The ultimate University of Alabama fan guide to the passionate and historic rivalry between the Auburn Tigers and the Crimson Tide, this book is presented in a unique reversible-book format. Full of interesting trivia, hilarious history, and inside scoops, the book relates the fantastic stories of legendary 'Bama coaches and star players, as well as the numerous villains and their even worse fans who have represented the Tigers over the years. Like two books in one, this completely biased account of the rivalry shows there really is no fine line between love and hate; rather, it’s as wide as the drive from Tuscaloosa to Auburn. This is the defining book on the Alabama–Auburn rivalry and is a must-read for every true Crimson Tide fan.
About the Author
Donald F. Staffo is a reporter for the Northport Gazette and Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for the last 27 years, including the last 24 years for the Associated Press. He is the author of 10 books, including Alabama Football: Saban Leads Crimson Tide to the 2009 National Championship; Alabama Football: Stallings to Saban, A Roller-Coaster Ride; and Bama After Bear. He lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
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I Love Alabama, I Hate Auburn
By Donald F. Staffo
Triumph BooksCopyright © 2012 Donald F. Staffo
All rights reserved.
We Love Beating Auburn
following are some Iron Bowl games that 'Bama fans particularly love. People in 'Bama Nation will differ on which games are "most loved" and which are their favorites, in part dependent on their age and what they remember. Baby boomers and above are perhaps particularly fond of the Bryant years, whereas younger 'Bama fans identify with and probably relish the more recent Auburn conquests. A couple of colleagues in the media and some members of the Tuscaloosa Quarterback Club assisted in the selection and ranking of the games. It doesn't really make much difference, because Tide fans love it any and every time 'Bama beats Auburn.
1985: Alabama 25, Auburn 23
This game, the 50th installment of the cross-state rivalry, will always be remembered for "the Kick," when Van Tiffin nailed a 52-yard field goal as time ran out to give the Crimson Tide a dramatic 25–23 win over Auburn. It doesn't get much better than that for 'Bama fans who like to see Auburn fans suffer. Beating the Tigers in the final seconds on the final play of the game is like dangling a piece of meat in front of the hungry Tigers and then watching their pain and anguish as you pull the food away at the last second.
"To get an opportunity in a big game like that, and then to come through, that's the dream of every kicker," stated Tiffin. "That's my greatest thrill, one that I'll never forget." Nor will Crimson Tide fans since the moment is forever saved, thanks to a painting by renowned artist Daniel A. Moore simply and succinctly called The Kick.
Auburn's Bo Jackson had a good day, carrying the ball 31 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns, but 'Bama's Gene Jelks had a better one, rushing 18 times for 192 yards and one touchdown. Jelks' touchdown, however, was a 74-yard jaunt with just under five minutes left in the game that put the Tide ahead 22–17. Auburn countered with an 11-play, 70-yard march down the field that not only resulted in the go-ahead touchdown, a one-yard blast to paydirt by Reggie Ware, but also ate precious time off the clock.
Crimson Tide quarterback Mike Shula literally threw his way into the school record book. He came through again in 'Bama's biggest of games. The son of former Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame coaching legend Don Shula, Mike completed a 16-yard pass to Jelks and a 19-yard pass to Greg Richardson in a six-play, 45-yard drive that set up Tiffin's game-winning boot.
With the lead changing hands four times in the fourth quarter, the game dripped with drama. "It's one of the greatest games that I've ever been associated with," said ecstatic Alabama coach Ray Perkins, who, as a former player at the Capstone, knew as well as anybody how much a victory over hated Auburn meant.
We need to backpedal a little bit here for perspective. In 1984 Alabama had suffered its first losing season in 27 years. The Crimson Tide opened the 1985 season on Labor Day in Athens, Georgia, where UA had a 13–9 lead with under a minute remaining in the game. Then things suddenly turned bleak for 'Bama. Bulldogs linebacker Terrie Webster blocked Chris Mohr's punt, and Georgia's Calvin Ruff fell on the football in the end zone for an apparent 16–13 Georgia win. Samford Stadium rocked with joy, and the jubilant Bulldogs joined in the victory celebration, to the point that Georgia got penalized 15 yards for delay of game.
