THREE. WEEKS. FROM. TODAY. We’ll be watching Auburn football. How about that?
2004 - Auburn 21, Alabama 13
If Auburn ever had a chance to break into the true discussion for the BCS National Championship during the 2004 season, it was right here. An injury-plagued Alabama team on a rainy afternoon in Tuscaloosa was all that really stood in the way of the Tigers taking sole possession of the #2 spot in the polls, but Auburn didn’t win “convincingly” enough to move up. Auburn had tied Oklahoma at #2 after whipping Georgia the weekend before, and had all the momentum in the world.
The Tide controlled the first half as much as they could, leading 6-0 at the intermission, as slippery mistakes and emotion stymied the Tigers for the first thirty minutes. Against a better opponent, Auburn would’ve likely been down two touchdowns or more, but with Spencer Pennington running the show for Alabama, the lead never got unmanageable.
Out of the locker room, Auburn moved quickly, with Jason Campbell hitting Devin Aromashodu for 51 yards to set up a first-and-goal, after which Cadillac Williams strolled in from five yards out to tie the game. Just like that it was pretty much over. Auburn had taken the body blows early, but delivered the headshot in just a couple plays and Alabama never recovered.
The Tigers got two more touchdowns and the Tide posted a late score to make the final margin 21-13, but the damage was done. Auburn’s weak win over the top rushing team in the SEC was overshadowed because Oklahoma blew out a Baylor team that finished 3-8. That, in the minds of ESPN and everyone else, was justification enough for the Sooners to move ahead of Auburn.
1986 - Auburn 21, Alabama 17
Now this was a much more fun and rewarding Iron Bowl for Auburn to win. The Tigers were ranked 14th in the country with Alabama a top ten team as they hosted the Iron Bowl in Birmingham. For Auburn, the year after Bo Jackson had won the Heisman Trophy, Brent Fullwood was doing his best to replicate that effort as he averaged better than eight yards per touch in rushing for nearly 1400 yards. However, he wouldn’t be involved in one of the great plays of the Pat Dye era.
Fullwood was supposed to come into the game on that play, but either way Lawyer Tillman was the designated ball-carrier, and he slipped into the end zone for Auburn’s second fourth-quarter touchdown to give the Tigers the lead. Auburn got late-game revenge for the Van Tiffin kick the year before and began a winning streak in the Iron Bowl that lasted for four years.
21 YEARS AGO - 1996
1996 was a frustrating year for the Tigers, losing three close games on the way to an 8-4 overall record.
Things started out alright for Auburn as they entered the season ranked 17th in the AP Poll, and began the year out 3-0 by beating UAB, Fresno State, and Ole Miss by a combined score of 137-28. Then came LSU.
For the second year in a row, a controversial call would help decide the outcome of this game. Trailing 10-3 at the start of the final period, Auburn had driven inside the 20 looking to tie the game up. On a third and long, Dameyune Craig took the snap and lofted a pass to Robert Baker, who caught it but came down out of bounds.
Or did he? You decide.
Despite the footage showing Baker’s foot coming down in bounds, the official marked him out. Later on, sideline reporter Adrian Karsten went over to show the mark in bounds that the official had absolutely missed. Jarrett Holmes missed a field goal on the next play and Auburn came away empty-handed, before finally falling 19-15.
Auburn would win the next two over South Carolina and Mississippi state before heading to Gainesville to meet top-ranked Florida. This would not go as well as Auburn’s last visit to the Swamp, as Danny Wuerrfel and the Gators lit up Terry Bowden’s upset-minded bunch. It was tied 7-7 after a quarter, and Auburn trailed just 21-10 at halftime, but Florida posted 30 in the second half in addition to allowing just 173 total yards on the game. The final? 51-10. It was the most points Auburn had given up in nearly half a century, and Florida’s 625 yards were the most ever given up by Auburn at the time.
At 5-2, cracks were starting to appear. However, the Tigers took care of business against Arkansas and then nearly slipped up at home to Louisiana-Monroe in a 28-24 win. I remember sitting with my mom in one of the suites as a kid almost begging to leave because I didn’t want to see us lose that game. Auburn needed to score fifteen fourth-quarter points to salvage the win against the Indians, with Dameyune Craig engineering a last minute drive for the winning score.
At least it was a win. Other SEC West teams have not fared as well against ULM in recent days.
Up next came Georgia. At home. The Tigers hadn’t lost to the Bulldogs in four years, but that streak would end in the SEC’s first ever overtime game. To be fair, it was a fantastic game for the 100th meeting between the two teams.
Auburn built a 28-7 lead early in the game thanks to two touchdowns from Craig to Robert Baker, one of which resulted in the famous Uga photo:
Leading 28-14 at the start of the final period, Auburn felt pretty good about themselves, but Georgia pulled within a touchdown and then tied the game on the final play of regulation on a Mike Bobo touchdown pass to Corey Allen. So we went to overtime.
The two teams traded blows through the first three extra innings, with Robert Edwards notching three touchdowns for the Bulldogs, before Craig was stopped short in the bottom of the fourth overtime and Georgia escaped with a 56-49 win.
Auburn somehow had to find a way to regroup after that loss so that they could meet Alabama in the Iron Bowl, which was back at Legion Field for Bama’s turn as the home team. Auburn lacked the fight early on in the Iron Bowl, falling behind 17-0 in the first twelve minutes, but they surged in the second quarter to take the lead 20-17 at halftime.
In a slow third and fourth quarter, only three points were scored until the final minute. Auburn had booted a field goal for a 23-17 lead in the third period, but Alabama drove late and got a Dennis Riddle touchdown in the final thirty seconds of play to take a one-point lead. Alabama got revenge for the previous year, winning 24-23.
Auburn’s reward for the 7-4 regular season was a trip to the Independence Bowl to play Army, a game in which the Tigers got up 32-7 at the start of the fourth quarter, but had to fight and claw as the Black Knights posted 22 in the final fifteen minutes and nearly completed the comeback. Army drove deep into Auburn territory and their kicker missed a field goal after being perfect on the season, or else we would’ve seen two overtime games that year. The bowl win was Bowden’s first as a coach, and sent Auburn into the offseason at a pedestrian 8-4.
The play of Dameyune Craig in his first full year as a starter, however, would set the table for a fun season in 1997.
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