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Listing the Top 20 Iron Bowls

By on November 20th, 2012 in Football 37 Comments »

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This is it. This is Iron Bowl week. It’s what nearly 5,000,000 citizens in the Heart of Dixie (and millions more across the country) look forward to at the end of Thanksgiving week. It’s the renewal of the nation’s No. 1 rivalry … Auburn vs. Alabama.

This is the game coached by such legends as Heisman, Dye, Stallings, Bear, and Shug. Its the game that has made a player’s name recognizable for generations. Players such as  Bo, Namath,  Sullivan, Musso, Cadillac, Stabler, Ingram, and Cam. And it is a game that has made heroes out of the most unlikely. Players like Bill Newton, Mailon Kent, Van Tiffen, and Tre Smith..

Yes, when it comes to college football , it doesn’t get any better than this … well  maybe that statement doesn’t apply to this year – when a 3-8 Auburn team has to face a No.2  Alabama team in Tuscaloosa.

Normally this writer would be transfixed all week on the upcoming showdown in T-Town. However, this year’s Auburn squad has imploded and the prospects of Auburn making a game out of it are less than the odds of winning the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes.

As Jay Coulter wrote yesterday, for Auburn fans, this will probably be, “An Iron Bowl Week To Forget.” So since I can’t bring myself to look forward to Saturday- I decided to go ahead and forget the expected beat down and instead remember some of the great Iron Bowls of  the past.

There are so many great games that stand out that it’s almost impossible to say which are the greatest Iron Bowls ever? However, I have ranked what I see as the top 20 Iron Bowls of my life time.

Here’s my list:

20. 1963 – Auburn’s greatest running quarterback, All-American Jimmy Sidle, was injured and had to be relieved by unknown back up Mailon Kent. The No.2 QB  led Auburn on two scoring drives, including the go-ahead touchdown to take a 10-8 win over Joe Namath and the Crimson Tide. The Tigers narrowly missed a chance at a national championship and finished with a top five ranking. Sports Illustrated picked Auburn to win the national championship in 1964.

The next year Namath led the Tide to a hard fought 21-14 victory over the Tigers and  Alabama would go on to earn the national championship that preseason pundits had picked Auburn to win.

19. 2003 – Never mind Bama was 4-8, this game was significant because  an embattled Tommy Tuberville was not expected to survive a loss to the Tide. Instead Cadillac Williams electrified the Jordan-Hare crowd by taking the opening handoff 80 yards for a touchdown. It was one of those moments in Jordan-Hare that I can see like it just happened last week. Cadillac went on to  rush for more than 200 yards on the night and lead Auburn to a 28-23 win.

18. 2005 – Number 11 Auburn faced No. 9 Alabama. The Auburn defense put on a clinic, shutting down  the Tide’s offense and sacking Bama quarterback Brodie Croyle 12 times. The Tigers would win the game 28-18 and a new bumper sticker became popular on cars across Alabama, “Honk if you’ve sacked Brodie.

17.1988 –  What was probably the greatest Auburn defense in history …  held Alabama to 3 points. Although quarterback Reggie Slack threw for 220 yards, and tailback Stacy Danley had 100 yards rushing, the Tide also was able to hold the Tigers to 3 points. Then late in the game, Auburn’s Ron Stallworth tackled David Smith in the end zone for a safety. After a field goal was added, Vincent Harris’ scored on a 1-yard run and Auburn earned a 15-10 victory.

16.2002- Auburn came into the Iron Bowl missing future NFL first round draft picks Cadillac Williams and Ronnie Brown. The Tide was ranked in the AP’s Top 10 and it didn’t look good for the Tigers. Because of injuries, Auburn was down to their fourth string running back, an unknown player named Tre Smith. Tre shocked the Tide with a 126 yard performance and sparked Auburn to a an improbable 17-7 victory.

15. 1994 – This game is the way the Iron Bowl should look every year as Number 6 Auburn took on No.3 Alabama. Auburn came into the game sporting a 21 game winning streak. Auburn appeared to be driving  for a win late in the game when the referees made a bad spot (or good spot if your a Tide fan) and ended the Tigers drive when they were denied a first-down by one inch. The call infuriated me at the time and the Tide’s 21-14 win put Alabama  in the SEC Championship game.

