Next Saturday, Nov. 24, the state of Alabama will come to a virtual standstill to tune in the annual football game between Auburn and Alabama. If college football is a religion in Alabama, and I think it is, next Saturday is the holiest of holy days.
The University of Alabama team once again stands atop the college football world, while Auburn has had a disappointing season. Alabama fans expect their team to win in convincing fashion on their way to competing for another national championship season. Auburn faithful put their chances of victory as somewhere between slim and none.
(Of course, there are always some who say, “You can throw out the records when these two teams play each other.” But truth is, that is NOT the case as the majority of the time the favored team prevails.)
I was a freshman at Auburn in the fall of 1961. In those days, with Bear Bryant firmly lording over the college football world in Tuscaloosa and the game always being played in Birmingham, Auburn fans were seldom expectant. True to form, Alabama won that year 34-0. And of the five seasons I was at Auburn, we only beat Alabama once.
Bryant coached his last Iron Bowl in 1982, losing to Auburn 23-22. And the series has been remarkably competitive in the 35 games since Bryant leaned against the goal post before the game began. In fact, Auburn has won 18 while Alabama has won 17. In 1989 Auburn played for the first time ever on their home field and won 30-20.
And since the game began being played on the campus of both schools, Auburn has won five of the nine games in Tuscaloosa and nine of the 14 games in Auburn.
Obviously I have lots of memories of these games. Mostly the one’s Auburn won. Like Pat Sullivan and Terry Beasley winning two of three they played against Bama. I remember Auburn winning 49-26 in Birmingham in 1969 when punter Connie Frederick decided to run rather than kick and more than 80 yards later reached the end zone. Of course, I recall 1972 when Auburn blocked two Bama punts late in the game and won 17-16.
I also remember 1985 when Alabama field goal kicker Van Tiffin stuck a knife in Auburn’s heart with a 52 yard kick as the game ended to win 25-23. The first game played in Tuscaloosa since 1901 was in 2000. Son Kevin and I went. This game will always be noted more for the awful weather conditions than who won. It was 35 degrees and spitting sleet. Damon Duval kicked three field goals and Auburn won 9-0. I was so cold I went back to the car and listened to the second half on the radio. Kevin stuck it out.
No Auburn fan will ever forget playing in Tuscaloosa in 2010. Alabama was ahead 24-0 in the second quarter before Cam Newton and company came back to win 28-27. Auburn went on to win the national championship that year.
And there was 2013. I was at Jordan-Hare when Alabama lined up to try a long field goad with one second to go. I saw Chris Davis field the missed kick at the other end of the field, more than 100 yards away. Then he ran and got closer and closer and suddenly 87,000 people realized he would score a touchdown.
Pure and simple, it was bedlam moments after.. Davis was mobbed by teammates in the north end zone while thousands of fans surged onto the field.
More than 50 years of memories. Like the time at Legion Field when a Bama fan tapped me on the shoulder wanting to know if I had some chewing tobacco. When I told him I did not, he looked around and said, “Damn, 80,000 people are here and none of them have any tobacco.” Like the time at Auburn when I came close to punching an extremely loud and vulgar AUBURN fan because he would not shut up.
So start the countdown. Church begins in six days at 2:30 p.m.