Alabama Football: 30 Greatest Games in Crimson Tide History

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /
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Alabama Football
Auburn head coach Pat Dye (Syndication: Unknown) /

Alabama Football Greatest Game

November 30, 1985 – Legion Field vs. Auburn

Like the 1979 Sugar Bowl, the 1985 Iron Bowl also earned a short monicker. It fittingly earned the label ‘The Kick’ for Van Tiffin’s last-second field goal. For all the drama of Tiffin’s 52-yarder (it would have been good from 60), the game should be known for ‘The Drive’ that got Tiffin to field goal range.

Before discussing that drive, some context is in order. In 1985, the Alabama football program and its fans were still reeling for the 1983 retirement and sudden death of Paul Bryant. There are many stories of why Ray Perkins was the chosen replacement. It is believed Bryant prepared a list of names that included Perkins, Gene Stallings and even a recommendation, if a later hire was needed, to consider Bill Curry.

For the record, few who ever met Perkins or Stallings doubted following Bryant was too much for them. Still, no coach was going to replace Bryant for at least a decade or more. The first Perkins season in 1983, the Tide was 8-4 and finished in the Sun Bowl. In 1984, the Tide slumped to 5-6, though it did beat No. 11 ranked Auburn.

The Crimson Tide was 7-2-1 leading up to the 1985 Iron Bowl. In what was then close to three seasons, the Crimson Tide under Ray Perkins had beaten two ranked teams. Perkins’ teams had three losses to Tennessee, two each to Penn State and Boston College, a loss and a tie to LSU., plus single losses to Auburn, Georgia Tech (coached by Curry), Georgia and Vanderbilt (in Tuscaloosa).

The Crimson Tide program, the fans, the players and the coach needed a boost. Auburn was No. 7 going into the game. The Crimson Tide was on the list of ‘others receiving votes.’

Alabama led the game 16-10 at halftime. Neither team scored in the third quarter. Auburn took a 17-16 lead on a Bo Jackson touchdown with seven minutes to play. Not much more than a minute later, Gene Jelks scored for the Crimson Tide on a 74-yard run. The Tide led 22-17, but Auburn took a 23-22 lead with 57 seconds left in the game.

‘The Drive’ followed which was six plays and covered 45 yards. Before ‘The Kick’ four key plays had to happen to get Tiffin in position. Two of them were miraculous. On a 4th-and-four at the Tide 26, the Tide ran a reverse to Al Bell. Mike Shula made a key block during the 20-yard gain. On a third-and-long, Shula connected with Jelks for a first down.

On the next to last play of the game, the Tide needed yards and as important to get out of bounds. Shula threw to Greg Richardson for most of the yardage but the catch came a good eight yards from the sideline. Greg Richardson was not a big guy and he was almost immediately tackled, but he drug the Auburn player far enough to get out of bounds.

All Tiffin had to do was make the biggest kick of his life – and he absolutely nailed it.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 25 – Auburn Tigers 23

For the ensuing year, Alabama football fans proudly wore t-shirts that said Culture 25 – Agriculture 23.