14. 1996 – Alabama came from behind to edge Auburn by one point 24–23 in the final minutes of Gene Stallings’ last Iron Bowl as Alabama Head Coach. The win also gave Alabama another berth in the SEC Championship game.

13.1997 – With less than a minute to play and Alabama leading the game 17-15, Coach Mike Dubose probably sealed his fate with the Alabama fan base by not running out the clock. Instead he had the Tide try a screen pass that resulted in a fumble which Auburn recovered. Then Jaret Holmes hit a field goal with 21 seconds left, sending the Tigers to the SEC Championship Game. I was standing on a concourse ramp in the south end zone and I thought it was going to collapse from the fans jumping up and down.

12. 2000 – Because of the dogged insistence of former Auburn Coach, Pat Dye, the Iron Bowl was played in Tuscaloosa for the first time in 99 years. It was cold, wet, and sleeting off and on during the game; but the Tigers warmed my heart by shutting out  the Tide 9-0. And by doing so, earned another trip to the SEC Championship game. It was the final game of Coach Mike DuBose.

11. 1993 – This was the first college football game to sell out two stadiums. The game was not televised due to Auburn being on probation, but was shown on closed-circuit television before Tide fans at Bryant–Denny.  Auburn was undefeated and ranked No.6, went on to defeat No. 11 Alabama 22-14.

The Tigers were not allowed to play in the SEC Championship game and the defeated Bama team was granted that privilege. Auburn finished the season undefeated and was awarded the National Championship by several selectors including the National Championship Foundation. It was one of eight national championship seasons the school does not officially recognize.

10. In 2009 –  Everyone expected the second ranked Tide to not have much trouble with the Tigers. However, Auburn jumped out to a 14-0 lead and held on till late in the game when Bama QB Greg McElroy repeatedly found receiver Julio Jones on a six minute drive. McElroy completed a touchdown pass to Roy Upchurch with  1:24 left to take a 26-21 lead. But Auburn came back down the field and the Alabama defenders had to knock down Auburn’s final pass attempt in the end zone as time expired.

Even though Auburn lost, I have never been more proud of an effort from the Tigers.  As the players left the field, I joined in with 80,000 other Tiger fans to shout, ‘Its Great To be an Auburn Tiger.”

9. 1985 – This game is famously named, “The Kick” by Bama fans. It was a game that I thought Auburn had won, then Mike Shula  drove his team down the field  to set up a 52 yard  field goal attempt with six seconds remaining. Van Tiffin made a perfect kick as time expired. That game along with the ’88 earth quake game at LSU have been the most  disappointing games in my lifetime

8. 1981 – Alabama had to rally to defeat Auburn 28-17 in the 1981 Iron Bowl. But what makes the game memorable was – it was the win that gave Crimson Tide Coach Bear Bryant his 315th career victory; making him the all-time winningest coach in Division I history.

7. 1982 –  Auburn ended Alabama’s nine-game winning streak and handed the Bear a defeat in his final Iron Bowl. But perhaps more importantly the victory turned the rivalry around as the win would be the first of six Auburn victories during the eighties – a decade when Auburn would be the dominant team in the SEC.

6. 1986 – One of the most exciting endings to any Auburn game ever. With 32 seconds left, Auburn had the ball on the Alabama 7-yard line trailing 17-14. The play was to be a reverse but Coach Dye ran down the sideline shouting for receiver Lawyer Tillman to call a time out. He tried to call the timeout, but his signal was not seen by the officials. Auburn then ran the reverse, and Tillman scored the touchdown, giving the Tigers the victory 21 -i7.

5. 1972 – This one is easy. It’s may be the most famous Iron Bowl victory ever. Alabama came into the game undefeated and marching toward a league championship. While Auburn had surprised everyone with a good season one year removed from losing Heisman winner Pat Sullivan … they were still a heavy underdog.

With just over five minutes to go in the game, the Tigers were trailing 16-3 but Bill Newton blocked an Alabama punt and David Langner ran it back for a touchdown. With just over a minute left, (it looked almost like today’s instant replay) as Newton  blocked another punt with Langner scooping it up and running it in for the score. After Gardner Jett made the PAT Auburn had upset Bama 17-16. “Punt Bama punt” has been a familiar phrase around Auburn ever since.

