A Friday Flashback.
War Eagle, everybody! It certainly seems lately that Auburn is home to quarterback questions, and this year is no exception. I think Auburn’s chances in 2013 will hinge largely upon whether an effective quarterback can be found and groomed, and that’s usually the case on any football team. Back in 1990, Auburn was also looking for a quarterback.
Auburn was an SEC powerhouse in the late 1980s, and the 1990 team was coming off an unprecedented 3 straight SEC championships. However, Tiger great Reggie Slack had moved on, and Auburn needed a new signal caller. Auburn had long been considered a hard-nosed running team, but during the championship run had transitioned to a pro-style, balanced offense with prolific passing. Most observers figured that 5th year senior Frank McIntosh would take over the job, as he had the only playing experience on the squad.
A pair of younger Tigers had other ideas. Sophomore Corey Lewis and redshirt freshman Stan White made the spring of 1990 a three quarterback race. In the end, White won the job. Many folks expected Auburn to lean heavily on a veteran rushing attack featuring senior runners James Joseph and Stacy Danley, but so did opposing coaches. The Auburn running game stalled in the season opener against Cal State Fullerton, and White was turned loose. He finished his very first game with 324 passing yards and 4 touchdowns, in a 38-17 win.
Two weeks later, Auburn was struggling at home with Tennessee, trailing 26-9 in the third quarter. Again Auburn turned to White, and he delivered. White threw a school record 58 passes in that game, and led Auburn back. He tossed four more touchdowns, and had 338 passing yards as Auburn roared back to tie the game. The Vols missed a chip shot field goal at the end of the game, and were left with a 26-all tie. Tennessee went on to win the SEC title that year.
Auburn struggled in 1990, needing last minute drives repeatedly. Freshman Stan White was the man, leading the team down the field late to win games against Louisiana Tech, and mighty Florida State. Under White, Auburn reached 3rd place in the AP poll with a 6-0-1 record just past mid-season. Then the program took a few lumps, losing 3 of its last 4 regular season games. The Tigers regrouped in the Peach Bowl, with White passing for 351 yards in that one. White won the game late with a bootleg scramble for a touchdown. Auburn finished the 1990 season 8-3-1 and 19th in the nation. White was named to the All-SEC freshman team.
The wheels came off the Dye regime in 1991, amid allegations of cheating. Stan White suffered a sophomore slump, but to this observer the problems had more to do with receivers who couldn’t catch the ball, than an accuracy problem. In the season opener against Georgia Southern, Auburn shockingly trailed 17-0 at the half. White led the Tigers back, winning the game 32-17.
Auburn ran their record in 1991 to 3-0, with tough wins over Ole Miss at home, and the Texas Longhorns in Austin. The Tigers hung tough in Knoxville following that, with long passes from Stan White to Joe Frazier keeping Auburn in the game, but the team fell to Tennessee, 30-21. Most of the fault lay with the defense, which had given up over 500 yards to the Vols.
A malaise crept in on that 1991 team, that lasted the better part of two years. After losing to the Vols., Auburn faced a Southern Miss team that had beaten the Tigers the year before at homecoming. One would think a little revenge would have been in order, but the Tigers instead sleep-walked through most of the game. Trailing 10-3, Stan White brought the Tigers back once again. White passed for 258 yards in that one, but Auburn went for two late, and failed, 10-9. Then the Tigers blew a 21-3 second quarter lead against Vanderbilt in Nashville, and needed a cardiac drive from White, and a last second field goal to win that one, 24-22.
With a 4-2 record, Auburn collapsed against the meat of their SEC schedule, losing four of their last five games. White had a lot of balls dropped that season, but the real culprit for the losses was the defense. The Tigers gave up a long touchdown run late to lose to Mississippi State on homecoming. Shane Matthews and the Florida Gators did pretty much as they pleased in Jordan Hare. The Tiger D couldn’t even stop freshman quarterback Eric Zeier, falling to the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, 37-27. Finally, in Legion Field Auburn allowed a late touchdown drive by Alabama to fall 13-6. The 1991 Tigers finished the season 5-6, and coach Pat Dye’s job was in jeopardy.
