The Countdown to Kickoff continues today with a victorious game. I know the past couple of days we showed you good plays that matched the numbers on the countdown, but they were from losses. Today you can enjoy Auburn kicking the hell out of Nick Saban.
There’s a reason that so many people were so high on Auburn in 2003 — it was because the Tigers were really good in 2002, and three out of their four losses were close, heartbreaking games. Tommy Tuberville’s fourth team opened the year in sunny Los Angeles, but ultimately fell 24-17 to the USC Trojans and eventual Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer.
After that things got better, with four wins in a row, highlighted by the overtime victory over Syracuse that saw Cadillac Williams really break out with over 200 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Then came the terror that was Fred Talley, and Auburn’s only big loss of the season, a 38-17 setback at home to Arkansas.
It was off to Gainesville, where the Gators would be looking for revenge after Damon Duval’s field goal to win it the year before. Florida had a new coach in Ron Zook, and when Cadillac went down with a broken leg, it all seemed lost. However, we saw the first glimpse of what could be with Ronnie Brown stepping in and accruing over 200 all-purpose yards to bring Auburn back. Jason Campbell also took the quarterback reins back from Daniel Cobb and never relinquished the job again. Ultimately, Duval’s chip shot field goal to win at the horn was blocked, and Florida won in overtime. Auburn was 4-3 as they headed back home to face LSU.
LSU’s season was similar in one way — a season-opening loss to a good team on the road (26-8 defeat at Virginia Tech) — but they had been flawless since that. Six straight wins followed, including a 30-point victory at Florida, and a decimation of South Carolina. However, their quarterback situation had suddenly become undone. Starter Matt Mauck had been injured late in the win over Florida, and Marcus Randall would have to step in to take over. His first full start was the 38-14 win over the Gamecocks, but they didn’t have Karlos Dansby and Travaris Robinson.
LSU marched into Jordan-Hare riding high, Auburn licking its wounds, but this game was over from the start.
T-Rob’s 64-yard interception return early on set the tone for what would be a four-interception outing for Randall (Dansby got two and Donnay Young nabbed another) as Auburn jumped up 31-0 before LSU finally found the end zone. This game was also important because we got an early look at Tre Smith (watch out Alabama), and it started Auburn’s late season surge that had so many confident going into the fall of 2003.
Up Next: 63 Days (the other big play from the 2003 Iron Bowl)