4. 1983 – Auburn defeated Alabama 23-20 at Legion Field. Bo Jackson set the Iron Bowl rushing record with 256 yards. The Tigers won the SEC Championship and was awarded the National Championship by Billingsley, FACT, Football Research, The New York Times, and Jeff Sagarin. However, it’s another championship the school does not officially recognize.

3. 1957 – Auburn gave the Tide a 40-0 beat down to give Coach Shug Jordan an  SEC Championship.  The AP pollsters also awarded Jordan and his Tigers a National Championship. It was the fourth consecutive defeat of  Alabama by the Tigers and prompted Alabama to bring in Paul Bryant to take over the Tide program.

2. 2010-  This game was a tale of two halves with Alabama dominating the first half 24-0 and Auburn dominating the second 28-3. Auburn completed the greatest comeback in Iron Bowl history as they took the wind out of the Tide with a 28-27 victory. Auburn went on to win both the SEC and  National Championship.

1. 1989 – Most will probably wonder why I would rank a game above two that were instrumental in bringing national championships to The Plains. Well its simple. the 1989 Iron Bowl was more than a game. it was a deliverance from the oppression of not being allowed to play our home games at home. Up until 1989, no Iron bowl had ever been played at Auburn. That was one of the biggest reasons for the Tides dominance for over two decades. All anyone has to do is look at how the series has evened out since the home and home format has been instituted.

In 1989  Alabama was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the nation. But at the end of the day, they left Auburn with a 30-20 defeat. I have attended Auburn games on campus since I was a child and I have never ever experienced any thing like the emotion, the unity of the fans, and the thrill of victory as I did that day. It was almost a spiritual experience. Until I die it will remain one of the five greatest moments of my life.

Well that’s my list folks. I would be interested in seeing yours.

War Eagle and Beat Bama!

 

37 Comments

  1. beezybub beezybub says:

    I wasn’t alive for most of these or old enough to remember. But I love posts like this that remind us of what this rivalry means to so many. Thanks for the post and lets upset BAMA! War Eagle. It’s great to be an Auburn Tiger!

  2. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    Enjoyed the read ATM.
    I was wondering what you would have to say about the Iron Bowl and you wrote a good story about the Iron Bowl while avoiding saying much about ‘this’ weeks Iron Bowl. Uhmn …
    Have you ever thought about running for political office?

    • Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

      Meant to add – I think I would have to have the 2004 game on my list which Auburn won 21-13.

  3. rn4au rn4au says:

    Oh..some great memories! I hope to return soon to those days of great Auburn football.

  4. Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

    I sold my student tickets that day and went deer hunting. I listened to the game on the deer stand and regret not going to this day. I was in class with a lot of the players on that team and it was a great week to be on campus after that game.

    • Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

      I was referring to the 1972 game which is the year I decided to go to Auburn over Alabama to play baseball. It is still one of the better decisions that I have made in life.

      • Randyc37 Randyc37 says:

        These are all memorable wins; however, I wish I had made the 1989 game. I hear that the atmosphere on the Auburn campus was electric. I was living in Dallas, Texas and I hooked up with a group of Auburn fans in a bar on the TCU campus to watch the game. I think every Auburn fan in the Ft. Worth area was in the bar that night and the place was rocking. It was another great day to be an Auburn fan.

  5. MyAuburn myauburn says:

    The 1972 game is still my all time favorite memory. I was there and the deflation of the UA fans was almost as good as the excitement of winning a thriller. I have a 45 rpm record of the radio broadcast by Gary Sanders and Gusty Yearout describing what was happening. I used to play it from time to time (when I had something to play it on) just to relive the game. Gusty was going absolutely insane after the second blocked punt and screaming uncontrollably in the radio booth. It paints a great picture in your mind and gives you a great feeling every time.

  6. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..I’ll have to rate the 2005 game as my all-time favorite. We have not beaten Alabama by more than ten points my entire lifetime. But that day, we were there in the stands, and Auburn roared out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter! It was bedlam! You could just about feel the stadium pillars rocking! Tears of joy flowed that day, folks kissed, hugged and screamed! Tommy T had led us to the promised land, or so it seemed.

    …..Of course, we had typical Tuberville in the second half. Ran the ball up the middle every play, and sat on the lead. When the horn sounded, we had only won by ten.

