Iron Bowl weekend is upon us, as is the post-Thanksgiving hangover and Black Friday rush. As the latest renewal of this rivalry approaches, we put down a few of our memories of the Alabama-Auburn games down through the years. We also would love to hear your own stories, anecdotes and memories of Iron Bowls past. Feel free to share in our comments section below.
Younger fans are getting a taste of the dominance that was Alabama football in the days of Bear Bryant. In those days, it was rarely a question of whether the Crimson Tide would beat Auburn; the only question was by how much. Then in 1982 Pat Dye led Auburn to their first victory in the series since the 1972 ‘Punt, Bama, Punt’ game. For Auburn fans there was a sense that the tables were turning. But for Alabama fans the victory was but a blip on the screen. In my middle school a joke circulated that showed our contempt for Auburn even in victory: Q. How come Santa Clause wears red and white? A. Because if he wore orange and blue, Christmas would only come every ten years.
My most vivid memory is of the 2008 Iron bowl in Bryant-Denny Stadium. It was a bloodbath after three quarters, with the score 29-0. Being in the student section as a freshman, this game (at the time) was the best I had ever witnessed. In the fourth quarter the backups were getting some playing time, and we were chatting about how Alabama would beat Florida the next week in the SEC Championship game. I turned to look briefly to the field, just in time to see then-backup quarterback Greg McElroy toss a bomb to Marquis Maze. Suddenly it was 36-0, and what was already a shutout became the release of six years of misery in a matter of 60 minutes of football.
The 1999 Iron Bowl was a special one for me because it is the first I remember watching. It is one of my earliest football memories, and it also turned out to be the first time Alabama ever beat Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The game went on to be known as “Victory on the Plains,” and I own the VHS tape of the game to this day (if only I still owned a VCR). Much like this year, the Crimson Tide needed to beat Auburn to clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game. I watched the game with my parents, and I remember the shock we all felt as Auburn went into the half leading 14-6. If you own the tape of the game like I do, you probably remember a spirited halftime speech by All American tackle Chris Samuels as he reminded all of his teammates that this was his last time playing in the Iron Bowl.
Alabama came out inspired in the second half and got an early safety to cut the Auburn lead to 14-8. From there, it was the Shaun Alexander show as he scored three second-half touchdowns to lift Alabama to the 28-17 victory and their first win on the Plains. Alexander shouldered the load for the Alabama offense with 33 carries for 182 yards and the aforementioned three touchdowns. The win propelled Alabama to the SEC Championship Game, where they dominated Florida to claim their first SEC Title since the 1992 National Championship season. Of course, two years later Alabama went back to Jordan-Hare Stadium and claimed “Victory on the Plains II” to the tune of a 31-7 beatdown of the Tigers.
I was in school at UA during the Perkins and Curry years. These were not great times, but there were some great moments and memorable wins. Alabama lost to Auburn the previous two seasons and it sure looked like they were on the way again with a fourth-and-goal from the 1- or 2-yard line. Pat Dye called a run play for a touchdown instead of the go-ahead kick. In an instant, the game changed. Bo Jackson, who was a called blocker for Brent Fullwood on the play, ran to the wrong side leaving Fullwood exposed. The play failed and Alabama was able to hang on, but not before another nail biter as Auburn got into range again and lined up for the game-winning kick. I remember my date hiding her face on my shoulder and holding her breath as the kick went up and sailed wide. Everybody remembers Bo running the wrong route, but the game wasn’t in hand until that final desperation kick. Alabama won the game, which it would only do twice in that era.
The other great moment was the following season. I was in Gatlinburg for Thanksgiving and watched the game from a chalet rental there. Auburn went ahead late and, with only seconds to play, Alabama drove down the field and kicked the most improbably game-winning field goal in memory. Immediately, I went into town to celebrate and was heckled by some Auburn fans who had, apparently, started celebrating one minute too early. It was sure nice to inform them of the final score and watch them quietly walk away.
It was a cool, crisp November morning. I was at an IHOP with a group of like-minded gentlemen students at Alabama, where we met the best-looking waitress in this history of I-hopping; a four at best. One of my brethen, a 300-pound, bald bro we called ‘Hulk,’ took a shine to this young service professional, and invited her to the game. She was flattered, but told us she had a boyfriend. Undeterred, Hulk told her to bring the boyfriend along. I don’t know where Hulk got two extra Iron Bowl upgraded student tickets: you don’t ask questions of the Hulk. IHOP4 and her boyfriend showed up at the game, decked out in Auburn gear. The game was miserable, as Mike Shula was so very Mike Shula. We were all prepared to leave in the third quarter when we noticed Hulk and IHOP4 had not returned from “going to get a drink” in the first half. The Auburn boyfriend won the game that day, but Hulk won the war.