Dye did hang on for another year. Auburn opened the 1992 season in Oxford, and Stan White would again start every game. Against the Rebels in the season opener, White passed for 314 yards, but much of it was in trash time with the game out of reach. Auburn turned the ball over repeatedly in that game, and were blown out 45-21. Folks in the media wondered aloud if Auburn even had what it took to beat up and coming Samford, that year.
Struggles aside, White and the Tigers showed the world the vast gap between an average SEC team, and the likes of Samford. The Tigers blasted the Bulldogs 55-0, and began a four-game win streak. The Tigers blew a 27-7 fourth quarter lead against LSU, and needed a trademark late White drive for a field goal, and hung on for a 30-28 win. Southern Miss fell the next week, 16-8. Most folks expected a big battle against a tough DiNardo Vanderbilt team, but Auburn trounced the Commodores, 31-7. Were the 4-1 Auburn Tigers back?
The Tigers fell apart offensively in Starkville, and could hardly even make a first down. Trailing 6-0 in the third quarter, Stan White finally connected on a long bomb to Orlando Parker for a 67-yard touchdown, and a 7-6 lead. The Tigers tried to nurse that lead, but gave up a late punt return score, and fell to the Bulldogs 14-7. The following week in Gainesville, dropped balls and bad passes plagued the Tigers against a very beatable Florida team. Auburn could manage only field goals, and Florida tuned their offense up in a 24-9 win.
The next week during Homecoming, Auburn blew a 17-3 second quarter lead against Southwestern Louisiana. Stan White again reached deep into his bag of tricks, and led the Tigers down the field late for another win, as Auburn edged the Ragin’ Cajuns 25-24. There were deep problems on the team. Wide receiver Frank Sanders wondered aloud to the press if White shouldn’t be benched, in favor of freshman Patrick Nix.
Auburn could not pull one out in the 4th quarter the next three games. Hosting Arkansas, neither team could cross midfield in the last seven minutes, and the Tigers ended that game tied at 24-24. With a 5-3-1 record, and a game that didn’t count towards bowl eligibility against Samford, Auburn needed to beat both Georgia and Alabama to go bowling.
The struggling Tigers gave it their best shot. The defense held down powerful Georgia and Alabama teams for a while, but the offense could do little. White led Auburn down the field twice against the Bulldogs, taking the Tigers in for a score the first time. On the second drive, Joe Frazier and James Bostic collided near the goal line, the ball came out, and the clock ran out on the Tigers in a 14-10 loss. The night before a Thanksgiving Day Iron Bowl, Pat Dye announced his resignation.
The Auburn defense held Alabama’s offense scoreless for three quarters, but the Auburn offense could do nothing. Bama took the lead in the 3rd quarter on a Stan White pick six, and White later left the game with a separated shoulder. Auburn could not keep powerful Alabama ends Curry and Copeland out of the backfield, and Auburn fell 17-0. The Tigers finished the season 5-5-1, with no head coach, and were facing likely probation.
After a number of big coaching names were bandied about, Auburn hired young Samford coach Terry Bowden to lead the Tigers. Some figured that Stan White’s playing days were done, but those folks had no idea what a fighter he was. The critics pointed to White’s junior season in 1992, where White only threw 5 touchdowns, against 16 interceptions. White quietly kept working, and built a rapport with junior receivers Frank Sanders and Thomas Bailey.
In the 1993 season opener against Ole Miss, White only completed 8 passes, as the Tigers sought to dominate the game on the ground, and on defense. The Tigers gave up a couple of late scores to the Rebels, but hung on for a 16-12 win. Auburn wasn’t terribly impressive against Samford the next week, either. Chan Gailey’s Bulldogs gashed Auburn for a 2nd quarter touchdown, and Auburn got almost nothing done on offense in the 2nd half, limping to a 35-7 win.
Few expected Auburn to win in Baton Rouge. Auburn had not won on the road since the Vanderbilt game two years before. Early on, Auburn gave up a long punt return to Eddie Kennison, and trailed 7-0. LSU was determined to stone the Auburn running game. In the second quarter, Stan White opened the game up, throwing out of his own end zone and hitting Frank Sanders for a big gain. White finished the game with 282 yards, including a 57 yard bomb to Thomas Bailey off a fake reverse. White and the Tigers rolled up 554 offensive yards, and beat LSU 34-10.