    …..A close second was the 1993 probation game. My ticket plans had fallen through, and I was listing to Fyffe and Trotman on the ear buds. We had just bought our house earlier in the the year, and that property originally had about 25 full-sized trees on less than an acre, and I had knee-deep leaves to clean up during the Iron Bowl.

    …..It was hard work, and Auburn was getting it handed to them for two and a half quarters. Then Nix to Sanders happened on 4th down, and I went berserk, rolling around in the mountains of leaves I had raked up! The sun went down on the Tide that day, and I have never enjoyed raking leaves as much as I did during that 4th quarter!

  7. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    IT’S GREAT TO BE AN AUBURN TIGER !!!

    WAR EAGLE !!!

    GO BIG BLUE !!!

    BEAT BAMA !!!

  8. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    Wow! A lot of great memories!!

    1993 was a special win. It was such a special season. I remember staying in the stands and cheering at the end. There was so much appreciation for that team and for Terry Bowden….which fueled my distaste for him when he bailed midseason.

    2009 was special, because we brought Little ToTM home from the hospital that day-just in time for the game. I was exhausted and slept for part of the Iron Bowl, but really appreciated the fight in that Auburn team.

    2010–wow! We thought that we had lost. You could just see the MNC hopes fly out of Bryant Denny, until Auburn under Cam Newton mounted the greatest comeback of Auburn History! Good times!!

    War Eagle!!

  9. ATL_AU_FAN says:

    As it relates to the 1972 game, is there a reason you neglected to list Bill Newton’s name as the one who blocked the two punts? Had it not been for these there may not have been two blocked punts for David to return.
    Or was he not listed because Bill is married to a BOT member?

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Thanks for catching that ATL_AU_FAN,

      It wasn’t intentional. I was just up late writing the piece. Your right Bill Newton was key to the whole thing. I fixed it and included Gardner Jett’s point after as well. The game wouldn’t have been won without his steady kicks.

  10. GreenvilleAUfan GreenvilleAUfan says:

    The top 10 Iron Bowls in my life time are:

    1. 2010 – 28-27 (National Championship season)
    2. 2004 – SEC Champs – (Undefeated year)
    3.1993 – Nix to Sanders – (Undefeated year)
    3.1989 – first time on the plains – (30-20)
    4.1986 – Reverse to Tillman – (21-17)
    5. 1985 – Bye bye Bo! – (25-23)
    6. 1997- Field goal to win with 20 sec to go – (18-17)
    7. 2005 – Sacked Bama sacked – (28-10)
    9. 1982 – Bo over the top – (23-22)
    10.2002 – Tre Smith runs loose on the Tide- (17-7)

  11. War_Eagle_2010 War_Eagle_2010 says:

    Being born in 89′ I didn’t witness many of the great AU moments. But my favorite moment I have been apart of was by far the 2010 Iron Bowl. It seamed like the ref’s were helping Bama out big time on that unsportsmanlike like conduct penalty on Nick Fairly, for a moment I thought all was lost. But after the TD by Cam before the half I knew, it really felt inevitable somehow, that Auburn would win. That’s how the entire season had been, the joke was that Auburn had to spot the other team a lead before they could win. But once Lutzi pulled in that TD pass our entire family watching the game ran, screamed, and danced for about five minutes uncontrollably, and you could almost sense all the other AU fans behaving the same way. Great memory.

    Now I would have to say if AU pulls this one out, which I personally am holding on to my ounce of hope, this would rank near the top of the list. War Eagle!

  12. Jumpn Jack Flash says:

    1994 game…weren’t we coming off a tie with UGa?

  13. uglyjoe says:

    I’m going with 1983…..torrential rain, tornado warning, and we swam out of Legion Field as SEC champs.

    1989 comes next for ATM’s reasons.

  14. mccullars says:

    I started going to the Iron Bowl annually the year after 17-16 so yes, I did help tear down the goal post after the game. I paraded around the field with a large group of people carrying one of the poles. What fun!!! I would have loved to have torn down the other goal post but there were too many troopers circled around it. Oh, the memories!!!

  15. KoolBell KoolBell says:

    I absolutely love this post.

    We agree on the best game ever as the first time ever in Auburn. I had told a friend before the game that the Green Bay Packers could dress out in those White unis trimmed in crimson, and Auburn would win the game. There was too much at stake.

