Homecoming at Auburn.
There’s nothing like an Auburn sunset!
War Eagle, everybody! It’s homecoming week, and this year’s opponent is Western Carolina. This game likely won’t be competitive, but homecoming games rarely are, these days. Western Carolina has started the season 1-5 with the lone victory coming over Mars Hill, 30-23. Aside from the Mars Hill game, the Catamounts have allowed 42 or more points in every contest. Western Carolina is giving up a whopping 5.0 yards per carry to their opponents, and 8.4 yards per pass. They also have a tendency to throw the ball to the other team, with 10 interceptions on the year already.
Auburn will finally have a game during the day this week, with a 1:00 PM Central time kickoff. It should be a temperate day in the 70s, with little chance for rain. Bring the sunblock and the ball caps!The game will be broadcast on pay-per-view only, but those folks out of state may be able to catch the game on WatchESPN.com. I had poor luck with that site in the season opener, but maybe some bugs have been worked out since.
While this game is expected to be a blowout, there have been some tense homecoming matchups in the past. Auburn has not lost a homecoming game since falling to Mississippi State in 1991, but there have been some close ones. Today, we’ll look back at some of the more competitive games over the past few decades.
Perhaps no homecoming game in Auburn history was more highly anticipated than the visit by the Maryland Terrapins in 1983. Head coach Bobby Ross and his quarterback Boomer Esiason had the Terps flying high. It was an offensive day for both teams, and Esiason racked up 355 passing yards against the normally stout Auburn defense. However, it was the trio of Auburn runners that day that made the difference. Bo Jackson rushed for 105 yards, Lionel James had 115, and fullback Tommy Agee had a career day with 214 as Auburn downed the Terps 35-23.
Auburn suffered a stunner in 1990. The Tigers had risen to number 3 in the nation earlier in the season, before being blown out 48-7 in Gainesville. Southern Mississippi was the homecoming punching bag that season, but Auburn found the going tough against the Golden Eagles. Four Jim von Wyl field goals were all the Tigers could muster that day, and they nursed a 12-0 lead into the 4th quarter. USM quarterback Bret Farve led a comeback, and two late touchdowns shocked the Tigers, and Southern Miss won it, 14-12.
In 1991, Auburn actually designated an SEC team, Mississippi State, to be the homecoming opponent. First year Bulldog coach Jackie Sherrill used that for a motivating point with his team, and they played angry football in the first half. Auburn was pretty punchless, and trailed 17-3 at the break. Auburn dug in and climbed back into the game in the second half, with a couple of field goal drives in the 3rd quarter, then a TD and 2 point conversion in the 4th tied the game at 17. Late in the game, Auburn allowed an I-bone pitch to Tony James to go the distance for 63 yards, and Mississippi State won the game 24-17.
The 1992 game was a close one, also. Auburn scored a couple of first quarter touchdowns against Southwestern Louisiana, and went into coast-mode. The Ragin’ Cajuns played hard, and took the lead in the 4th quarter. It took a frantic last minute drive led by Stan White, and a last second Scott Etheridge field goal to pull out a 25-24 win.
In 1996 it was Terry Bowden’s turn to go into an early shell. Auburn trailed Northeast Louisiana for most of the game, till a very late 6-yard checkdown pass from Dameyune Craig to fullback Kevin McCloud gave Auburn the lead. Auburn survived a scare, winning 28-24.
The 1998 season featured possibly the worst offensive mess in modern Auburn history (apologies to Scot Loeffler). The Tigers lost a number of offensive linemen, including five centers, had no playmakers at running back, and only one legit SEC-level receiver in Karsten Bailey. Bowden had bowed out at midseason, and the offense was turned over to young Jimbo Fisher and true freshman quarterback Gabe Gross. Explosive Central Florida was the opponent this year, with future NFL quarterback Duante Culpepper leading the charge. Bill Oliver’s Auburn defense did a stellar job that day, holding the UCF offense to just two first half field goals. Still, the putrid Tiger offense managed just one Robert Bironas field goal. Late in the game, Auburn faced 4th and long, and UCF blitzed. Gross just heaved one to the sideline at the stake. Clifton Robinson blazed in out of nowhere, and made a sliding catch for a first down, but the clock was ticking inside one minute left, and Auburn still trailed 6-3. On the next play, Gross hit Karsten Bailey on a quick hitch pass, and Bailey broke three tackles en route to the end zone! Auburn survived the Golden Knights, 10-6.
Central Florida tormented Tommy Tuberville’s first team in 1999, also on homecoming. The Knights held a 10-7 lead late into the 4th quarter, before redshirt freshman quarterback Jeff Klein threw up a prayer high into the end zone, and Reggie Worthy came down with it for a touchdown with 3:41 left in the game. UCF quarterback Victor Penn took a sack on 4th down, giving Auburn the ball at the UCF 8 yard line, where Heath Evans promptly blasted in for an 8 yard run. Penn threw a desperation pass over the middle on the next drive, and linebacker Alex Lincoln responded with a pick-six. Auburn was able to run out the clock on a 28-10 win that was a LOT closer than the final score indicated.
The 2001 homecoming game was a thriller, also. Junior college transfer Daniel Cobb got his first start at quarterback for the Tigers, and he was slinging the ball around. The Tigers roared out to a 31-13 halftime lead on the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. Tech had its own gunslinger though. Freshman quarterback Luke McCown matched Cobb’s numbers, as each quarterback finished with 381 passing yards in the game. McCown led the Bulldogs back, as Cobb chunked 4 interceptions. Louisiana Tech tied the game at 41 apiece with a late touchdown pass. Cobb led Auburn into field goal range, but Damon Duval missed a 37 yarder as time expired. In overtime, Cobb hit Deandre Green on the fade route, and Auburn went ahead 48-41. On La. Tech’s possession, linebacker Dontarrious Thomas ended the game with an interception over the middle. Cobb had thrown 4 interceptions in this one, but McCown topped him with 5, and Auburn survived, 48-41.
In 2008, Tennessee Martin hung around for 3 quarters with the Tigers. Auburn held a narrow 27-20 lead into the 4th quarter, before Kodi Burns started running wild. A 58 yard Burns touchdown run sealed away a 37-20 win against the Skyhawks. Burns finished the game with 158 rushing yards, at the time a record for Auburn quarterbacks. That record would be broken several times two years later, by Cam Newton.
Auburn struggled on homecoming in 2011, against a gritty Pat Sullivan-led Samford Bulldog squad. Cameron Yaw hit a field goal with 13 minutes left in the game, that cut Auburn’s lead to 21-16. Late touchdown runs by Clint Moseley and Onterio McCalebb salted this one away, as Auburn defeated Samford, 35-16.
New Mexico State hung with Auburn last season, for a half, as the Tigers led only 7-0 at the break. Auburn took the second half kickoff down the field for a short Jay Prosch bulldozer run, then Darren Bates stiff-armed his way with an Aggie fumble for a 62 yard touchdown rumble. A 38 yard McCalebb burst put this one out of reach, and Auburn cruised, 42-7 over New Mexico State.