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The Road to Rocky Top.

By on November 7th, 2013 in Football 32 Comments »

                           Auburn defenders must contain a scrambling quarterback this week.

     War Eagle, everybody! This week’s refreshing cool mornings definitely have me thinking about college Football! FINALLY, fall seems to be here. For a while, Auburn’s college football season was starting to look like monsoon season in New Delhi! This Saturday, Auburn will travel to the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, to play the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville, and should enjoy some game temperatures in the low 60s and upper 50s.

     Knoxville hasn’t exactly been a hospitable place for the Tigers, historically. Auburn has 9 wins, 14 losses, and 2 ties against Tennessee in Knoxville, over the years. The two teams only played 7 times in their first 50+ years, but in 1956, Auburn and Tennessee started having an annual grudge match. Usually, this was fairly early in the season. The winner of the game would be in the SEC title hunt. The loser would be hoping that they could string together enough wins for a bowl game. The annual series lasted from 1956 till 1991, then became a casualty of Southeastern Conference expansion.

     This year, this game is far more critical to Auburn than it is to Tennessee. Any Auburn title hopes will be dashed if they lose. Although Tennessee already has five losses, their November schedule is back-loaded with Vanderbilt and Kentucky, and they can still reach a bowl with wins over both. There have been a number of Tennessee teams over the years that have started with 3 to 5 losses early, then rebounded to finish strong. The 1986 Vols started the season 2-5, only to win five in a row down the stretch, setting up a 10 win campaign the following year. Tennessee won their last 5 straight in 1988, after starting the season 0-6. In 1994, UT was forced to turn to freshman quarterback Peyton Manning, and started the season 1-3, only to rebound with 7 wins in 8 games. 2000 saw a Vol team start 1-3, and finish 8-4.

     Auburn has started the season 8-1, but faces a fairly serious gauntlet, from here on out. Auburn’s schedule always ends with Georgia and Alabama, or as Pat Dye called it, “Amen Corner.” This year’s Amen Corner began with an 18-point win in Fayetteville, and continues this Saturday in Knoxville.

     In the past, a number of high flying Auburn teams have suffered season-spoiling setbacks in Knoxville. In 1957 and 1958, the Auburn Tigers had no losses, only 1 tie, and held opponents to a total of 90 points in 20 games. (4.5 points per game, given up!) The 1959 Tigers opened the season in Knoxville, took a 3-0 loss to the Vols, and slumped to 7-3. In 1969, a 45-19 loss in Knoxville cost the Tigers the SEC Championship. At the end of 1972, the team called “the Amazin’s” had capped an outstanding 4-year run in which the Tigers had won 36 games, and lost only 8. Auburn went to Knoxville undefeated in 1973, but took a 21-0 whipping. Auburn would finish 2-5 in the SEC, that year. Auburn’s 1975 team, Shug Jordan’s last, was expected to contend for a national title, but a 21-17 loss in Knoxville heralded a dismal 3-6-2 finish to the season. In 1985, Auburn was flying high at the number ONE spot in the polls, but a trip to Knoxville, and a 38-20 loss derailed that team’s championship hopes. The Tigers finished at 8-4, in 1985. In 1991, the Tigers were 3-0 headed into Knoxville, but gave up over 500 yards in a 30-21 loss. The 1991 Tigers slumped to 5-6. In 1999, Tommy Tuberville’s Tigers went to Knoxville with a 3-1 record, and many folks thought it should have been 4-0, since we had just blown the overtime game against Ole Miss. A 24-0 loss revealed the early season “imposters,” as Gene Chizik used to say, and the Tigers finished 5-6.

     Auburn has lost in Knoxville, though, and regrouped. In the 1989 game in Knoxville, the Tigers looked as inept in the first half as any team in the Dye era. After the 21-14 loss, Auburn would rebound to finish with a 6-1 SEC record, and a share of the SEC title.

     Wins in Knoxville have been few and far between, in recent years, but they do herald great things for Auburn, when they happen. Auburn opened the 1957 season with a 7-0 win in Knoxville, and the game signaled that the Tigers had ARRIVED, under Shug Jordan. An SEC Championship and an AP national title followed. The 1963 Tigers squad eeked out a 23-19 win in Knoxville, went on to beat Bama 10-8, and earned a trip to the Orange Bowl. In 1971, a dramatic, come from behind 10-9 victory over the Vols in Knoxville catapulted Auburn to a 9-0 start, and was the foundation for Pat Sullivan’s Heisman Trophy campaign. It would be a long 12 years till the Tigers won in Knoxville, again. The 1983 Auburn Tigers came into Knoxville with a 1-1 record, and Tiger quarterback Randy Campbell had completed only 3 of 26 passes on the season. Campbell and the Tigers broke out of the slump in Knoxville, and the Tigers romped, 37-14, en route to the SEC title and a #3 finish in the AP poll. After that win, the next Auburn victory in Knoxville didn’t happen for another 21 years. The 2004 Auburn Tigers came into Knoxville undefeated, and feasted upon a pair of freshman Vol quarterbacks, for a rousing 34-10 win that catapulted the Tigers to a 13-0 season, an SEC title, and a number 2 ranking in the AP poll. The 2009 Tigers held off a late Vol comeback, and won their fifth straight game, 26-22.

