To See Where You are Going, You Have to Know Where you Have Been
PUNT, BAMA, PUNT
In 1972, Alabama was 10-0 and heading toward a sure National Championship. Then on December 2nd of that year something went terribly wrong. They showed up at Legion Field to play the then 8-1 Auburn Tigers.
With the nickname of the “Amazins” the Tigers had astounded everyone by giving up an average of only 13.5 points per game, despite LSU hanging 35 on them in their only loss of the season in Baton Rouge.
Alabama dominated the first 3 quarters of the game and looked unbeatable. Auburn, down 16-3, could only manage one Gardner Jett field goal and looked like they were headed for a second loss of the season and a second tier bowl game.
Then as the headline in the Birmingham News said, “Lightning Strikes Twice”.
After holding Alabama on 3rd down and with less than 10 minutes left in the game, Greg Gantt lined up to punt.
Then “IT” happened.
I can find no better way to describe what happened next than the text of legendary play by play man Gary Sanders’ call of the play.
“Johnny Simmons is going back as a single safety, Mitchell and Langner on the…uh…line of scrimmage coming from either side to try to block the kick. Auburn trying to go after it, here’s the snap, they got it! Blocked kick! Ball’s back to the 25, picked up on the bounce at the 25 yard line, and in for a touchdown is David Langner”
Now, with 90 seconds left on the clock, the second lightning strike in the words of Sanders.
“Greg Gantt standing on his own 30, Auburn will try to block it. Auburn going after it, here’s the good snap…it is blocked! It is blocked! It’s caught on the run! It’s caught on the run! And he’s gonna score! David Langner! David Langner has scored, and Auburn has tied the game!” Roger Mitchell has blocked the kick and it is tied 16-16.” Note: Sanders mistakenly gave credit for blocking the kick to Mitchell instead of Newton. Mitchell actually did block the extra point that proved to be the final margin of victory.Gardner Jett kicked the extra point and won the game 17-16. I have a friend who uses that number as the combination to locks and entry passwords.
Alabama had time to come back but one of the heroes of the game, Langner, intercepted his second pass of the game with 55 seconds remaining. Only the “Camback” from 2010 rivals this as the greatest win against Alabama. Ironic isn’t it that the two greatest comeback wins over Alabama were orchestrated at the hands of a Newton.
Bill Newton blocked both punts and was obviously the other hero. Newton, whose wife Sarah, is on the Board of Trustees representing District 7, says fans never want to stop talking about that day. I am certainly one of them.
Auburn denied Alabama their shot at the National Title and went on to pound Colorado, 24-3 in the Gator Bowl.
I was not fortunate enough to be at the game but I remember the call like it was yesterday with Gusty Yearout, the AU color man, screaming like a maniac in the background. It still brings goose bumps and tears today. Somewhere I have a 45 rpm record of the last portion of the radio broadcast but could not dig it up. Actually you can download it or a ringtone on www.puntbamapunt.com. Hmmm, a ringtone for Auburn-Alabama game week. Sounds right.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one.
What does the average Alabama football player get on his SAT score? Drool.
Two Auburn fans have been walking in the woods for eight hours when they stop and one turns to the other and says, “I’m cutting the next Christmas tree we find, lights or no lights.