Today’s post is another C&M special. We are officially 19 days away from kick off. The same number of yards Wes Byrum’s kick needed to travel in order for Auburn to win a long awaited national championship.
So to celebrate one of the greatest moments in Auburn football history, the staff here decided to share their memories of that day and game. Feel free to share your own stories in the comments below.
After all, we all need some inspiration on how we are going to celebrate this year.
I sadly was not fortunate enough to make the trip out to Glendale, AZ so instead we had a watch party at our apartment just off campus. There has not been a game that I’ve lived and died on every play like that one. For some reason I didn’t have that same emotional response to the championship game that shall not be named (though obviously I was nervous throughout). When Auburn got positive yards or made a big play on defense, it was pure ecstasy. When Oregon busted off a long run or made a crucial stop on defense, I died a little inside. My roommate and I kept a constant flow of dialogue throughout the game because I don’t think we could handle sitting still for even half a second.
But while it was a nerve wracking game to watch, I never doubted for a second we would win. I mean how could I? After watching this team find some way every single week, I just knew that now that they had made it to this moment, there was no way Cam Newton, Nick Fairley and that amazing football team would let this season end in disappointment. So when Wes Byrum lined up for that kick, I geared myself up for celebration because there was absolutely ZERO doubt in my mind it was going through the uprights.
When it did, my roommate and I went berzerk, tackling each other (and taking out someone who did not wish to join the group hug in the process) and immediately gearing up to head to Toomer’s Corner. But before I did that I had to make an important phone call. My dad had gone to school during the Doug Barfield era and was the singular force behind my family being Auburn fanatics. I called him and remember simply saying “We did it dad! We finally did it!”. While it was awesome to see an Auburn title myself, I was probably 100 times happier that my dad finally got to witness his Tigers raising the trophy.
Toomer’s Corner was amazing that night. I’m not sure how many strangers I hugged, how may times I got drilled by industrial sized rolls of toilet paper or how often I just screamed “WAR EAGLE” for no reason at all other than the sheer joy of it. I arrived at Auburn in 2008 to witness one of the worst Auburn football seasons in recent history only to be topped by an even more horrendous 2012 season my final year (I redshirted as a freshman). But sandwiched in between is probably the single greatest Auburn football season of all time. It made it all worth it.
For this one, I need to rewind back to December 2nd, 1989. It was just after #11 Auburn had dominated second ranked Alabama 30-20 and dashed their national title hopes. Driving back to Valdosta, GA in my dad’s 1985 Mazda RX-7, we were both on cloud 9. Dad had the highlights from Jim Fyffe blaring on the speakers as we drove through Phenix City heading across the river and he said, “Son, I don’t know if it will ever get any better than this.”. Six year old me looked at him and said, “Unless we win it all!” He laughed in that longing laugh that an Auburn fan that lived through the 1970s would only understand.
Fast forward to January 10th, 2011. There we were again, just like we had been for countless Auburn football games in the past. We had been to the frozen tundra of Sanford Stadium (if you were at any night games in the 90s you know what I mean), we had seen Auburn go to 11-0 against another Alabama team that entered the hallowed grounds of Jordan-Hare Stadium, had survived the Burn the Barn game against LSU, we were at the Sack Brodie game where, while waiting for the student gates to open, Dad flipped over a trash can an began to preach to the early comers about what it meant for the Iron Bowl to be played at Auburn and to give their all in the stands like the Tigers of the past and present had and would give that day.
That Monday night, we were in the upper deck right infront of where Michael Dyer would make his run and almost finish the game himself, but still had the beautiful view of Wes Byrum finishing off the trip to the mountain top. A trip that had lasted 20+ years ago for the two of us, ended on the mountain top of College Football. And. to steal a quote from Rod Bramblett, “The view was perfection” and something I will never forget.
There never really was the feeling that we’d lose this game. When Cam’s Hail Mary in Atlanta found Darvin Adams at halftime, I knew we were sort of destined to take it all the way. The second half of that game was a celebration, and I never got the sense of nervousness that usually precedes a big regular season game as things led up to the BCS Championship.
Knowing how hot the tickets to that game were (a girl I knew went with her father, and they turned down a cash offer of $10,000 per ticket outside the gates), I stayed on the Plains and posted up on the same pool table at Quixote’s where I’d watched us dismantle the Gamecocks. The first quarter was slow, both sides feeling each other out, and we were making mistakes to keep the Ducks in the game. It didn’t help that the indoor playing surface was slippery as hell, but Oregon kept within reach.