     The key matchup in this game will be Auburn’s league-leading rushing attack, vs. Tennessee’s last place rushing defense. Look for Tennessee to load the box, because if they don’t slow Auburn down, they have no chance in this game. The Auburn defense must get pressure on young Vol freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs. Dobbs this season is a 57 percent passer, but only for 5.8 yards per pass. By comparison, Nick Marshall has hit 59 percent of his passes for Auburn, for a healthy 8.3 yards per pass. Dobbs has no TD passes, and 2 interceptions. Marshall has 7 TD tosses vs. 4 interceptions. Both quarterbacks can hurt a defense with their legs. Dobbs is averaging 6.4 yards per carry for the Vols. Marshall’s rushing average is 5.8. What’s worrisome is that Auburn only tallied 1 sack and 2 quarterback hurries against Brandon Allen of the Razorbacks last week, and Allen isn’t exactly Mr. Speed. Tennessee has a veteran offensive line, and will protect young Dobbs pretty well. Auburn cannot afford to allow him to become comfortable back there, or this game will be another high-scoring affair.

     The key to this game, as often is the case with Auburn in Knoxville, will likely be turnovers. Tennessee has been fairly average on turnovers, this year, throwing 12 interceptions and losing 6 fumbles in 9 games. Auburn has only 6 interceptions and 7 fumbles lost in the same period. However, Auburn has a staggering 20 total fumbles, and fortune has definitely smiled on the Tigers having lost only 7 of them. Neither team can afford to be generous, in this game. A single turnover in the wrong place could win the game for the other team.

     We’ll be here all day Saturday, watching another great weekend of SEC football. This one is an 11:00 AM Central kickoff, on ESPN. Auburn has traditionally struggled with a morning kickoff on the road, but as coach Malzhan says, it’s a new day. Let’s hope the morning jinx is a thing of the past! We’ll have an open thread up here at, early Saturday morning. As always, feel free to participate, and share your thoughts.

War Eagle! Beat the Vols!


  1. domaucan1 domaucan1 says:

    Another outstanding article, A.R. Thanks for the memories. I definitely remember that 1963 game since I listened to it on the radio from the old Alpha Psi house on Ann Street in Auburn. It was my first year of Vet School and quite a wild ride with Sidle and company. Since most of my class had degrees, we had a few Tenn grads with us and it was a roudy time. Let’s go beat the Vols! And, NEVER forget:


    WAR EAGLE !!!


  2. Older Whiskey says:

    Love the historical narrative, Acid. One addition: Auburn won in Knoxville in 1977, 14-12, as a little-remembered quarterback named John Crane threw a touchdown pass for us. The Vols put a drive together late in the game, but missed the field goal that would have won it for them. The game was notable mainly for the debut of James Brooks, who mystified tacklers on a couple of long runs. I believe it was also the SEC debut of Johnny Majors as head coach at UT.

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      I remember John Crane. Lot’s of high expectations for him after QBed the AU freshmen to a win over the heavily favored Updyke freshman. Seems like he and Charlie Trotman sort of split the snaps in ’77.

  3. Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

    Butch Jones is going to pull out all the stops in this game. Look for UT to try to exploit the same weaknesses that Arkansas exposed. New formations, shifting formations, passes over the middle and down the seams.

  4. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    I’m just going to say it, I’m nervous about this game. I realize that the Vols have not shown many signs of life. BUT, last week’s defensive performance has me a little shaky. Plus, there’s history here. It’s not Hex-like history; it’s straight up smash mouth, heartbreak loss history. With all of the talk about Sugar and BSC and bowl game mania…..this game, more than any other game has let down all over it.

    So you Auburn Tigers, if you are listening: We’ve got your back. Play your asses off. Play like there’s no tomorrow. No Mercy. Win, Babies, Win. 2 days, 2 hours and 14 minutes until game time…..We’ll see you there!

    War Eagle! Beat the Vols!

