We’re 29 days to kickoff between Auburn and Georgia Southern! Yesterday we remembered some of the great games in which Auburn scored 30 points, so today we’ll look at the singular memorable recent game in which Auburn scored 29 in a winning effort. Additionally, we’ll look back at 29 years ago, which was the Tigers’ second-straight SEC Championship in 1988.
2000 - Auburn 29, Georgia 26
The year before Mark Richt stepped in to lead things in Athens, Auburn welcome Georgia to the Plains for what would be Jim Donnan’s last go-around in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. On the back of junior college transfer Rudi Johnson at tailback, the Tigers had enjoyed pretty solid success in Tommy Tuberville’s second season. Johnson was named SEC Player of the Year for his performance that season as he rumbled for more than 1,500 yards on the ground. As a team, Auburn entered this game at 7-2 with a close loss to Mississippi State and a humbling defeat to Steve Spurrier’s Florida bunch down in Gainesville.
Georgia, meanwhile, also had a pretty good thing going in 2000 as they ran out to a 6-2 record, falling only at South Carolina in the second game of the year, and then to Florida the week before heading to Auburn. Jim Donnan was facing pressure for his inability to turn Georgia into the power it once was under Vince Dooley, and also for his team’s struggles against Georgia Tech.
Auburn had won five of the last seven against Georgia, and had roared out to a 31-0 halftime lead in Athens the previous year (remember Ronney Daniels dunking on the crossbar?), but Georgia seemed determined to issue a correction at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Ben Leard threw an early pick-six, and two Billy Bennett field gave Georgia a 13-0 lead, and Auburn just only got on the board as the first half ended on a 48-yard Damon Duval field goal. It was enough to open the floodgates, however, as the Tigers put up 23 straight points and took a 23-13 lead deep into the final period. Georgia pulled within three points on a touchdown pass to Terrance Edwards and finally tied things up in the final minute on another Bennett field goal. We went to overtime.
In the extra period, Georgia tacked on the fourth field goal from Bennett, which opened the door for Auburn to take the win if they could blast into the end zone in the bottom of the first overtime.
Auburn took the victory 29-26, notching their eighth victory of the year. A week later they’d shut out Alabama 9-0 to finish Tommy Tuberville’s second season at 9-2. Sadly, the Tigers would drop two straight to finish the year — a 28-6 loss to Florida in the SEC Championship and a 31-28 defeat to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
29 Years Ago - 1988
Coming off of his second SEC Championship at Auburn, Pat Dye brought a stingy defense and a seasoned corps of offensive veterans into 1988. Auburn rattled off four victories in a row to start the year, with the closest game being a 20-10 result over Kentucky in the season opener. Other than that, the closest contest was a 47-21 win over North Carolina. Then disaster struck in the famous Earthquake Game in Baton Rouge, with LSU prevailing 7-6 on a last-second touchdown pass to send Auburn into the loss column for the first time all year.
After that, Auburn took out its frustration on the opposition, blanking Akron, Mississippi State, and Florida over the next three games. They’d finish the year with wins over Georgia and Alabama (for the third straight season), and earn a Sugar Bowl berth by way of winning the SEC Championship.
This was a season of what-ifs, however. If Auburn had beaten LSU and finished undefeated, they would’ve been in the mix with Lou Holtz’s Notre Dame team for a claim to the national championship.
Either way it was a successful year, as Auburn defensive tackle Tracy Rocker became the first SEC player to win the Lombardi and Outland Trophies in the same year. Rocker finished his career with 21 sacks and more than 350 tackles from the middle of the defensive line, and earned two-time All-American status (consensus in 1988).
Next Up: 28 Days Until Kickoff (I wonder what game we’ll feature then...)