. Auburn faced 3rd and 6, and send Ben Obomanu in motion out of the bunch set. Alabama ignored the motion, and Cox darted a quick strike to Obomanu, who had an easy first down at the Tide 45! Next, Cox faked up the middle, and gave it off to Obomanu on the end around. Fullback Jake Slaughter pancaked TWO Bama defenders, and Obomanu set sail back inside. With Marcus McNeil clearing out one Bama defender between the hashes, and Tristan Davis cleaning up near the goal line, Obomanu went 45 yards, untouched, for the touchdown! With John Vaughn's PAT, Auburn led by the shocking score of 21-0, with 4:01 STILL left in the first quarter!
The state of Jordan Hare Stadium at this point, was TOTAL delirium! Grown men cried. 87,000 lungs screamed in disbelief! Wives kissed their husbands. Lovers threw themselves together. The skeptics took another drink. Absolute Pandemonium reigned! This was THE moment every long-suffering Auburn fan had waited for! War Eagle! War Damn EAGLE! The hated TIDE was on pace, to lose 84-0! The Auburn nation had hiked to the mountain with Tommy Tuberville, and we were here at the summit, at last! 21-0 over Alabama, in the FIRST QUARTER! It was an absolutely unbelievable moment! Could it last?
Matt Clark did his part, nailing a high sailer of a kickoff, out of the end zone for another touchback. Bama started at the 20, backs against a wall. It was a Tide situation not felt since the Ears Whitworth days. Croyle dealt the ball off to Darby, Dickens and Travis Williams snowed it under for only a yard gain. Croyle would have to go to the air. Brodie dropped back again, under a weak-side blitz, and Croyle was banged down hard for a loss, by the blitzing Anterrious Williams! On 3rd and 16, an obviously shaken Croyle dropped back again, and this time, he was just looking for someplace to hide. Tommy Jackson and company smoked Croyle again, for a loss of 6. It was the 5th sack of the first quarter! Auburn would have a chance to add to the 21-0 lead! On 4th and 22 from the Bama 8, Jeremy Schatz popped one up, for 37 yards, and Tre Smith fell forward 4 yards to the Tide 41. With 2:22 left in the first quarter, Auburn was again in Bama-land, looking for more points! Auburn's drive would be short-lived. Cox popped out a quick out, to slot receiver Prechae Rodriguez. Bama closed, stood Rodriguez up, and stripped the ball out. Bama's Charlie Peprah recovered, at the Bama 37.
Knowing that they could not block the Auburn pass rush, the Tide handed off up the gut. Ken Darby picked up 3, then broke loose for 14, netting a first down, at the Auburn 46. On the last play of the first quarter, Croyle tried a screen outside to Darby, that picked up only a yard. That ended the first quarter, with Auburn leading Alabama 21-0!
All good things come to an end, of course. The teams switched ends, and it was like Bama brought in a group of NFL ringers, on the offensive line. On 2nd and 9, Ken Darby took it through a monster hole, through the heart of the Auburn defense, for 19 yards and a first down. Then, Croyle rifled a perfect slant pass to Keith Brown, who dropped it on the Jordan Hare grass. Not finished, Croyle found tight end Travis McCall wide open in the flat, and McCall took it through traffic down to the Auburn 7 yard line. Then, a power sweep to Darby took it down to the one. On second down, Bama got fancy, and tried to find Charles Hoke on the bootleg. Croyle was lucky to get the pass off, under a heavy rush. That brought up 3rd and goal at the 1. The Elephant package was in, and Tim Castille buffaloed into the end zone for the Tide touchdown. Jamie Christianson booted in the extra point, and with 13:33 left in the half, Bama had cut the deficit to 21-7.
Christianson kicked off high and short, to Devin Aromashodu at the 6, and Aromashodu took it to the 21. From there, Auburn set up in an anemic-looking double-bunch, and tossed a screen to Anthony Mix that lost a yard. No one was fooled. A zone-play to Kenny Irons got it to 3rd and 5. Auburn tried another sweep to Irons on 3rd and 5, and it was snuffed at the line. In came Kody Bliss, who punted it deep to Bama, fair caught by Brooks at the Bama 29.
Still behind by 14, Bama needed action on offense. Croyle dumped it again in the flat for Walker, but this time, Will Herring was on it, dumping Walker for only a 4 yard gain. The Darby got 3. On 3rd and 3, Croyle was flushed out. The quarterback tried to make it on his own, but was slung down short, by Anterious Williams, for only a yard. On 4th and 2, Schatz kicked it 39 yards out of bounds.
The Tigers started at the 24, and went with a conservative swing pass to the fullback, which was figured out quickly by the Tide, and went incomplete. An offsides penalty gave Auburn new life, but it was not to be, on the drive. The drive stalled, and Kody Bliss bombed a punt, killed dead on the Alabama 22.
