Watching the Iron Bowl is like enduring three hours of surgery without anesthesia. The great philosopher and play-by-play man Verne Lundquist once said the thought of losing the Iron Bowl was worse for fans than the excitement of winning it. It’s hard to disagree with that one, although I have to say I’ve felt mighty good for the last 72 hours.
In the days following the Auburn win, fans have tried to put into perspective the significance of Friday’s victory over Alabama. While the 1972 and 1989 contests will always be special and rank near the top of anyone’s Iron Bowl memories, what we witnessed in Tuscaloosa this year tops them all.
There’s no way to put into words how horrible the first half was or how spectacularly beautiful the second half played out. There are so many memories that we’ll keep with us forever.
For this writer, the enduring picture will be the faces of this senior class including, Lee Ziemba, Josh Bynes, Zac Etheridge, Kodi Burns and Wes Byrum. Watching them smile and celebrate with their teammates and fans in the end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium after the game is what makes this program so special.
Two years ago, these guys came into Tuscaloosa as wide-eyed sophomores lining up for an execution. They’d endured losing their beloved coach, suffered through the scrutiny of Gene Chizik’s hiring and watched their cross state rival seize control of the state.
The turnaround at Auburn is unparalleled in SEC history. Despite all the success over the past two years at Bama, Auburn has withstood the test when most pundits wrote them off.
This program can now lay claim to seven of the past nine wins in the series. Auburn has gone from being picked fourth in the SEC West to ranked first in the BCS. Across the state, Alabama has gone from number one nationally to number four in the SEC West. See a trend?
Few would have believed Chizik would ever out-coach Nick Saban. On Saturday afternoon he ran circles around the state’s anointed one. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Even with Cam Newton, this Auburn team had no business coming into the game undefeated and ranked second in the land. Year two is always suppose to be an improvement over the first one, but few have done it like Chizik.
He is playing with young talent and seniors who are performing way above their high school recruiting stars. What will this program look like with a few more stellar signing classes?
Two team goals are now complete. They’ve captured the division and whipped the defending national champions. Now comes the hard part. Saturday’s game with South Carolina will be the toughest of the year.
The Gamecocks are arguably playing the best football in the SEC. Steve Spurrier has seen this Auburn offense in person. Whipping the ole ball coach twice in a year has never been done. Chizik’s men will have to earn this championship. Bringing his guys down from an emotional win and ready for a conference championship game will be his toughest coaching job yet.
Did you ever believe you’d live long enough to see Auburn two wins from a national championship? Did you ever believe you’d witness a quarterback like Cam Newton in an Auburn uniform? Me either.
I’ll see you in Atlanta on Saturday. I’ll be the guy with a huge smile on his face!