The three week mark has come and gone, and we’re rapidly approaching Auburn football. 20 days until kickoff, so figure out what to do with the last two non-sporting weekends you’ve got and stock up on tailgate gear.
2007 - Auburn 20, Florida 17
We touched on this in our article about the 2007 season, as this ended up being a game that made 2007 an average season when it could’ve gone in the tank before October even got started.
Auburn came in to this game at 2-2, with losses to USF and Mississippi State (C’MON.), and had struggled for the first half against a bad New Mexico State team the week before. Still, I remember going home to watch this game as it was the first road game of the year feeling oddly confident that we’d play much better than the three touchdown spread might indicate.
Play better we did. Auburn scored touchdowns on two of its first four drives of the game, hitting the 4th-ranked Gators in the mouth with play-action and power running, while shutting down the eventual Heisman winner and the defending national champs at home.
Florida would wake up, though, and they’d notch seventeen in the second half to tie Auburn, and all looked lost after a halo rule violation was called on Auburn.
But Tommy Tuberville went ballistic and his anger sparked the defense, stuffing Florida and giving the Tigers a last chance drive for the win. Auburn got into field goal range, and freshman kicker Wes Byrum (he’d turn out alright) hit a 43-yard kick as time expired to win the ga—-
No. Wait. Timeout on the field.
Urban Meyer got right into the ear of the official, who blew the whistle a hair before the snap, and we had to reset to try it again. It was textbook icing, and Florida’s only hope was that a freshman kicker couldn’t duplicate the make.
Also, the win gave us this great viral video of a Florida fan upset over the outcome. Warning: lots of bad language. Watch at your own risk.
“Doesn’t it suck for you?? I hate you Tuberville!!”
1990 - Auburn 20, Florida State 17
Today, we get to relive a near-sweep of the Sunshine State from Auburn’s perspective, as this was another huge win over a great team back in the Pat Dye era.
Auburn has lost twice in a row to Florida State — once in the Sugar Bowl after the 1988 season, and then during the 1989 regular season — so the Tigers were out for payback. They were also ranked higher than the Seminoles (#5 vs #7), and this constituted a gigantic game on the Plains.
Florida State jumped out to a 17-7 lead at halftime, but Auburn fought back and pulled within a touchdown thanks to Jim Von Wyl’s field goal, and then Bobby Bowden got squirrelly.
He tried the Fumblerooskie, which had famously worked for him a couple years earlier in a win against Clemson. The pieces weren’t in place in 1990, however, and Auburn fell on the loose ball just before tying the game at 17-all.
Still, FSU had plenty of time to try and drive for the victory, but facing a 4th and 5 just out of field goal range, Bowden elected to go for it. Let’s go to the tape.
Stan White threw three interceptions on the day, but that 4th down completion to Herbert Casey was huge, and set up the game-winning kick. It’s a little bittersweet, as this was the last huge win of Pat Dye’s career.
1987 - Auburn 20, Georgia Tech 10
We go back to the days when Auburn and the Yellow Jackets played every year! This game came during a long winning streak for the Tigers, as they hadn’t lost to Georgia Tech since 1978, and Pat Dye’s last game against the Jackets would prove to be a thriller.
Auburn trailed 10-7 in the final minutes of the game against a team that would finish just 2-9, but had gotten up for the 5th-ranked Tigers to come visit Atlanta. Jeff Burger moved the team down the field and set up one of Jim Fyffe’s best calls.
Going ahead 14-10, future #1 overall pick Aundray Bruce picked off a last-ditch pass from Tech and rumbled for a touchdown as time expired to make this win a bit more lopsided than it definitely was. Bruce finished the day with three interceptions and three sacks, which certainly helped him become the top pick in the draft not long after.
20 Years Ago - 1997
It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play. It was also twenty years ago that Auburn won its first SEC West Championship and went to Atlanta to play for the conference crown.
