— If you missed “half the first,” we’re watching this on ESPN Classic, and because the WWL has more poker reruns to squeeze into the schedule they skip past the Auburn drive that led to a short Al Del Greco field goal, cutting the Tide’s four-point halftime lead to 14-13. We pick back up with 7 minutes left in the third and ‘Bama facing 3rd-and-long on their own 20. Which seems like a nice place to start … especially after Gerald Robinson sacks Waler Lewis and forces a fumble that rolls 15 solid yards straight out-of-bounds. In case you’ve forgotten: 1. Yes, Alabama proverbial has the luck of the devil 2. Old-school artificial turf suh-hucked, man. Whatever else anyone might say about moving the game out of the “neutral” venue, there’s no arguing that getting it off of that kind of field ASAP was a necessity.
— The Tide punt goes up into the swirling wind … and comes right back again, taking a giant backwards bounce off the turf and getting downed at the Tide 26. Who knew playing a game in a tornado could be so much fun?
— Bo for 2, Bo for 4, Randy Campbell keeps on the option for 6 for first down. Now a throw to the end zone … dropped by Clayton Beauford. Two plays (a short run by Lionel James and a failed screen to James) later, Del Greco is on the field. Color guy Frank Broyles blames what he charmingly calls “the forward pass”–Auburn has been throwing on first down despite being a run-first team and failing, and it’s especially confusing, Broyles notes, for a team whose offense specializes in pounding in from close range. Good to know certain play-calling complaints haven’t changed in 25 years.
Del Greco has the wind at his back and bangs it through for a 16-14 lead … but Jackson and Broyles warn that Auburn should probably be taking advantage of these red zone possessions while they don’t have to worry about the wind. If I didn’t know how this story ended, I might agree with them.
— So Alabama takes over, and the Tide’s Perry Goode pops loose for a long run along the right sideline … and yeah, I know this recap has been one long exercise in “Goshnabbit, why can’t things have stayed the way they was back then, by gum!”, but watching a player get tackled five yards out of bounds not with any kind of malice but just because the defender is trying to make a play, and having it not result in a 15-yard flag is the stuff of my 2009 college football dreams.
— Not that it ends up helping Auburn on this particular drive, mind. Hulking Alabama fullback Ricky Moore breaks into the secondary untouched and only corner David King is standing between Moore and a 57-yard touchdown … and as King is substantially less than “hulking, Moore brushes him aside and scores. Dammit.
In one of those early signs that things may not end up working as swimmingly for the Ray Perkins as Tide fans would like, he decides to go for 2 so the Tide can go up … 6? Why is 22-16 any better than 20-16? I know the wind is crazy, but it’s still just a hypothetical extra point … and a field goal the Tide makes with the wind in the fourth quarter would hypothetically mean the Tide would only tie rather than win if Auburn scores a hypothetical touchdown and the Tide fails on the two-point conversion. Which, of course, like all hare-brained two-point attempts throughout the history of this sport–please see Houston Nutt’s dumb-assed, failed attempted two-point try in the first half from last Saturday, which very nearly cost him the game–fails, and fails rather miserably.
— The Tide squib the kickoff, and it’s run back to the 29 by scholarship-earning walk-on Ed Graham, who Broyles explains has a brother who walked-on at Alabama and is on the opposite sideline. The camera stays uncomfortably close on Graham as Broyles relates these facts, and poor Graham, clearly feeling under the obligation to do something interesting for the television viewers at home, loudly screams “COME ON DEFENSE!” As, you know, the Auburn offense takes the field. After the kickoff that Graham himself returned. Oh, Ed. Your one shot at national televsion, too. That was awesome.
— If you know your Auburn history, you know exactly what comes next:
It still just doesn’t seem possible that a human being that big and that built could also be that fast. And remember: he was just a sophomore. It would still be two full seasons before he’d win the Heisman. Anyways: TOUCHDOWN, AUBURN! Del Greco tacks on the extra point, and it’s 23-20.
Bo statwatch: 16 carries, 246 yards, 2 TDs, both over 65 yards. Unreal. Broyles says that an Alabama sportswriter (who?) called Bo “the best college football player in America that America has never heard of.” It seems very strange to think of a time when Bo Jackson was some kind of lurking, breakout kind of star, doesn’t it?
— The wind blows the ball clear off the tee as Del Greco approaches it, and Jackson (perfectly) calls it “the ol’ Charlie Brown trick” … even though, for the record, Del Greco didn’t actually take a swing at the thing.
— ‘Bama gets one first down, option play left … and Lewis just bonks the ball of his teammate’s hip and drops it. Greg Carr pounces on it, and it’s Auburn ball on Alabama’s 24. Just one easy touchdown from here and this game is O-vah.