    Pat Dye read letters from fans who pleaded with the team to not let Bama win the first game ever in Auburn. Ex players came and talked to the team that week, and the emotion that flowed through our family that day was something I have never experienced again. I still get goose bumps thinking about it.

    Anything can happen this Saturday, and that is what makes this sport so much fun. The fact that two of the most storied teams face each other in the Iron Bowl, makes it special.

    War Eagle family, War Damn Eagle!

  16. mvhcpa says:

    My list:

    1. 1989 First Time Evah (because it was the “first time ever” and a great upset by the Tigers)
    2. 2010 The Cam-Back (just an amazing game that proved nothing would stop us AT ALL that year)
    3. 1972 Punt Bama Punt (somewhere I have the vinyl-on-cardboard record–called a “soundsheet” I believe–that Dad got from the the alumni association–they sent it out to ALL the alums)
    4. 1986 Lawyer Reverse (not only because it was my first and only Iron Bowl in person, but it was an amazing game featuring both a great comeback with a 4th-down conversion by AU and an amazing stop by the AU defense on a 4th-and-inches)
    5. 1982 Bo Over the Top (because that started changing the relationship between the two teams)
    6. 1983 Swamp Bowl (my first Iron Bowl as a Freshman at AU–watched it on the big TV in the Foy Union Lobby–and, as Keith Jackson repeatedly said during the broadcast, it really solidified the change in relationship between AU and UA)

    These are ranked all on the basis of subjective reasons and all feature AU victories, but it’s my list and I can cheer if I want to, cheer if I want to (etc. etc. etc.)

    The most amazing thing about 2010 is that I refused to give up (which I usually do WAY to early and WAY to often). After seeing both the touchdown at the end of the first half and the touchdown at the beginning of the second half, I turned to my usually optimistic friend I was watching with, who was hanging his head at the beating we took in the first half, and said, “You know, if we come back and win, this (being down by 24) will make it even sweeter!” And I was RIGHT!

    Michael Val
    (who is like AubTigerman and is ignoring the coming of the Iron Bowl during this week)

  17. sullivan013 sullivan013 says:

    My favorite Iron Bowl? This one.

    However long the odds. However troubled our program. However well or poorly coached. Whoever wears Orange and Blue will have me at their back, my cheers ringing in their ears. My heart will be in my throat at kickoff, and with my team at every turn of the game.

    Let the fair weather fans sit in trepidation. Let the feeble-hearted predict failure or criticize our players, school, administration or coaches. I will cheer and hope regardless. I will yell “War Eagle!” at every chance. My team is playing in the Iron Bowl, college football’s highest pantheon where legends take the field and glory is fought for and won every year.

    Maybe this year another tiny Tre Smith will run out onto the field, or another Bo Jackson will go over the top. Maybe another Sullivan and Beasley will wow the crowd with passing acrobatics. Cadillac will run wild on the first play, a Newton will block two punts, or yet another Newton bring our team back in the second half from the brink of defeat.

    But whatever happens, they are my team, this is the game, and Saturday is the day.

    Beat Bama, and War Damn Eagle!

  18. DothanTiger DothanTiger says:

    Really good post ATM. Enjoyed the read!

  19. Im4Auburn says:

    Good article ATM. My favorite Iron Bowl also was the 1989 game.

  20. Older Whiskey says:

    Greatly enjoyed your post. Like many others, I have some favorites that would have to make a list of 20:

    1. 1969 – AU 49, Bama 26. Sullivan and Beasley overpowered the Tide, and the late Connie Frederick ran 84 yards for a touchdown from punt formation late in the 4th for the exclamation point. Ended a string of five Bama victories.

    2. 1970 – AU 33, Bama 28. Second greatest comeback ever. The Tide led 17-0 before S&B got untracked. Scott Hunter threw for 400 yards for Bama, but Wallace Clark got the last touchdown.

    3. 1987 – AU 10, Bama 0. Auburn clinched the SEC Championship while shutting out Bama for the first time in 30 years, in the last true Iron Bowl. Harry Mose scored the only touchdown around a block by Lee Mark Sellers.

    BTW, the safety in the ’88 game came in the first quarter. Halftime score was 8-3.

    We will be back. War Eagle!

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Those three games were certainly great. The ’69 game was a particularly sweet win and Connie Fredericks was one of my favorite players on that team.