Bama took over, and tried more of the same. A quick hitch to Zeke Knight was turned away by Montae Ptts, for nothing. Darby hammered for 4, but on 3rd and 6, things remained the same, up front. Marquies Gunn and Stanley McClover made the play. Croyle was sacked again, for an 8-yard loss. Shatz punted it away, and Auburn would try again, after a Tre Smith fair catch at the Auburn 39.
On first down, off the right side, Kenny Irons cut back, and bolted through a gaping hole, for 11 yards, and a first down. Another Irons run up the gut was stuffed for only a yard, then a dump to Cooper Wallace picked up only 4. Auburn faced 3rd and 5, and went with a square-in, to Anthony Mix. Mix caught it, picking up 19, and a first down at the Tide 26! Auburn was then flagged for a 6 yard loss on 1st down, because guard Ben Grubbs was downfield on a pass play. On 1st and 16, Mark Anderson sacked Cox for another 3 yard loss. Then, Cox found Courtney Taylor on the left side, for 9. On 3rd and ten, from the I formation, Cox fired a strike down the middle, to Devin Aromashodu, who knifed down near the Alabama 5. On first and goal, Auburn brought in the jumbo package. Cox faked it right, to Irons, and bootlegged back to the left. Quickly, Cox found tight end Cole Bennett wide open, for the easy touchdown! With John Vaughn's PAT, the Auburn lead was back to 21! Auburn led 28-7, with 2:07 left in the half!
Matt Clark boomed a touchback, and it was time to see if Alabama could run the two-minute drill. The line was nervous, and Chris Capps false started. Croyle rifled a quick pass to Marcus McKnight for 5, then it was Stanley McClover racing around the corner again. Croyle was sacked, the 7th sack of the first half! On 3rd and 17, Croyle left it with Glen Coffee on the draw, and Coffee nearly picked up the first down. Jonathan Wilhite finally got Coffee on the ground, 4 yards short. The Tide punted away again, and Shatz hit another short one to the Auburn 41, where Tre Smith was slung down for a yard loss. An illegal block penalty on the Tigers killed any realistic chance of another scoring drive, and Cox took a knee twice, to run out the first half clock. At the break, Auburn went to the locker room to a thunderous ovation! The Tigers led Alabama, 28-7 at the half!
For the Tigers, in the second half, the key was to set the tone early, and not allow the Tide to have any offensive success. For the Tide, something HAD to be done up front, to protect the quarterback. To have any chance, the Tide would have to score points, and a lot of them!
Jamie Christianson booted the second half kickoff for a touch back, and the Tigers started from the 20. Auburn went for the home run deep ball to Ben Obomanu, but couldn't connect. From there, a run by Irons lost 2, and Cox scrambled for 5 on 3rd and 12. Kody Bliss punted away, and Brandon Brooks got away from the initial contain at the Bama 33. Brooks wound his way across the field, and finally Steve Gandy made a touchdown-saving tackle at the Auburn 34 yard line. Brooks' return went for 33 yards.
Antoine Caldwell got the false start for Bama, on this drive. Still Bama came hard off the ball, and ran right at Auburn. Ken Darby plowed for 9, then 13, right up the gut, for a first down at the Tiger 17. Then the Tide tried Darby outside, and David Irons cut him down for only 2. On second down, the handoff was botched, and the Tide had to fall on it for a 2 yard loss. It was 3rd and 10, and Brodie Croyle dropped to throw, for the first time in the half. And again, Stanley McClover came untouched around the outside, and sacked Croyle hard, out at the 25! In came Christianson, who nailed the 43 yard field goal attempt. Auburn's lead was trimmed to 28-10, with 10:12 left in the 3rd quarter. The Tide got the field goal, but they had wanted more, with the great field position.
Bama got another break, when the Auburn return team completely botched the kickoff. Devin Aromashodu ran sideways, and only picked up 2 yards total, starting Auburn at the 3 yard line. Wallace Gilberry nearly got Kenny Irons for a safety, on the first play. Luckily, Justin Britt jumped offsides for the Tide, on 2nd and 12. Auburn tossed it to Irons again, for no gain. A third down out route to Ben Obomanu was out of bounds, and Auburn had to punt. This time, there was no chance for Brandon Brooks. Kody Bliss rugby kicked the ball, and it rolled for 54 yards, out of bounds at the Tide 40.
The Auburn defense again established its dominance up front, early. Bama called a pass on first down, and Croyle had to throw it away with pressure from Marquies Gunn in his face. Then tight end Nick Walker false started. Ken Darby got the five back on a sweep, to put the Tide at 3rd and 10. Croyle dropped back, and again there was no Bama answer for Stanley McClover. Down went Croyle, again! Schatz punted away again, short, and downed at the Auburn 38. The Tide had lost the field position battle.
Auburn failed to get the offense going, again. Two Irons runs picked up 7, and on third down, Cox felt the heat from blitzing DeMeco Ryans, and missed a wide open Anthony Mix on a crossing pattern. Bliss came back in for Auburn, and punted it into the end zone.