Against Southern Mississippi, Auburn survived an early fumble and 7-0 deficit to take a 21-7 lead to halftime. The Golden Eagles fought back in the third quarter, taking a 24-21 lead. White loaded up a big ball to Thomas Bailey in the end zone to take the lead back, then led a long ball-control drive in the fourth quarter to give Auburn a 35-24 win.
The Tigers got a scare in Nashville in week five. The Auburn offense sputtered, and Vanderbilt’s option attack ground clock and yards. The Tigers scored on a Brian Robinson interception for a touchdown, but trailed 10-7 at the half. Stan White connected with Frank Sanders on a simple hitch pass, that turned into a big gain. James Bostic capped the drive with a 2 yard run, and Auburn hung on for a 14-10 win. The Tigers had started the season 5-0, but could they play with the big boys in the league?
Back home against Mississippi State, the Tigers were tested. They again started slow, fumbling the ball away three times in the first quarter. The Bulldogs managed only a pair of field goals out of those turnovers. Then, White got hot. In the second quarter alone, he toss three touchdown passes. The first was a deep post to Frank Sanders, the second a check-down toss to Stephen Davis, and the third was a beautiful lob to Tony Richardson on a wheel route. The Tigers plowed over the Bulldogs, 31-17.
The undefeated, fourth ranked Florida Gators were up next. They came into Jordan Hare Stadium flying high behind redshirt freshman quarterback Danny Wuerffel. Florida rang up 560 yards on the Tigers, but had some costly turnovers. Stan White put on a show of his own, throwing for 267 yards. Auburn fought back from a 27-14 halftime deficit. The Tigers scored 17 points in the 4th quarter, and recovered a Jack Jackson fumble late to seal a 38-35 win over eventual SEC Champion Florida. It was now obvious that these Tigers, and Stan White were for real!
A trip to snowy Arkansas followed. On an icy field with frigid winds, it wasn’t a day for passers. White still managed a 212 yard day, including a 56 yard ball to Frank Sanders that set up the first Tiger touchdown. Late in a tight game, Auburn turned to fullback Reid McMilion who ran over the Razorbacks for two scores, and a 31-21 Auburn win.
The past three seasons, Auburn had suffered through some awful Homecomings. They had lost to Southern Miss, and Mississippi State, and had barely scraped by Southwestern Louisiana. An early James Bostic fumble set New Mexico State up for an easy touchdown, and it looked like another tough one in the making. Stan White was having none of that. White connected on 16 consecutive passes, and the Tigers scored 5 touchdowns in the second quarter. Auburn rolled over the Bulldogs, 55-14.
Then, it was time once again for Auburn to face Eric Zeier and the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens. The Tigers scored first in this one, and didn’t look back. With James Bostic running for 183 yards and 3 touchdowns, and Stan White passing for 192 and another score, the Bulldog defense didn’t have much chance. Zeier and co. made a run, but Auburn won it, 42-28.
Next, the 10-0 Tigers hosted defending national champ Alabama. This was only Alabama’s second trip to Jordan Hare Stadium, and it was the only game in state history to sell out TWO stadiums! Alabama had set up a big jumbotron in Bryant Denny Stadium, and sold tickets. Auburn found the going very tough against the Tide, and could manage only a field goal drive in the first half. Stan White got Auburn going in the 3rd quarter, connecting on 3rd down passes to Tony Richardson and Reid McMilion to keep the drive alive. White was knocked out of the game later in that drive, but he had set Auburn up well. The Tigers stormed back to win, 22-14, and had the first 11-0 season in school history!
Stan White finished up having started all 45 games he played in, which is still a record for Auburn quarterbacks. After struggling with interceptions earlier in his career, he finished his senior season having thrown only 8. In 1993 he connected on 60.5 percent of his passes, for 2057 yards. He was named SEC player of the week twice during the unbeaten season.