This was supposed to run last night. However, I decided to take a Thanksgiving Break from doing the link dump, today, so you get this for your morning post. Everything will be back to normal with the Smoking Barn in a bit.
I asked the staff earlier this week to talk about their memories of the Iron Bowl so that we can collect them in one nice spot for your holiday reading. Share yours in the comments, below!
This Saturday will be my fourteenth Iron Bowl. I don't remember much of the first, 1991, other than that it was in Birmingham. The first I really remember was 1993. I was just at the right age to live and die with Auburn, and what a season to do it. Those players were my heroes. They could do no wrong. The defining play to me wasn't the 4th and 15 touchdown to Frank Sanders. It was the 4th and 10 interception by Dell McGee. My mom insisted that McGee should have dropped the ball. This was before there were any video boards in the stadium, so we couldn't tell that the ball basically landed in McGee's lap. He didn't have a choice but to catch it. We thought the upside might be that Auburn would have more yardage to attempt to burn out the rest of the clock and cling to a 15-14 lead. James Bostic had other ideas.
Looking back at the replay now, Auburn was in 20 personnel against a 9-man front. If it wasn't first down late in a game with the lead, there's no way Auburn should have stuck with a run, but they did. Tony Richardson flipped Alabama's middle linebacker out of the hole, and Bostic was off to the races. After two cuts, he headed straight for the southwest corner, right where we were sitting. I was 9 years old, and it was probably the best moment of my life up to that point.
There are dozens of memories. Carnell racing into that same southwest corner on the first play of 2003. Having zero fear even though Auburn trailed 6-0 at halftime for my only road Iron Bowl. Sacks on two of Alabama's first three plays for my only Iron Bowl in the student section (long story). Brad Lester dragging half of Alabama's defense on a game-clinching 4th and 1 run in 2007. I could probably write 2000 words on the 2013 game. But it all comes back to 1993, and believing in those giants in blue jerseys. Believing they could do no wrong, and knowing that I'd love them forever even if they fell short.
I have a hard time choosing between Kick Six and The Camback, but I think The Camback has more lore surrounding it and a much better (and definitely NSFW) story...one that ought to be told in full length one of these days, but not this year...
Here's the short(ish) version with a slightly NSFW ending.
My friend Lucas and I had gotten student tickets to the 2010 Iron Bowl, and the one thing I remember most was the fog. Good grief, the fog. It was everywhere. It enveloped the entire campus where only 35% of Bama's fans attended a few classes.
We got to Bryant-Denny, and we found that our tickets were in the student section. More specifically, we were sitting in the Bama student section. Even more specifically, we were sitting near the Greek block seating of the Bama student section. Our young lives were about to be cut down in their prime on the day of glorious battle.
We watched Bama roll three times into the end zone in front of us. It was as if we were the two disguised warriors watching William Wallace be tortured on the rack. MERCY! MERCY! But I looked at my friend Lucas at halftime and said, "It's going to be okay. We're going to get two of our players back that were suspended for this half (ahem, Georgia game), and we're going to get the ball back to start the third quarter. It's not over yet, and Bama's out of steam. They already think they've got this thing won."
We witnessed the most glorious comeback in Iron Bowl history: the passing and receiving, the Michael Dyer/Onterio McCalebb rushing, the defense and sack lunches, the Ginger being tossed about like a rag doll (which, I'm sure, contributed to his comment the next year about being more prepared for the NFL than current undefeated NFL villain and rascal and "HE'S JUST A BAD PERSON AND COCKY AS HELL" Cameron Newton), the Blessed One Heismaning...
...the Lutzie. Oh, the Lutzie. My eyes.
As AJ McCarron threw his final incomplete pass, the big ol' fat Bama fan behind Lucas pushed him down the bleachers, but Lucas regained his balance. As I cocked my fists, ready to go down in a blaze of glory before the breaking of the Bam, I realized that the victory was a knockout of its own accord, and my anger subsided. The fan, to his credit, apologized after the final kneel down and wished us luck in the SEC Championship game.
Lucas and I shook hands, and I walked down the steps to get a better listen to Reverse Rammer Jammer across the stadium from our visiting fans, and my eyes became misty. We walked back out of the stadium to the shouts of "ROWH TAHD Y'ALL GOT LUCKY!" etc., and one girl, draped in a Houndstooth scarf, screamed the final benediction to nobody in particular, for which to this day my friend and I cannot offer any rational explanation nor define any relevance to the situation:
"I'M A MERIT SCHOLAR, YOU WHORE! ROLL TIDE!"
It was the first time I'd ever witnessed a game in Bryant-Denny Stadium, and I don't think I'll ever go back. #WDE #BeatBama
This is a parody of the Brady Bunch theme my father and I wrote in the car on the way back from Mobile when I was ten years old:
Here's a story/
Of a kid named Scissom/
Who had butterfingers when the game was on the line/
And a kicker/
Whose name was Jaret/
He said, "This game is mine."/
Here's a story/
Of a coach named Terry/
Who almost reached 5'8 when he jumped/
And then Bama's coach/
His name was Mike/
When our kick was good his face looked like his rump
The Iron Bowl/
The Iron Bowl/
The nineteen ninety seven Iron Bowl!
I spent 85% of that game crying but it turned out okay.
War Damn Eagle.
On Saturday I will have see my 14th Iron Bowl in person starting with the 1997 game which was a pretty good memory in and of itself (thanks Martavious Houston and Quinton Reese) but the number one has to be the 2010 game.
It was the most electric atmosphere before a game I've ever seen, even more so than the 2013 Iron Bowl, but this is just one man's opinion. Both side's fans were in full throat and it was the biggest and best road Tiger Walk I've ever been to. When Cam Newton came bouncing off of the bus everyone just erupted. I'll also never forget Nick Fairley holding up the championship belt.
