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Countdown to Kickoff: 23 Days


Saturday marks three weeks to kickoff, but we’re not quite there yet. Instead, we have 23 days to kickoff, and today’s entry into the Countdown hearkens back to 1997.

After the stellar start by Terry Bowden in 1993 and 1994, winning twenty straight games and completing a perfect year in his rookie campaign, things got a little tougher for Baby Bowden.

The Tigers went just 8-4 in two straight seasons in 1995 and 1996, but things came together a little bit better in 1997. Auburn began the year with six straight wins before dropping a game to 7th-ranked Florida at home. Then there was an inexplicable 20-0 shutout against Mississippi State, but wins over Georgia and Alabama (in dramatic fashion, thank you Jarrett Holmes) gave Bowden and company the West Division title for the first time since the conference expanded. Auburn would be going to Atlanta to play Peyton Manning and Tennessee.

In the SEC Championship Game, the Tigers built a big lead, but Manning stormed back and willed the Vols to a 30-29 victory. Tennessee got to go get rocked by Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, and Auburn got relegated to the Peach Bowl against Clemson.

The game began sourly for Auburn, as Clemson blocked three punts, returning one for a touchdown and downing another inside the five-yard line to set up another easy touchdown. Auburn trailed 17-6 entering the fourth quarter and hadn’t done much all day on offense, even though the defense would hold Clemson to just 146 yards in total.

For Auburn to come back, they’d need to begin the rally in a hurry, and in the first minute of the final period, Auburn found itself deep in Clemson’s end.

Note the silky smooth weaving ability by Craig and that fantastic block that takes out two defenders (not that they would’ve caught him anyway). Auburn would end up winning 21-17 to finish the year at 10-3, with a final ranking of 11 in the AP Poll.

Dameyune was the offense that season, and he pretty much did it all on his own in this situation as well. War Eagle!