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Looking Back on 2010 One Photo / Game at a Time

To celebrate the kickoff of the 2011 football season, here’s a picture from every week of Auburn’s championship 2010 season.

Kodi Burns, quarterback turned receiver, scores the first touchdown of the season against Arkansas State, beating the visiting Indian-Red Wolves 52-26. The obscuring shaker just adds to the atmosphere:

Auburn was on the road for their second game, a 17-14 win over conference foe Mississippi State:

The legend of Cam Newton begins in the 27-24 overtime win over visiting Clemson. After only three games he’d amassed 315 yards rushing, 525 yards passing and nine touchdowns. Even still, Clemson had to miss a field goal to allow Auburn to escape from their biggest scare of the early season.

Auburn rallied past South Carolina. Linebacker Josh Bynes forced this fumble and secured an interception, each helping to turn the tide in a 35-27 victory. Cam Newton would be responsible for all five of Auburn’s scores, on the ground or through the air. Freshman tailback Michael Dyer gained 100 yards, proving to college football onlookers that the Tigers suddenly had too many weapons to defend.

Auburn, now in top 10, improved to 5-0 with a tuneup win over Louisiana Monroe 52-3.

Auburn traveled to Kentucky and escaped the Bluegrass State on a Wes Byrum field goal as time expired. The Tigers orchestrated a 19-play, 86-yard drive in the final 7:22 to set up the game-winner. The 37-34 victory has been somewhat forgotten. All of these big scores, though, were only foreshadowing.

The game the scoreboard broke. Arkansas and Auburn set an SEC record for points scored in a regulation game. When everyone recovered from heart palpitations they discovered the guys in blue had emerged with a 65-43 victory that was a lot closer than the score suggested. Arkansas lost their starting quarterback early. No matter, the backup tossed it around for 332 yards and four scores. But in the end the stir he created was the man who would begin to show his Heisman bona fides. Cam Newton rushed for 188 yards and three scores and threw for 140 more yards and another score.

And finally doubters would be satisfied. LSU brought one of the best defenses in the country into Jordan-Hare Stadium, and they were torched for 526 total yards, 440 of which Auburn gathered on the ground. Mike Dyer collected 100 yards rushing, but the man of the hour was the man wearing the number two.

That’s the end of this famous run:

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

After gunning down Arkansas and running over LSU, the season definitely took on a special feel. Up next was Ole Miss, who were just a mascot-less speed bump in the way of a juggernaut. Ole Miss was looking for a Halloween surprise, dressing up as a football team (albeit in new, gray unis) but Auburn took the win in Oxford 51-31. Cam Newton caught a touchdown pass from Kodi Burns. The Tigers were showing themselves to be:

Up next was Homecoming. Auburn hosted Tennessee-Chattanooga 62-24, improving to 10-0 on the season, ranked third in the nation and put up statistical superlatives across the board. Cam Newton, in just 30 minutes of play, set a personal best for passing yards. The Tigers put up 484 of offense in the first half, and eclipsed 600 yards offense for the second time of the season. It was the fifth time they’d scored more than 50 points on the season. Terrell Zachery found a career high for receiving yards, including this 80-yard touchdown reception.

Auburn clinched their appearance in the SEC Championship game in a 49-31 victory over Georgia in a controversial reunion of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. And by controversial I mean that Auburn’s Nick Fairley had one late hit, was flagged for it, and Georgia whined and whimpered about it for the rest of the game. Then they tried to take him out late in the contest, which prompted a fight. Most of Georgia’s sideline stormed the field. Two of Auburn’s players were ejected in garbage time (and suspended for the first half of the upcoming Iron Bowl) and despite all of that, Auburn still won and Georgia looked like poor losers.

But on the day when Auburn earned the right to go to Atlanta, the Tigers’ offensive line deserved special recognition. Guys like Cameron Newton, well on his way to the Heisman Trophy, wouldn’t have accomplished all he did on the field without these guys:

Same story for Mike Dyer, who would in the Georgia game break Bo Jackson’s freshman rushing record:

And the same shot, as told by AUHD:

It was simultaneously the biggest choke ever by Alabama and the largest comeback by Auburn, as the Tigers finished their regular season a perfect 12-0 after the 28-27 victory.

In a year full of tremendous efforts, Antoine Carter may have saved the season on this play, shifting the momentum of the game inexorably into Auburn’s favor:

Some time after this a deranged individual would prove his poor decision making and self-worth by poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner.

But before we knew that, it felt like this:

Half of Auburn was in Atlanta for the SEC Championship game against South Carolina. More of us were in the new Auburn Arena to watch a simulcast. The Tigers played their most complete game of the season, proving themselves a force while winning their first SEC Championship since 2004. Auburn thumped Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks 52-17. More than a few of us grew misty-eyed when the score became 49-14 and we realized these Tigers would have a shot at football glory.

That night I wrote “For 1983, 1993 and 2004. For 270,000 alumni. For every coach and player from Shug to Gene. For Auburn and for ol’ API.”

The state’s newspapers the next day:

A month later Auburn faced Oregon in Arizona and brought home the national championship after Mike Dyer’s run:

… which was exhausting, and Wes Byrum lined up behind senior backup quarterback Neil Caudle to cinch the win:

Kodi Burns, the quarterback who so famously and selflessly said he’d move to wide receiver, unifying the team behind eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, scored the first touchdown in the season and the first touchdown in this game. From September through January, this team was a joy to watch.

And then there was the final celebration of the year at Toomer’s Corner:

War Eagle, and let’s kick off 2011.

Kenny graduated from Auburn at the turn of the century. He worked in newsrooms across the region and then earned a master’s degree at UAB. He met and married a Yankee, who declared her Auburn allegiance at her first home game. She’s now on the faculty at Auburn. He’s finishing his PhD at Alabama and teaches at Samford University. See him online at www.kennysmith.org and @kennysmith.

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