— Or, Auburn could try a reverse to Chris Woods and in the face of several unblocked Tide players Woods could run backwards 10 yards and get tackled back at the 36 to set up a 2nd-and-22 Auburn will have to convert in the …
— … throwing into the wind. 26 years later, and I bet Dye would still really, really like to have that one back.
— We jump just a bit to the 10:46 mark of the fourth, and the rain, verily, is coming down in Biblical proportions. “I didn’t know it could rain this hard,” Jackson says. Ray Perkins is standing in a crimson jumper and looking like the most miserable coach since Emo Weis coached through a monsoon and two torn knee ligaments vs. Michigan two years ago.
Wait: Perkins is most miserable until Emo Weis. That’s a bit more chronologically accurate.
— Tommie Agee twists for a first down, and Jackson notes that Auburn has gone into goal-line formation in an attempt to run the clock straight out. After two short runs, it’s 3rd-and-8, Campbell keeps on the option … first down! 20 yards! Auburn now inside the Tide 40, but more importantly, there goes another 3 minutes off the clock at minimum. It may be 26 years later, but Mwa ha ha! anyway.
— Legion Field is quickly disappearing under a spreading network of puddles, but after a third-down stop Pat Dye says I DEFY YOU, GODS OF WEATHER and sends Del Greco on for what Guiness will immediately recognize and the world record holder of the least-likely 51-yard field goal ever, a record that I imagine would still stand today if Dye hadn’t come to his senses, said YOU WIN, GODS OF WEATHER, and sends on the punt team. “I don’t know what Pat was trying to do,” Broyles says.
— Lewis Colbert is your Auburn punter, and holy hell this is this a play from him: first he catches a ball so wet the word “sopping” doesn’t even do it justice, then he shortens his follow-through to get the punt away just as three different Tide players converge on him, and then the kick rolls out of bounds at the 5. I’m not the best person to ask about this, but aside from maybe Terry Daniels’ monster boot out of the end zone to preserve the 1993 undefeated season against Vanderbilt, I’m hard-pressed to think of a more clutch Auburn punt than this one. My metaphorical glass is raised to you, Mr. Colbert.
— Frank and Keith joke around about having seen lightning in the area. I’m sure I was somewhere at the time playing with a toy gun that looked identical to the real thing. Ah, nostalgia.
— Under 7 minutes to play, ‘Bama takes over. Lewis rolls out to try and … pass? In this weather? The way the Tide option has worked? OK, sure, go ahead, Tide.
And sure enough, cue Nelson Muntz: HA-ha! Lewis’s pass squirts out of his hand and it’s an easy pick for Vic Beasley. This game is so over. Unless Auburn does something silly, like Tommie Agee fumbling the ball right back to the Tide on a routine hit.
— Dammit Agee.
— Under five minutes to play, and even in the weather and with the Tide nearly 90 yards away from the end zone, if I didn’t know how this ends I’d be pooping masonry. Fortunately, the Tide goes incompletion, short clock-killing run, incompletion, punt, and now the game must surely be over. Surely.
— The Tide punt lands with a splortch in a puddle only slightly smaller than Lake Martin, dying, in the words of Keith Jackson, “like an old, soft turnip.”
— First down pitch to James: dropped. Maybe we could just do some straight hand-offs, Auburn of 1983? Please?
— Still, even with Auburn facing 3rd-and-12, the clock’s under 4 minutes and ‘Bama only has one timeout remaining … and now Campbell’s taken off over the left side to bring Auburn into a 4th-and-4. Even if Auburn fails to convert this, as long as they don’t do something silly like try a play-action pass and see Chris Wood commit an offensive pass interference penalty that flips field position, they’ll be in great shape.
— Dammit, Auburn.
— ‘Bama has 2:26 to try and do something. First down: Donnie Humphrey bats down Lewis’s pass; incomplete. Second down: Perry Good breaks loose for around 12 yards and a first down. Broyles notes that a tie–hey, remember those?–would still give Auburn an outright SEC title anyway while a Tide win gives them a share of the SEC crown, so there won’t be any Van “Washes His Car With the Blood of Baby Seals” Tiffin this game.
— Lewis throws to a wide-open tight end, and here’s two more terrific Auburn plays: Tommy Powell dives at the TE and knocks the ball away, and in the rain and the wind and everything else Beasley manages to get his hands underneath it for an interception! OK, barring a total meltdown, there is no silly thing Auburn can do any more to keep from winning this game.
— Campbell keeps and picks up the final first down. That’s it! Auburn finishes the season 10-1 and wins Auburn’s first SEC championship since–get this–1957.
— You were so good that game, Keith Jackson, I’m going to ignore that you called our team the “War Eagles” there in the final seconds.