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To See Where You are Going, You Have to Know Where you Have Been

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                                                             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.

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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.

14 Comments

  1. Tiger on the mountain Tiger on the mountain says:

    When I was a wee tike, I heard about this game A LOT. As I got older, I were hear it’s murmurs during any and all Auburn comebacks. Frequently in the magical 1993 season……

    Good stuff, myauburn. Good stuff.

    (PS-haven’t hit the links lately; job, baby + preschooler, rain-oh, husband; hoping to get back out there in the upcoming weeks)

    • MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

      Sounds like weak excuses for not playing. Try thins, take kids, umbrella, send hubby elsewhere, blow off work. See, no problem.

  2. AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

    Just like the team … the ’72 game will always be a classic.

    And I agree, Yearout leading the screaming in the background, still brings goose bumps every time I hear it.

    Good post MyAuburn.

  3. AUfor50 says:

    Thought I was at the wrong game that day. Almost all bammers had signs that said “go irish go” They played no 1 SC later that day. After the game was over they heard a few “WAR EAGLES” from me but mostly “GO IRISH GO” Wished many times I had picked up one of the thousands of these signs lying on the ground after the game!!!
    WAR EAGLE!!!!!

    • MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

      Exactly right AUfor50. I had forgotten about that. The egotistical Bammers were taking it for granted that they would pound Auburn and wanted ND to knock SC out of the No. 1 position so that they could have smooth sailing to the Natty. That fact made the win even sweeter.

  4. Pine Mt Tiger Pine Mt Tiger says:

    It was good to get up today and read this post, especially after listening to Pawlowski blow yesterday’s game against the bammers. Thanks My Auburn.

  5. Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

    …..”T’was December Two, at Legion Field. The Bear came in ready to wheel and deal…”

    …..That game wasn’t on TV, so we listened on my dad’s Heathkit AM radio he had soldered together himself. For my part, I put together a Revell model of a futuristic thing called a “Space Shuttle,” which one day NASA might really build. My mother was chopping veggies and putting together some vegetable soup, on a cold December 2 day.

    …..Frankly, it was a pretty boring game, despite Sanders and Yearout’s best efforts at the mike. Bama was up 16-3 late, and I’m not sure Auburn had even put back to back first downs together. Bama family members had been INSUFFERABLE for months after the last season’s 31-7 Iron Bowl defeat of Sullivan’s Heisman team, and now we were were going to lose to them again, beaten in pretty dominant fashion.

    ……Then Hannah looked up, and saw Newton go by! Everyone in the room let out a little cheer, because we had delivered a blow against the hated Tide! We weren’t going to win, of course, but we’d go down swinging, and Newton and Langner had delivered a shiner!

    ……Auburn forced another punt very late, and the same thing happened on the field! We were all stunned, I’m not sure anyone spoke, yelled, or anything. My dad recovered first, repeatedly saying, “gotta make the extra point!” “Gotta make the extra point!” Gardner Jet kicked it through, and Bama was in deep trouble.

    …..Running two blocked punts in was not enough for David Langner. He picked off Bama’s Terry Davis on the ensuing drive, icing the game for the Tigers! Everyone in our house went berserk, screaming, yelling, laughing, and crying! And of course, there were plenty of pay-back “Warrrrr EAGLE!!!!” phone calls to be made to various Tide relatives who’d been doing that to us most years!

  6. MyAuburn MyAuburn says:

    True story just happened. I stopped at a mini mart for a beer after a round of golf. A Bammer seeing my AU tag on the front of my car sniped, “We sell Alabamer license plates if you need one” I told him joke number two on this post and used two UA fans as the subjects. Folks, I swear all I got was a blank stare and a ” I don’t understand” Reminds me of a great old joke to use next week.

  7. uglyjoe says:

    Great post MyAuburn – really enjoying your column.

    Acid, had forgotten all about Heathkit. Never built a kit, but used to love it when a new catalog came in the mail. I always did the little Radio Shack kits that came in a red box with a clear plastic cover; cheaper and locally available.

    • Acid Reign Acid Reign says:

      …..Heathkit’s a lost art, I’m afraid. I can’t solder worth cr@…. That 1965 Heathkit radio with the real leather cover? It still works! My mother still uses it to listen to talk radio. Pop in 3 D batteries, and that thing will run for a couple of years. Looks pretty much like this:

      http://www.radiomuseum.org/images/radio/heathkit/6_transistor_gr_151a_655473.jpg

      …..Now, if I could just find that bit of verse my mom wrote about the Bear “wheeling and dealing…”

  8. audude audude says:

    Growing up in Ohio I remember an Air Force Colonel friend of the family who was an UAT grad and after the game called my mother, an AU grad, and the only 2 words out his mouth were, and I quote “You cheat!” and hung up….never even identified himself.