Starting at their own 20, Bama went back to Ken Darby. Three Darby carries netted absolutely nothing, and Schatz punted away, again. This time, Tre Smith fumbled the punt, but somehow, Tony Bell got on the loose ball for the Tigers. Bama had missed out on a sure recovery. There were white shirts all over the ball, but Auburn got it back.
Auburn took over with 2:34 left in the third quarter, and started running the clock. After a first down incompletion, Kenny Irons ran for 11, 4, and 13 yards, picking up two first downs. From the Tide 44, Cox missed Taylor on first down, but another draw to Irons picked up 12, and a first down at the Tide 32. The 3rd quarter clock ran out, with Auburn still leading, 28-10! In the 4th quarter, the drive bogged down. Two Irons runs gained 5, then a slow-developing wide receiver screen to Anthony Mix lost 2. John Vaughn's 46 yard field goal attempt was wide left, and the Tide took over on the 29.
For the first time all day, Bama had time to throw on first down, and Croyle was so surprised that he missed the screen to Darby. On second down, Darby got the pass, and plowed for 11 and a first down. Croyle found Coffee for 4, then missed tight end Nick Walker over the middle. On 3rd and 6, Croyle found a seam up the middle, and scrambled for 7. Next series, after a 7 yard Darby run, things were back to normal. B. J. Stabler false started, then a slant to D. J. Hall was broken up by Travis Williams. On third down, Stanley McClover sacked Brodie Croyle, AGAIN! Jeremy Schatz punted the ball dead, at the Auburn ten yard line.
Auburn was content to keep it on the ground, with Irons knocking out 11 and a first down. Then, 3 more Irons runs netted 3 yards, and Alabama called timeout with 6:32 left in the game. Kody Bliss punted again to the sideline, for 44 yards, out of bounds. The Tide had it, at their own 28.
On his last possession, Brodie Croyle engineered a drive. A strike across the middle to Nick Walker picked up 34, then Croyle converted a screen to Ken Darby for 9, on 3rd and 8. Two short passes to DJ Hall netted the Tide a first down at the Auburn 13, and the Tiger defense had their backs to the wall. Croyle tried the fade to Keith Brown, but Jonathan Wilhite came up with an acrobatic slap-away. A slant to Matt Caddell got the ball to the 8, then Croyle tried the slant to Keith Brown. Jonathan Wilhite was there, and ripped the ball out, incomplete. On 4th and 5, the Tide went for it. On the blitz, the Williams linebackers, Antarrious and Travis, shared the 11th sack of Brodie Croyle! Auburn had the ball, at their own 15, with 3:31 left in the game!
3 Kenny Irons runs picked up 8, and forced Bama to burn the rest of their timeouts. Kody Bliss punted it away, and shanked it out of bounds at the Auburn 46, a punt of only 23 yards. The Tide would get one last chance.
Bama coach Mike Shula lifted Croyle, figuring 11 sacks were enough punishment. John Parker Wilson got the call, and dumped it to D. J. Hall for 7, then to Matt Caddell on the sideline for 4 and a first down. Then the Auburn rush came. A deep ball to Caddell was knocked away by Patrick Lee. Chris Capps false started. Then, Wilson scrambled, and threw a pass with a foot beyond the line of scrimmage. Tim Castille took a handoff 5 yards up the gut, to bring up 3rd and 13. Wilson was flushed, and launched up a wobbling prayer towards the goal line. Somehow, in a sea of blue shirts, D. J. Hall came up with the ball at the Auburn one yard line. On first and goal, Bama hurried to the line, and went with the quick snap count. John Parker Wilson took the quick sneak and stuck the ball in the end zone, for a late Bama TD. The Tide went for two, and it was Wilson to Hall for the points. With 23 seconds left in the game, the margin was now 28-18. The Bama onside kick failed, and Auburn's Brandon Cox took a knee. The Tigers had done it at home, defeating the 8th ranked Crimson Tide, 28-18!
For Alabama, it was a disappointing two game losing streak to end the regular season. A trip to the Cotton Bowl was the consolation prize. There, the Tide put on a defensive clinic, with Joe Kines outscheming Texas Tech offensive genius Mike Leach. The Tide took an early screen pass to Keith Brown for a long touchdown, and held on for a 13-10 win over the Red Raiders. Bama finished 10-2, and in the top ten.
Auburn won a share of the SEC Western Division with the win over the Tide, but LSU owned the tie-breaker over Auburn. LSU headed to the Championship game, and Auburn was bound for Orlando. In the Capital One Bowl, the heavily favored Tigers faced the 18th ranked Wisconsin Badgers. The defense that was so totally dominant against Alabama, wilted against the Badgers. Wisconsin rolled up over 500 easy yards, and it was a minor miracle that Auburn somehow held them to 24 points. It should have been more than 50. The Tiger offense was equally anemic, and Auburn took a humbling 24-10 loss. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs skipped out on the post game interview, and Auburn had to settle for a 9-3, 14th ranked finish to the year.