It’s shocking that there was nearly a 30-minute stretch during which neither team scored — from Wes Byrum’s field goal with 11:30 to play in the third quarter all the way to the game-tying touchdown by LaMichael James with 2:33 to play — but Auburn had rolled up yards and come up short during the majority of the game. Still, I was calm as Cam hit Emory Blake for a calm first down gainer, and then the lightning struck with Dyer’s no-whistle missile. I admit I looked down to find my beer, missed him getting up, only saw when the rest of the bar was frantically screaming, and only when my hands were shaking did I understand what that meant.
We were in field goal range for a national championship.
I also knew that I needed to get the hell out of the bar so that I could head to Toomer’s Corner unimpeded. I had to close my tab. I was the only one at the bar when Dyer nearly put the hammer down again with just seconds left, and during the impending review, the bartender found my card and printed the receipt. I was good to go. Byrum’s field goal is a blur, I’m not even sure if I actually saw any more than the split-second flash of the ball between the uprights before I was out the door, sprinting, half-crying as I pounded the hundred or so yards down to the Oaks.
The rest of that night comes in snapshots — hugging total strangers in the streets, the industrial-sized roll of toilet paper that someone managed to get over a branch tumbling down and sending me sprawling to the pavement, endless Bodda Gettas and War Eagles, and finally making my way home to find the replay on ESPN in the wee hours of the morning. I watched every second.
When I woke up the next day, I looked for my wallet in the pocket of my pants from the night before, found it and the bar receipts that were justified by a night like that, and I came across something else: a huge crumpled wad of toilet paper. That’s my one souvenir from the entire experience, framed and happily hung in the house. Maybe it’s weird, but to those who are in the family, there’s barely anything more fitting.
I’ll admit, I don’t have the best memory when it comes to this game. I recently watched it on SEC Network over the summer, and realized how little of the game I remembered outside of the Kodi touchdown, Dyer not being down, and the field goal. As a 15 year old in suburban Atlanta, I spent the entirety of the holidays hearing from my friends that Auburn was a fraud, that Cam was cheating, that Nick Fairley was dirty, blah blah-blah blah-blah. UGA fans are the worst. Anyways, if you’ll remember, the south was buried in an ice storm around the time of the championship game. My family, not having a generator, was preparing to walk to a family friend’s house several miles away in the event that we didn’t have power during the game. Luckily we didn’t have to do this, but the ice storm also meant I didn’t go to school the entire next week to rub this in my friends’ faces. By the time we got back (after MLK, so over a week later), all anyone wanted to talk about was how Aaron Rodgers had just dismantled the Falcons despite the Falcons having a one seed.
If you’ve read just about anything I’ve written over the last few years, you’ll know I absolutely despise UGA, and now that I think about it, the fact that I didn’t get to enjoy this win as much as I should have might be root of my bitterness. But on this frozen night in Lawrenceville, Georgia, it was all about Auburn. As it should be.
I went to every home game in 1993. I went to every game in 2004. There was no way I wasn’t going to be there the moment that they couldn’t keep Auburn out anymore. Our seats were dead on the 50 behind the Auburn bench.....4 rows from the top of the stadium. When Dyer wasn’t down, I was screaming for him to keep running, because our side of the stadium knew he had rolled over the Oregon defender. As I’ve written before, the true cathartic moment happened before the field goal. In truth, I don’t blame Chizik at all for playing for a game-ending field goal. I had absolute faith in Wes Byrum to nail it. It just couldn’t match the feeling all those near misses washing away in one dynamic run. When it was finally over, I’ll admit the tears started flowing. The incredible woman next to me that told me to dip into my engagement ring savings to get us into that stadium understood all of it. I cherish a picture of us with the confetti covered field behind us, even though I look ridiculous and she looks amazing. It took so long to get out of the upper deck that all of the t-shirts in our sizes were gone, but at least we got to hug Nick Fairley’s mom. We slowly walked out to the car, and an Auburn fan parked near us handed out cigars. It was the best one I’ve ever had. We stayed and danced to “All the Above” and “Dynamite” and “All I Do Is Win” in the parking lot until security made us leave. It was a night none of us wanted to end, but we had 8 months to celebrate.
19 days till kickoff! War Eagle!