    That was my first memory of AU and is still my deepest.

  9. mvhcpa says:

    Wonderful reminiscence, MyAuburn. This game and the CamBack show that AU is NEVER NEVER NEVER out of any game, any season, any down period, as long as they keep fighting, fighting, fighting back.

    I believe that “45” record you are talking about may have been a 33-rpm “SoundSheet” that the Auburn Alumni Association sent out to all AAA members. It was a thin, square, vinyl record, 45-sized, sandwiched in a cardboard folder the same size that you opened and folded back to play on the record player. I remember the title “INSTANT REPLAY” on the front, and that famous photo of Bryant and Jordan (one of them with his hand on the neck of the other) with the caption “The Bear and Shug.” (As a sidenote, even though in an Auburn household, we only saw Bear Bryant on games on the TV, so I had to ask dad what a “shug” was.)

    I always called the 1972 Iron Bowl “Instant Replay” because of that record, but I see that “Punt Bama Punt” is now the more common denotation.

    Michael Val
    (who has that SoundSheet somewhere, and will convert it to digital to preserve it when I find it again!)

  10. wde1988 wde1988 says:

    That year was a complete nightmare for my family. My father was killed that summer in an untimely accident. He was the Auburn fan in our small, tiny family. He worked at ACIPCO in Birmingham. Life was simple it seemed up until that point in the year. Prior to his death everything seemed to be going well… we were moving further out of the city… but that day on 6th of June changed everything.

    That fall life seemed to be moving in slow motion. I don’t think I remember watching a single football game. All I knew is that I missed my father. Terribly. And by watching Auburn play… I knew I guess… that it would probably remind me of him.

    The day of the iron bowl that year… I can remember we were doing some errand with my Mom. And were crossing over Green springs on Hwy 31 headed to the south side. Then, I-65 didn’t go past the Vestavia/Hoover exit. But for some reason that day my mother took us down Hwy 31 instead. Traffic was so slow that day. I remember being bored and probably wanting my mother to talk about my dad. That’s when we started talking about football and how much he loved Auburn. He never got to attend. He went to work full time right out of high school. I don’t know why my mother thought of the game being played that day… but I do remember that when she turned it on I was surprised and excited all at the same time.

    She turned on the radio… and it must have been in the 4th Qtr. All I knew was that Auburn was losing. The announcer kept talking about Auburn’s offense not being able to get anything going that day. I was depressed… and disappointed. I wanted Auburn to win for my dad.

    When the block punt came… all I can remember now is the announcer started screaming and talking… the crowd was going crazy. At first I didn’t understand what had happened. And then my mother said…”boy’s I just think Auburn scored.” I almost stopped breathing.

    My brother and I were playing in the back seat… I was 6 going on 7… and my brother was 4. We stopped playing with our toy army men… and listened to the crowd. My mom was so happy… that my brother and I started cheering… I am not sure if I remember the thoughts going through my mind. But I thought at least AU had made a game of it. I knew enough to know… that when AU got the ball back.. it could never really do anything with it.

    As we crested the hill and started the drive down into Vestavia… I remember that is when the second blocked kick happened. And just like the first I was totally shocked that it could happen again. The whole car was screaming and crying… I am sure anyone passing us must have thought we were lunatics.

    When it became official my mother looked at both of us and said… “it’s too bad your dad couldn’t be here to listen to this game… he would have been thrilled to hear them beat bama”…. I thought to myself… well, maybe he did get to hear it…. maybe he was the one who came up with the way to win… to make it a game to remember.

    Well, I don’t know if it was pre-ordained or not… but let me tell you…that game will be forever sketched into my mind as an all time great game. The fact that it was in legion field… that it was supposed to be a much tighter competitive contest. And up until the 2010 iron bowl… it was my all time favorite. The thing that this game did for me was tell me that life would continue… and continue it has.

    The punt bama punt game will be indelibly etched on this Alabamian’s memory. It’s where I picked up my father’s legacy… and made sure that the degree that I would hang on my wall came from Auburn.

    War Damn Eagle!!

    • AubTigerman AubTigerman says:

      Great story WDE,

      Very moving. Thanks for sharing it. Made my day.

      War Eagle brother!