In a couple days time Auburn will likely begin putting in their plan for the opener against Georgia Southern, but for now we continue along with the Countdown to Kickoff as we recap 2001 and some other memorable games in Auburn history.
2011 - Auburn 16, South Carolina 13
This was one of the few memorable games from 2011, as the Tigers’ offense struggled for the most part trying to figure out which quarterback to use. Still, that mojo from 2010 seemed to carry on in Columbia as Auburn ruined another one of Steve Spurrier’s pretty good Gamecock teams. USC only lost one other game that season (Arkansas) and missed out on the SEC Championship game as a result.
Here we saw a game that Auburn actually could’ve run away with if not for Gus Malzahn getting a little bit too cute. The Tigers threw four interceptions on the day, with two coming on trick plays. CJ Uzomah and Ryan White each threw picks along with two from Barrett Trotter, while South Carolina also committed four turnovers in an overall sloppy game.
Still, the Tigers made the play that mattered when it counted late in the game.
Auburn rebuffed the Gamecocks’ last ditch drive and took the win to improve to 4-1 at that point during the season.
2004 - Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13
After completing the undefeated 2004 season and winning the SEC Championship, Auburn still sat on the outside looking in and was relegated to the Sugar Bowl against ACC Champ Virginia Tech.
There was still a shot — maybe — that Auburn could somehow take over the top spot in the final rankings, but the Tigers would need a blowout win over the Hokies while USC and Oklahoma played a sloppy, close game with some sort of controversy for the winner.
Neither happened, but that’s alright.
Auburn jumped up 16-0 over Virginia Tech on their first drive of the second half and held on in true Tuberville style for a 16-13 victory and the final card in a 13-0 season. There was no national championship at the time, but with USC’s cheating revealed after the fact, Tom Rinaldi on College Gameday just last years did indeed dub Auburn the national champs for 2004.
We’ll take it.
16 Years Ago - 2001
Coming off of a divisional title, Auburn entered 2001 “receiving votes” in the AP Poll, but would have a very good start to the season in reaching as high as #17 in the rankings.
Things started well with two wins over Ball State and Ole Miss to start 2-0, but then the season was put on hold once the September 11th terrorist attacks occurred in New York. Sporting events around the country were put on hold, with the entire college football slate for the following Saturday moved to the end of the season.
That meant Auburn’s game against LSU would be moved to after the Iron Bowl, and the Tigers instead would head to play Syracuse on September 22nd in the first college football game in the state of New York after the attacks.
The Tigers never had a chance. In an emotional Carrier Dome, Dwight Freeney frightened freshman quarterback Jason Campbell all day, the Tigers committed five turnovers and a whole load of penalties in falling 31-14 to the Orange.
Sulking after the road loss, Auburn headed to Nashville to meet Vanderbilt, and the Commodores would prove a feisty opponent, and made the game close in the end thanks to the absolute worst call in college football history.
First of all, what an unbelievable joke of a call. It’s not even close. Second, how about Andy Burcham on the TV call with Rod Bramblett doing color? This was Jim Fyffe’s next-to-last year.
Auburn would escape Nashville thanks to the leg of Damon Duval (file that away) and his 49-yard kick with two minutes to play. They’d do the same thing the next week at home against Mississippi State as Duval kicked three fourth quarter field goals including the winner with eighteen seconds to play as Auburn won 16-14.
Could he make it three for three? In marched Steve Spurrier and the top-ranked Florida Gators on a windy October night.
Auburn held Florida to negative-36 rushing yards, picked off Rex Grossman four times, and posted thirteen points in the fourth quarter, with none bigger than the final three off the leg of their All-American kicker.
Sitting at 5-1, Auburn felt pretty good about themselves, but had to scratch and claw the next week against a sneaky good Louisiana Tech team.
The Bulldogs came to town led by Luke McCown and proceeded to roll up better than 500 yards of offense and take Auburn to overtime. They scored 21 in the fourth quarter to force an extra period, but Daniel Cobb’s touchdown pass was all the Tigers would need for a 48-41 sizzling win.
Perhaps unnoticed in the stat line in that game is the number for a kid named Carnell Williams, who ran sixteen times for 78 yards and a score. He’d become pretty good in his time at Auburn.
Perhaps winded from four straight close games, Auburn ventured to Fayetteville the next week and just got Piggied. Tuberville did seem to have an odd complex against the Hogs early on and this was the pinnacle. Arkansas blasted Auburn 42-17 (even though we saw one speedy long touchdown from Carnell Williams) sending Auburn home with a much-needed bye week ahead of them.
Auburn rested up and met Georgia in Athens with a bounceback win on their minds. Georgia had a new coach named Mark Richt, who was the offensive architect for Florida State over the last several years. He’d left after the Seminoles reached their third straight BCS championship game to take over for Jim Donnan.
In a close and hard-fought game, Carnell Williams carried the ball an Auburn record 41 times, gaining 167 yards and scoring twice, but it was his receiving skills that put Auburn in position for the final score.
The Tigers escaped 24-17, sitting at 7-2 with still two games to play in the regular season. In came Alabama at 5-5 under their own new head coach Dennis Franchione. The Tide had lost three of their last four and were limping a bit as they entered Jordan-Hare Stadium. And to start the game, it looked like they’d get run out of the building, until disaster struck for Auburn.
Carnell Williams carried five times early for the Tigers, gaining 39 yards, before breaking his leg. It seemed like the air went completely out of the stadium as the hero of the Georgia game left the field, and Alabama took advantage of a hurt stadium.
The Tide rushed for 348 yards and blew out a sullen Tiger team 31-7. After what looked like a promising year, Auburn was all of a sudden 7-3 and had to pick it up to go play at LSU for the first time since the Cigar Game.
Don’t think LSU had forgotten about that little incident, either.
Auburn didn’t crack the 300 yard mark on offense in Baton Rouge, and LSU rolled out to a 27-7 lead before finally winning 27-14, with the band even getting in on the revenge.
At a middling 7-4, the Tigers went to play in the Peach Bowl against North Carolina, where exactly one cool thing happened.
The announcers didn’t even know what to make out of it.
So Auburn lost its final three games, finishing 7-5 in 2001, making you wonder what the Tigers would do it 2002. Tuberville had gone to Atlanta in his second season, then limped home at the end of year three. Auburn needed to do something or else that seat would start to get a little hot.
Coming Next: Some Other Guy Named Ronnie Brown