I was there in 2003 when we opened the season against USC.
I watched and salivated all summer long as the pundits ranked Auburn in the top five, some picking the Tigers to win the national championship after a stellar finish to the 2002 campaign.
I was there as Jason Campbell’s first pass of 2003 got picked off by the Trojans.
I was there as Mike Williams caught Matt Leinart’s first college pass attempt for a touchdown.
I was there as we got blanked by USC and started what should’ve been a fantastically fun year with a whimper.
23-0. USC. Final.
The next week wasn’t any better, but at least we scored. Reggie Ball somehow used every bit of good karma he ever worked up and somehow beat us not once, but twice. We got trounced as badly as a 17-3 defeat can be defined as a trouncing.
WE STILL HADN’T SCORED A TOUCHDOWN TWO GAMES IN.
Tommy Tuberville brought in Zeke Bratkowski to give us some tips on offense, and it ended up working against Vanderbilt in game three, but even that took some time. The first quarter ended with a scoreless tie, and it wasn’t until Jeris McIntyre took matters into his own paws, that Auburn finally found the promised land.
McIntyre caught two touchdowns on the day, and Auburn beat Vanderbilt 45-7.
I still have nightmares about defensive lines running slants and stunts, because that was the excuse leading up to this game as to why we were struggling so much with the Nallsminger offense. It did pick up, and Auburn would beat Tennessee and Arkansas (both ranked in the top ten) in back-to-back weeks shortly after this game. However, 2003 just turned out to be yet another staging area for what would come one year later.