As it turned out, the celebration was premature. Trailing by three with 50 seconds to go, Shula quarterbacked the Tide 71 yards in five plays to pull the bone out of the Bulldogs' mouth. Shula calmly connected with Richardson on two long passes and then, with 15 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock, found flanker Albert Bell in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown. The sensational win over Georgia jumpstarted 'Bama's season and got the Tide back on the winning track.
After a one-year absence, Alabama was again bowl-bound, this time to sunny Hawaii, where they would dismantle the USC Trojans 24–3 in the Aloha Bowl. And if the loss didn't hurt Southern Cal enough, the Tide salted the bruises by winning its 21st bowl game at the Trojans' expense, tying USC's national record.
Alabama, beginning with its exciting upset win at Georgia in the season opener and closing with a classic 11th-hour victory over Auburn, endeared itself to Crimson Tide fans everywhere. Even Perkins, who never seemed to be bothered by his critics, had to feel the 9–2–1 season topped off by the big win over Auburn and the bowl win over USC turned down the thermostat a bit.
1967: Alabama 7, Auburn 3
This game is known as "Stabler's Run in the Mud." December 2, 1967, was a miserable day weather-wise and, for the most part, for Alabama on the field. It was a dark, dreary, blustery, stormy day with stinging rain and gusty winds. The field was drenched from heavy downpours that made playing conditions terrible and footing treacherous.
The result was that the Tide and Tigers traded punts for much of the game, although Auburn was in control of the contest, if not on the scoreboard. In the early going the Tigers drove to the Alabama 5-yard line. An incomplete pass and two one-yard runs left them facing a fourth-and-goal situation at the 3-yard line. Rather than kick a field goal, Auburn ran Richard Plagge, who was stopped at the 2-yard line by Dickie Thompson and Mike Hall. On its next possession, Auburn tried a field goal, which was short and wide. Auburn squandered another scoring opportunity when, again forgoing a field goal from chip-shot range, it went for it on fourth-and-2 from the 6-yard line. Roger Griffin ran the ball but came up a yard short. Despite Auburn getting inside the red zone three times, the game was scoreless at the half.
Auburn managed to get on the scoreboard in the third quarter when Mike Riley kicked a 38-yard field goal. The Tigers then failed to take advantage of still another scoring opportunity when they recovered a fumble at the Alabama 23-yard line, but couldn't make a first down. A fumbled snap botched a field-goal attempt.
Meanwhile, Alabama's offense was dormant. It was the third quarter, the Tide only had two first downs, and had only just advanced the ball past midfield. Yet 'Bama only trailed by three points.
Auburn threatened again, getting to the Alabama 12-yard line before the drive was stalled by a 15-yard penalty. Instead of a first down at the 15, it was third down at the 32. Auburn tried to punt, but because of a low snap the punter was smothered by the Crimson Tide.
With 11:29 left in the fourth quarter and Alabama's chances of winning looking as bleak as the weather, quarterback Kenny Stabler, confronted with a third-and-3 situation, called an option sweep, and took off on his famous 47-yard touchdown "run in the mud" that for War Eagle fans must have felt like surreal, slow-motion agony.
Auburn, in complete command of the game up to that point, now found itself behind 7–3. 'Bama hung on to win, and for Crimson Tide fans it seemed like the sun popped out from behind the dark clouds. Under the circumstances, the loss was a bitter pill for Auburn to swallow, especially for its seniors who over their four-year careers not only failed to beat Alabama, but couldn't even score a touchdown against the Crimson Tide.
After the game a disappointed Shug Jordan remarked, "I don't think the best team won today." Bear Bryant agreed that the Tide was very fortunate to come out on top. "Yes, we were lucky to win the game," he admitted. "What else do you want me to say?"
The Tide managed only four first downs to Auburn's 13, and punted 13 times to the Tigers' 10. But the only numbers that counted — and mattered — to Alabama fans were 7 and 3, the final score.
What makes the game so satisfying for 'Bama fans is not just that Alabama won, but the way they won. It was like punching Auburn in the stomach. Stealing the game just added misery to the War Eagle woes, making Tide fans everywhere all the more merrier.
Alabama went to the Cotton Bowl and finished 8–2–1, while Auburn settled for a 6–4 campaign.