Walking up to our seats waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay up top in the corner of Tuberville-Denny we saw him. The self-proclaimed "Legend". He seemed to rise to infamy that season and was a complete annoyance all season and is the main reason I no longer listen to Finebaum. We had to get a picture of him and his baked bean teeth. He was so arrogant that we just had to beat them to shut him up. He recorded his whole walk with a video camera and I can only assume he recorded the whole game too.
As everyone knows the game started off as badly as you could have imagined and I don't need to rehash what happened after Auburn trailed 24-0 but when the fourth quarter started and everyone felt Auburn had Alabama right where we wanted them the most orange sky ever seemed to appear out of nowhere and caused Auburn fans to chant loudly you just knew we were going to win and the Alabama fan's silence indicated they knew it too. That moment is my most favorite Iron Bowl memory ever.
War Cam Eagle!
2003. Go Crazy Cadillac. Sure, 2010 was amazing, seeing all but 10,000 or so out of 102,000 go from jubilant to complete shock was something I'll never forget. 2013 was something that will never be duplicated. Ever. The stakes, how well played and tightly contested the game was, and how it all ended was something never seen before, and will never be seen again.
But ooooh, 2003, how it gets to me. Cadillac was and probably still is my favorite Auburn player ever. I was only 13 in 2003 so this may be why I hold this game so close because my first Iron Bowl was 1999. I cried when Shaun Alexander high stepped into the endzone to beat Auburn for the first time in Jordan-Hare. I was back in 2001 when of course Tyler Watts was hurt and in comes Andrew Zow, who should have been the Alabama QB all along, to torch Auburn to the tune of 31-7. It didn't help that Caddy went out with a broken collarbone. Then comes 2003. My first two Iron Bowls were losses. In Jordan-Hare. Auburn had failed miserably to meet expectations and Alabama was really bad. But an Iron Bowl win would make everything better (kinda).
Then Auburn ran the most Auburn play ever during the Tubs years. 1st down, a little delayed dive to Cadillac and the Alabama defense parted like the Red Sea, and with a little help from an Alabama player blocking his own man in the back, Caddy was gone. At that point in time, I had never heard JHS any louder, and Auburn rode that play the rest of the game to a beatdown of Alabama, and I experienced my first Iron Bowl win. No, a national title berth, or SEC Championship berth wasn't on the line, but 2003 means a lot more to me for other reasons.
Go Crazy Cadillac, Go Crazy.
One of my favorite moments has to be 1993. For those who may be too young to remember, that game wasn't on TV due to Auburn's probation. For some reason, the big radio tuner (and I know some don't have a clue what that is) in our living room couldn't pick up Rock 103 out of Columbus, but the little Sony Walkman could. So, I was listening to the game on headphones and telling my dad what was happening.
I'll never forget him walking into the kitchen and saying something like "well, it's over" when I told him Stan White was hurt and it was 4th and long. He was in there doing something when I jumped up screaming "TOUCHDOWN AUBURN!" along with Jim Fyffe after Nix floated that ball up to Sanders.
The Kick Six obviously has to be at the top for games I personally attended. 2005 sure was fun, though. I spent that whole season out west at my Officer Basic Course. Graduated on Wednesday, drove across the country to make it to the game on Saturday. Had so much fun watching Brodie Croyle get sacked repeatedly.
I'm trying to narrow this down because there are so many contenders, many of which only tangentially relate to on the field action. There was my first Iron Bowl in 1985 where I learned what it meant to have your heart broken by sports. What I remember most about the 1989 Iron Bowl was the noise and emotion when Auburn took the field, something they had never been allowed to do at Jordan Hare before. The shock of Pat Nix's bomb off the bench in 1993. Walking the ring around Legion Field in 1996 and looking at the crowd. Celebrating Auburn's first SEC West title in Jordan Hare in 1997 when nobody wanted to leave the stands and then moving the party to the craziest Toomer's Corner celebration I ever saw. Tubs saving his job in 2003. Auburn shocking the world in 2010. The stands rocking with echoes of "It's great to be an Auburn Tiger" every time the team got in a jam in 2013.
But sitting here today, I remember 2007. I haven't thought about this in a long time. My wife and I had unexpectedly lost our first child three weeks earlier. Outside of the funeral and family visitation we hadn't done much since the loss. I decided to go to the Iron Bowl because, for my family, the Iron Bowl is a tradition as big as Thanksgiving. Dad hasn't missed one since the early 60s. He has cousins--multiple cousins--whose streaks go back to the early 50s. Not going never entered my mind. Like any family gathering, it didn't matter if you wanted to go or if you expected to enjoy yourself, it happens once a year and your butt had better be in the seat.
Early that week I began asking my wife if she wanted to go too. She didn't. She had a lot of reasons, some of which were more rational than others. She wasn't ready to go out. What would people think if she was ready to go out? She was still so tired. She hadn't been to an Iron Bowl since 1999 and what if her not going was the reason Auburn had won five straight? I kept asking throughout the week and finally she agreed.
We took our seats near the South endzone on the West sideline. She clapped when the Band took the field and did the cheers.
The pregame was good and included a flyover. Then the game started and Cadillac went crazy right past our seats on the first play.
My wife and I smiled and cheered. Not deep, brave smiling-through-the-tears smiles you give when you're mourning but unadulterated, unburdened joy. It may have been the first moment we had like that since the passing. The game was close but was never really in doubt. Alabama couldn't do anything against that defense and our offense did just enough. Auburn won their sixth in a row. Everything was as it should be, at least for 3 1/2 hours.