The West had only been won by two other teams at that time -- Alabama and Arkansas -- and the East had been dominated by Florida. This season saw new blood when Auburn met Tennessee and Peyton Manning in the Georgia Dome for a thriller.
But how did we get there?
Auburn began the year ranked 16th, and reeled off several fairly easy victories en route to a 6-0 record. Dameyune Craig was leading an offense in his second full season as starter, and he’d end up setting the Auburn single-season passing yards record. The only really tough game during that stretch was a 31-28 Auburn win at LSU, where they had to overcome Cecil Collins 200+ rushing yards for the Purple Tigers so sneak out a win in Death Valley. Other than that, Auburn hadn’t really been tested.
As was customary in the mid-to-late nineties, Auburn met Florida and had their hopes dashed. Steve Spurrier never had forgiven Auburn for ruining his 1993-1994 seasons, and he wouldn’t lose to the Tigers again until his final year. 1997 was no different, with the Gators posting a 24-10 win in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn still hovered around the top ten, but a 20-0 loss to Mississippi State two weeks later dropped them in the polls. People forget, but the Bulldogs were consistently one of the more hard-nosed teams in the SEC back in the late nineties.
The Tigers then went to Athens, where they’d had good success of late, to face off against a very good and 9th-ranked Georgia team. After the clunker against the Maroon Bulldogs the week before, Auburn set to correcting that mistake and did so swimmingly, building a 24-14 halftime lead before starting their offense in the third quarter with a bang.
Poor Jeff Harris just got burned time and again by Auburn receivers in the late nineties.
Georgia surged in the final period, but Auburn posted an insurance touchdown that allowed them to preserve a 45-34 victory and head into the Iron Bowl at 8-2 with the SEC West on the line.
It was Auburn’s first time playing with a chance to go to Atlanta, since the probation-laced years of 1993 and 1994 meant the Tigers were only playing spoiler late in the season, but now the Tide was turned.
Alabama entered the game at just 4-6 in Mike Dubose’s first year, with close losses until the bottom dropped out after they fell to Louisiana Tech in early November. Bama had lost three straight heading into the Iron Bowl, but they still had good talent recruited by Gene Stallings, so you knew the game wouldn’t be easy.
Bama sure played like the team that beat Auburn the year before, opening up a 17-6 lead in the third quarter. Auburn pulled within five at 17-12, but couldn’t convert a two-point conversion to make the deficit a field goal. Jarrett Holmes hit his third field goal of the night to cut the advantage to 17-15 with nine minutes left, but prospects looked bleak for Auburn when the Tide had the ball in the final minute trying to run clock.
Who in the world would call a loopy play like that in a clutch situation? Only future NFL head coach Bruce Arians. Football’s a weird game. To his credit, Ed Scissum (the guy who fumbled) made a pretty tough effort on the ensuing kickoff to get the ball as deep as he could, but it wasn’t enough as Auburn won 18-17 to advance to the SEC Championship Game.
The 1997 SEC title game was a wild one, perhaps the best in the contest’s short history. Auburn met Tennessee and Heisman finalist Peyton Manning in Atlanta with a chance for the Tigers to take their first SEC title since 1989. They’d give a great effort at the start of the game to make it look like a championship might be a reality. Auburn led 20-10 at halftime, and eventually held a perilous 29-23 lead after Quinton Reese returned a blocked extra point for two in the third quarter. The only score in the final frame came on a super-maddening catch-and-run by Marcus Nash for 73 yards to give Tennessee a 30-29 lead that they would hold for the win.
Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Auburn didn’t win (although another SEC title would certainly be nice), because Tennessee went and got embarrassed by Nebraska in Tom Osborne’s final game in the Orange Bowl. The Tigers meanwhile went to the Peach Bowl and beat Clemson 21-17 for their third ten-win season of the 1990s.
Coming Later: 1998 and a review of the movie Titanic, because I think it was still playing when Auburn tried football that year.