1971: Alabama 31, Auburn 7
This was the only time that both teams entered the Iron Bowl undefeated and untied. On a Thursday night, Auburn's Pat Sullivan was awarded the Heisman Trophy. He, his Tigers teammates, and War Eagle fans were as happy as a pig in poop. Two days later it was as if the pig had become the bacon that Alabama had for breakfast as Johnny Musso and Alabama's wishbone offense annihilated Auburn 31–7. Musso rushed for 167 yards and completely outplayed Sullivan as the Crimson Tide cruised to an unexpectedly easy romp over the Tigers.
Well, for Auburn fans, the lopsided score at least quickly put them out of their misery.
However, both teams lost in their bowl games, Alabama getting embarrassed by Nebraska 38–6 in the Orange Bowl and Auburn 40–22 by Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Still, the Crimson Tide won the Iron Bowl.
1981: Alabama 28, Auburn 17
Alabama fans especially love this game because it gave Bear Bryant his 315th win, which enabled the iconic coach to become the winningest coach in NCAA Division I-A history. They get added joy because the historic victory came at the expense of Auburn. That's two good reasons to love this game.
This was Pat Dye's first year as Auburn's head coach. He had served as an assistant on Bryant's staff for eight years. The protégé was facing the master in what would be a notable game. Alabama was 8–1–1 and ranked fourth in the country. Auburn was mediocre at 5–5.
Similar to 1967 when Auburn threatened on several occasions and had little or nothing to show for it, the Tigers in 1981 got inside the Alabama 10-yard line four times but came away with only 10 points. The game was tied at the half 7–7, and again at 14–14 in the third quarter. Al Del Greco made a field goal to give the War Eagles a 17–14 lead going into the fourth quarter.
A 38-yard touchdown pass from Walter Lewis to Jesse Bendross put 'Bama back in front 21–17. Alabama hung on to win 28–17 to give Bryant the victory that broke Amos Alonzo Stagg's all-time win mark. Following the game, Bryant took congratulatory telephone calls from President Ronald Reagan and former President Jimmy Carter.
The Crimson Tide went to the Cotton Bowl, where after leading Texas 10–0 entering the fourth quarter, it fell to the Longhorns 14–12. Alabama finished 9–2–1 and No. 7 nationally. Auburn was finished after the loss to 'Bama, ending the season with a losing 5–6 record.
1974: Alabama 17, Auburn 13
The 1974 Iron Bowl was a matchup of top 10 teams, undefeated and No. 2 ranked Alabama (10–0) against once-beaten and seventh-ranked Auburn (9–1). Moreover, the game was for the SEC title and a Sugar Bowl berth. It was played on Friday of Thanksgiving weekend.
With Richard Todd directing the Tide attack and Calvin Culliver running the football, Alabama built a 17–7 halftime lead. However, with just under two minutes remaining in the game, AU closed the gap by scoring a touchdown on a fake field goal to pull within 17–13.
With 1:07 to go, Alabama lined up in punt formation. Seeing flashbacks of the "Punt, 'Bama, Punt" game of just two years earlier, 'Bama fans were biting their nails. For those fans who forgot, they were quickly reminded as some Auburn fans serenaded them with "Punt, 'Bama, Punt!"
Auburn wasn't able to block the punt, but the pressure the Tigers applied forced a 27-yard punt. Following a three-yard return to the AU 49-yard line, Auburn had time for one play. An end around by Dan Nugent blew up when Mike DuBose knocked the ball loose and then fell on it to preserve the win.
Alabama went to the Orange Bowl for a rematch with Notre Dame, the Fighting Irish having edged the Crimson Tide 24–23 the year before in the Sugar Bowl. Notre Dame again came out on top with another narrow victory, 13–11. The win tarnished the national title that had already been bestowed upon the Crimson Tide by UPI prior to the bowl season. It was also Alabama's eighth straight bowl game without a victory, again tarnishing the sterling 43–1 regular season record that 'Bama had compiled over the previous four years. Auburn played Texas in the Gator Bowl and won 27–3.
2011: Alabama 42, Auburn 14
The Iron Bowl is always a huge game, and the events that occurred the previous week made this one even bigger. The Crimson Tide entered the previous week ranked behind LSU and Oklahoma State in the BCS poll, but that Friday night Alabama got the help that it needed when double-digit underdog Iowa State stunned the Cowboys 37–31 in two overtimes, setting up 'Bama for a likely rematch with LSU in the BCS Championship Game if only they could get by the Tigers.
