In two weeks’ time, it’ll be game week. An actual official game week. And we’ll certainly be happier than you will be reading today’s Countdown to Kickoff memories...
Auburn’s only won a few games in its history by scoring nineteen points, and with nineteen years ago being 1998, there’s not a lot to go on for this day.
1997 - Auburn 19, Ole Miss 9
This game came early on in the 1997 year that we reviewed yesterday. It was fairly unremarkable except for the fact that Auburn’s future coach put up a good fight against the West-winning Tigers. Tommy Tuberville had the Rebels up 6-3 late in the third quarter before Auburn score sixteen points in seventeen minutes to prevent the upset and improve to 2-0 early on in the year.
1981 - Auburn 19, LSU 7
This was Pat Dye’s first win over LSU and his second as Auburn’s head coach. It was the first victory after a brutal stretch where Auburn played at Tennessee (spawning the famous Pat Dye locker room speech), and at Nebraska. This win started a streak of four wins in five games and helped set the tone for years to come on the Plains.
19 Years Ago - 1998
In 1998, tons happened. The Winter Olympics were held at Nagano in Japan, Titanic won eleven Oscars and became the first movie to gross a billion dollars, Harry Potter was released, and the news of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky broke.
Auburn also tried to play football. We’ve got to review the good with the bad here, so 1998 is a necessary lesson in history. It can always get worse than it is.
I was in Jordan-Hare Stadium for the opener on a Thursay night against Virginia. Auburn was coming off a division title and a ten-win season, but was ranked just 25th in the opening poll. They proceeded to get blanked by the Cavaliers at home, giving UVA revenge for their own home loss the previous year.
A 17-0 win over Ole Miss (man, whoever was coaching there could just not get it done) seemed to get things back on track a bit, but then the wheels fell off.
LSU at home. Loss.
Tennessee at home. Loss. Granted, the Vols would win the national championship and Auburn had a chance at the goal line in the second quarter but couldn’t get in with four tries from the one, and Tennessee never really had to worry in a 17-9 win.
At Mississippi State. Loss.
At Florida. Loss.
That’s when Terry Bowden’s job status became doubtful. He’d end up resigning the night before the game against Louisiana Tech (although many different reports surfaced around that time about him being fired) and Auburn would promote Bill Oliver to interim head coach. The players didn’t even know what was going on, and had to find out from ESPN that they’d have a new head coach.
Still, Auburn beat Lousiana Tech and nearly upended undefeated Arkansas the next week (the Pigs would get Stoernovered in Knoxville to end that run two weeks later), and got their final win of the year in a close victory over Central Florida. Auburn trailed 6-3 in the final minute before Karsten Bailey dodged a defender and scampered 58 yards for the game-winning touchdown over the Knights and Daunte Culpepper.
The final two games of the year were more for pride than anything else at this point as Auburn was already ineligible for a bowl game. The Tigers fell at Georgia 28-17 in a game that did see Bailey set the school record for career receptions, but the road team won again and it dropped Auburn to 3-7.
Then came the Iron Bowl. After the previous season when hapless Alabama gave a good Auburn team a real test, the Tigers would return the favor at Legion Field. Auburn leapt out to a 17-0 lead, but allowed 31 unanswered as Bama won its seventh game of the year to finish at 7-4. Auburn’s year ended with uncertainty all around and a coaching search in full swing after the architect of two of the most exciting seasons in school history was now gone.
1999 would prove to be a step in the right direction for the Tigers as they entered a brand new and modern era of Auburn football.
Coming Later: Pine Boxes and Cigars