  5. sparkey sparkey says:

    We didn’t get to the quarterback because we played that damned soft zone consistently all game. Furthermore, Holland was put in the game way way too much. I just think we’ll be all right against Tennessee. We’ve always fared well against them. The only thing that scares me about this game is it being at 10:00am our time. We have not been an early morning team in the past. Let’s hope that doesn’t matter this coming Saturday.

    • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

      UT only hasn’t been a problem since the end of the Fulmer administration. They have dashed our hopes more than I care to remember in the ’70’s, ’80’s, and 90’s. Who ended our run at the National Title in ’85 and almost killed Bo’s Heisman campaign? UT. Who beat Dameyune Craig on our way to the Sugar Bowl in the ’97 SEC game? UT….well actually Peyton Manning, but he was wearing Orange then too.
      In the Pantheon of Auburn pain in the ass teams UT is right up there with Florida in my book.

      As far as morning games go, that trend better end this week. That bullish groggy performance crap, was something that Tuberville epitomized in his decline and Chizik continued on during his stay in Auburn. This is to our advantage because the early game takes the drunks and a lot of the passion out of the crowd, which will likely be way under capacity as it is. Gus better have the boys up early and ready to play at 9am so that they are chomping at the bit come game time.

      • audude audude says:

        “This is to our advantage because the early game takes the drunks and a lot of the passion out of the crowd, which will likely be way under capacity as it is.” Sorry to burst your bubble on this one Col. I was going to go to this game and my sister in K’ville was going to get the tickets and they have been sold out as of Oct. 28.

        • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

          I think my bubble is quite intact.
          Rocky Top sells out for big games just like this would be a sell out at Auburn….however when your team is fighting to get bowl eligible a lot of those folks in the nose bleeds (and you will get a nosebleed at Neyland) tend to opt for the couch and a 60″ screen with replay. Throw in the Noon eastern start and that probably knocks another 10% out, that don’t want the hassle of getting on the road at 8am so they can get a parking space so they can tailgate for an hour. Don’t get me wrong, there will still be an ocean of creamsicle in the stands but I’ll bet you that there will be 15-20,000 seats full of empty people at that game…..and a lot more than 10,000 Auburn fans.

          My advice is if you want to go to the game,go…. there will be plenty of tickets available for face value or less.

      • sparkey sparkey says:

        First of all, the team UT had that beat Auburn that season was a whole lot better seeing as how they had freaking Peyton Manning at quarterback. Next, the year they won the championship they barely beat us. The 70s and 80s, sorry I don’t remember them. I do remember the 2000s though and we dominated them. So, I’ll just have to disagree with you about UT being worrisome.

        Now, I damn well remember the morning games and us not playing well for them. I don’t what it was but they scare me still because they stick so strongly in my memory.

        • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

          We dominated them once in the 2000’s,2004 The two games we won late in 2007 and 2008 we’re excruciating to watch, especially the 2008 game where we spent the whole 4th qtr fighting to keep UT out of field goal range.

          Other than 2004, we won by a touchdown or less. Wins yes, hardly dominant.

  6. Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

    I really don’t like UT. After last week there is no excuse for a letdown. Neither team should have been looking forward with the opponents that they were facing, so the team with the batter staff should come out on top. Obviously Gus should have the edge there… well as in talent.

    The lines are pretty even so the game should come down to who executes in the passing game and who is more rattled by the opposing defense. Marshall has shown the kind of poise under pressure that made him the coaches choice to run the offense, so I think we have an edge there if Ellis has our defense prepared to attack a Freshman QB.

    This game more than any other on the schedule has the spotlight on Ellis Johnson. A coordinator of his experience, should be like a cat playing with a mouse when facing a freshman QB, regardless of the QB’s talent. If UT wins the game, it had better be because they just manhandled us on the line and ran the ball down our throats. If Dobbs is allowed to be a positive factor in the game then Johnson failed to work up a gameplan to confuse the freshmen signal caller, which is inexcusable.

    • KungFuPanda9 KungFuPanda9 says:

      Col. Angus, now hear this… NOW HEAR THIS.
      The worsr rushing defense is playing the best rushing offense. That is all.

      • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

        I’m glad you are confident. What you are forgetting is that UT has been torched on the ground by teams that also have formidable passing attacks. Oregon, UGA, USC, Alabama, Mizzou. Balance and the threat through the air diminishes your ability to load the box… they will do with us.

        Have you seen their line play? When they know you are going to run, they are VERY stout. They have some BIG hogmollies on that line that will be hell to move. Case in point. When Mizzou got their big lead and just ran the ball, their offense sputtered and ground to a halt. Fortunately for them their D was more than sufficient to keep the rookie Dobbs from doing any damage.
        Suffice to say, I don’t think the Arky gameplan will work against those guys. I hope you are right and I am wrong, but sometimes you have to look beyond the numbers.

