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Countdown to Kickoff: 70 Days

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A Double Feature!

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We continue the Countdown to Kickoff at 70 days until Auburn and Washington meet in Atlanta. Today, witness two underrated running backs putting a game away for good.

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With it down to 10 weeks to kickoff, we’ve got a double feature for you today! We’ll go in chronological order.

Bostic finishes off Alabama

1993 was a dream season for Auburn. The Tigers were 10-0 entering the Iron Bowl, and were holding a slim 15-14 lead in the 4th quarter after coming back from a 14-5 deficit. On 4th and 10 deep in their own territory, Alabama got desperate and wen’t for it. Jay Barker’s deep pass for Toderick Malone landed right in the lap of Auburn’s Dell McGee at the Tiger 30. Many in the stands bemoaned that McGee didn’t knock it down, since the interception resulted in poor field position (*cough* MOM! *cough*). In truth, McGee just wanted to see James Bostic rip Alabama’s heart out.

Here’s what I wrote a couple of years ago in an Iron Bowl Week article

Also, give Frank Sanders a lot of credit for walling off Antonio Langham. Also hats off to a helmet-less Tony Richardson nailing Bostic in the endzone with the hardest hit of the game.

Rudi Johnson makes a name for himself

In the days before every game on Saturday was televised, Auburn would often sacrifice a game per season, even a home game, to a Thursday night. While Terry Bowden was open to doing it for SEC games (Ole Miss in 1993* and Kentucky in 1994), Tommy Tuberville was open to the 2000 season opener against Wyoming being moved to a Thursday. While the crowd size was hampered, the exposure was worth the risk at the time.

Auburn dominated the game early. Ronney Daniels made one of his signature catch-and-runs for a long touchdown, and Rudi Johnson struck for the first two TDs of his Auburn career. The Tigers seemed to be cruising to a victory up 28-7. However, the Cowboys would strike for two quick touchdowns and cut the lead to 28-21 with still more than 3 minutes to go in the game. As Auburn took the field and failed to gain on first down, Mike Tirico and the rest of the ESPN crew started commenting on the change in momentum, but Tirico made sure to mention that it could change in one snap.

Auburn was in their, at that time, usual 12 personnel set**. Wyoming is attempting to stop Johnson from running up the middle, so they attempt to overpower center Ben Nowland. Nowland does a good job of walling his man off, and the LG is able to drive his man back. Wyoming’s middle linebacker reads the play, but Rudi’s footwork makes him miss. The right side of Auburn’s line has created enough of a cavern that Johnson is close to the first down when he bounces off of another Cowboy while moving forward. Wide Receiver Reggie Worthy gets a great block on one safety and frees Johnson through the secondary. By the time the safeties catch Rudi, they bounce into each other and Johnson just slips away. The last Cowboy with a chance manages to grab Rudi’s jersey just inside the 25 yard line, but he gets taken for a ride all the way inside the 5. By the time his teammates can catch up, they can only hit Johnson as he crosses the goal line. Game over. Legend started.

Rudi finished the season with 1567 rushing yards and a 4.8 yards per carry average. At the time, it was the second highest single season total in Auburn history (behind Bo’s Heisman winning season). In the four seasons prior to his arrival, Auburn’s leading rushers had managed just 439, 277, 483, and 357 yards and YPC averages of 5.5, 3.6, 3.2, and 3.5. In the years since Rudi left, Auburn has had only 4 seasons total without a 1000-yard rusher.