The only thing between Alabama and the probable national championship game against LSU was hated Auburn. As long as the Tide didn't stub its toe against the Tigers, it would most likely get another shot at the team that a few weeks earlier defeated them 9–6 in overtime in Tuscaloosa.
But first things first. There was that little matter of that game coming up on the Plains. The game for the "state championship" is a year-round obsession for people living in the state, anyway, but for the fourth year in a row the outcome of the game could derail the title hopes of one of the contestants. ESPN's College GameDay was coming to Auburn, and the all-sports network had recently ran the documentary Roll Tide/War Eagle.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik put it this way: "In-state [the Iron Bowl] is always about as big as you can get. I think from a national perspective, you know the fact that we both won a national championship in the last two years has probably given it some extra attention."
UA linebacker Dont'a Hightower said the game just revs you up and can catapult you on to bigger and better things. "You get all the energy up for that game, and then you win that game, so you go off and have so much steam [that it carries over to] the SEC championship and then the national championship."
In addition, signs posted around the UA football complex reading "Never Again" constantly reminded the Crimson Tide players of the colossal collapse that they experienced the year before when 'Bama blew a 24–0 lead and lost.
In the week leading up to the game, there were also signs posted in Auburn around Toomer's Corner. With a picture of Harvey Updyke, the man who angered Auburn fans by poisoning the oak trees there, the signs stated: "Wanted: For Murder of Our Beloved Oak Trees. Also Wanted for Having Too Much 'Bama in Him, and for Six Other Felony Charges but He Claims 13" — the latter a dig at the Crimson Tide's claim of 13 national championships.
All that just added to the buildup.
Whereas the Tide was again riding high, Auburn was only a shell of the team that had won the national championship the year before. The Tigers were 7–4 and nowhere near the force they were when Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton led the offense and Lombardi winner Nick Fairley spearheaded the defense that beat everybody, including UA in that shocking 28–27 come-from-behind win over the Crimson Tide. Eighteen starters were gone from that team.
Consequently the Tigers had already taken it on the chin to the tune of 45–10 against LSU, 38–14 against Arkansas, and 45–7 against Georgia. The three losses were on the road when the Razorbacks were ranked No. 10, the Bayou Tigers No. 1, and the Bulldogs No. 14. In addition to losing, Auburn wasn't even competitive.
Regardless, as it did the three previous years, the Iron Bowl had BCS national championship implications for one of the teams. In 2009 Auburn was set on ruining Alabama's season until late in the fourth quarter when Roy Upchurch scored to put the nail in the Tigers' coffin. In 2010 UA shot out to a 24–0 first-half lead and appeared set to blow up Auburn's dream season before Cam Newton rallied the Tigers to an improbable comeback victory.
In the 2011 Iron Bowl, the score at the half was Alabama 24, Auburn 7, the same as it was the year before. But in 2011 the Tigers didn't have Newton, Fairley, and the others to bring them back, so they went down hard to the Tide, 42–14, in the most lopsided Iron Bowl played in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Auburn's offense was inept against Alabama's No. 1–ranked run defense, which had allowed only three rushing touchdowns all season. The Plainsmen got their two touchdowns when Kenneth Carter fell on AJ McCarron's fumble in the end zone and when Onterio McCalebb raced 83 yards with a kickoff return.
Clint Moseley, who passed for only 62 yards, summed up the Tigers' offensive effort in futility when he said, "As a quarterback, when the bright spot of your day is a punt, it's never a good thing."
Trent Richardson rambled for a career-high 203 yards and caught a five-yard touchdown pass to bolster his Heisman chances, and AJ McCarron completed 18 of 23 passes for 184 yards and a school Iron Bowl record–tying three touchdown passes as the No. 2 Crimson Tide destroyed the Tigers. In doing so, 'Bama also ended Auburn's 14-game home winning streak.
Excerpted from I Love Alabama, I Hate Auburn by Donald F. Staffo. Copyright © 2012 Donald F. Staffo. Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: I Love Alabama,
1. We Love Beating Auburn,
2. We Love Beating Everybody,
3. We Love Winning National Championships,
4. Players We Love,
5. Coaches We Love,
6. Traditions We Love,
7. Stories We Love,
I Hate Auburn,
Introduction: I Hate Auburn,
1. Games We Hate,
2. Traditions We Hate,
3. Players We Hate,
4. Coaches We Hate,
5. Other Games We Hate,
About the Author,