    • sparkey sparkey says:

      How the hell is their defensive line equal to our offensive line??? I think we’ve got the best line in the country. I don’t think they’ve got the best defensive line in the country. So, I don’t understand what you’re saying there.

      • wpleagle wpleagle says:

        The worst rushing defense (Tennessee) playing the best rushing offense!!! Pure logic – best offense beats worst defense.

        • sparkey sparkey says:

          No, I know what Kungfupanda meant. I was asking the Colonel how our lines were about equal because I flat out don’t understand that at all. I think we have an advantage albeit slightly in regards to our defensive line vs. their offensive line. As far as our offensive line vs. their defensive line, it shouldn’t be close. It may end up being that way, but that’s because our offensive line will have played a really bad game. Trust me, I get how we’re very good at running their ball and they aren’t doing well this season in stopping the run to put it mildly. I’m just wondering how our lines are just about even.

      • Col.Angus Col.Angus says:

        I love the new found optimistic Sparkey.
        I do think we have a great line, but we aren’t going to be playing Arky or TAMU. I hope this is a walk in the park as well, but from what I have seen from this crew, they are not as bad as the stats would indicate. They pass the eye test when it comes to stuffing the run IF….IF we are as one dimensional as we have been. Plus I am not saying their D-line is even to our O-line, I am saying that they will load the box to stop the run and how we PASS in those situations will dictate how this game goes down. Obviously Vegas is more in line with my thinking since we are only a 6-1/2 pt favorite. If they thought this was solely best running offense vs worst run defense, with a Freshman starting at QB for UT the line would be much higher.

        If Nick can hit passes early to open things up, I very much like us to run at will….but that has not been our forte.
        If we can run the ball effectively when they load the box without having to pass the ball, I will be very impressed.

  7. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    Not to worry, we will win by at least 21 pts. Tn can and will not stop our rushing attack.

  8. War Eagle Girl War Eagle Girl says:

    It is NOT a sell-out. The TN ticket office is still offering tickets for sale and the AU ticket office has been putting this out all week. It is their homecoming but there doesn’t seem to be a lot that want to come home……

  9. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Sparkey, Knoxville is in God’s Own Time Zone – Eastern. Everything about Auburn is good except the Central Time Zone. So kickoff is 11:00 a.m., Central Time.

  10. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    While I am worried about every SEC game I am not on this one. Like Panda said, the worst rushing defense against the best rushing offense trumps almost any other variables.

  11. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    On a slightly different subject, watching the Baylor – Oklahoma game and totally disagree with the personal foul called on Baylor. Granted, it was a vicious hit, but the receiver had caught the ball and was attempting to advance it. How in the H__l does that make him defenseless???? They’re going to be playing flag football in 5 years. You folks agree or disagree?

    • MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

      Did not see the play but the current feeling in football is heading toward no hits that are hard, Anything else gets a penalty. It is going to change the mentality of college football in the coming years. Who knows what it is going to wind up

    • Third Generation Tiger Third Generation Tiger says:

      You and I are on the same page. The current trend indicates football is going to be gutted much like fat whiny kids and their overprotective parents gutted dodgeball.

  12. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    in case anybody is interested Stanford is giving Oregon all they want. My take is oregon goes down tonight

  13. BeachTiger BeachTiger says:

    Watching the Stanford-Oregon game as well. Can’t believe Stanford is taking it to the Ducks… a team that lost to a 4-4 Utah.
    Acid mentioned the 2004 TN game… all of us AU Pensacola Beach’ers were watching that game in Gulf Breeze because many of us were still reeling from Hurricane Ivan’s destruction of the Beach. First play of the game, Jason throws a TD… who was the receiver???

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..I thought the first TD of that game was Ronnie Brown running slap over Jason Allen for a nine yard score. Campbell did hit Obomanu on a short one in the first quarter to put Auburn up 14-3. Then Courtney Taylor during the two minute drill just before the half, to give Auburn a 31-3 lead at the break.

  14. BeachTiger BeachTiger says:

    Yep, you’re right… I think I was thinking about the 2004 SEC championship game. Now that I’m thinking about it, Campbell hit someone for a 60-70 yd pass on on the opening play… or am I thinking of another game… I’m getting old.

    • Older Whiskey says:

      BT, Jason threw a big pass on the 1st play of the SEC CG, but not for a TD. Went for 30-40 yards to Cole Bennett, I think. Possibly Anthony Mix.

  15. mikeautiger says:

    Headed to Knoxville to watch another classic! could be a tough fight to keep us grounded but we have too much for the Vols!

  16. wpleagle wpleagle says:

    Me too, leaving in about 30 minutes. War Eagle, beat dem Vowels!!!