This is the Auburn AUghts, the WBE series looking back at the decade that was in Auburn Tiger football. Today: the 10 biggest and best Auburn wins of the previous 10 years. Previously: the Plays, the Players, and the Stories. Enjoy.
There’s so much that goes into figuring out what’s the “best” football game out of a selection of football games that it’s nearly impossible. Is it the one with the highest quality of play? The one with the most thrilling or unbelievable ending? The one with the greatest impact on the historical course of the programs involved? The one we remember most clearly because it was freezing cold or the pregame parachutist missed the field or (totally hypothetical example) the old gymnastics barn next-door burned to the ground mid-game? The one with the greatest emotional catharsis?
I don’t really know, which is why I’m sure the games you might pick for this list would be vastly different from the ones I’ve chosen, even moreso than with my choices for players or plays. It’s also tougher, probably, making this list for Auburn than for most teams; it was never a dull moment with Tubby around, giving us dozens of potential choices. But I picked out some choices anyway. Hope you like them.
THE TOP TEN
1. Auburn 24, Georgia 6 (2004)
Put as simply as I can: this is the best I have ever seen an Auburn football team play. Ever.
Remember: those Dawgs were far, far from chopped liver. A no. 5 ranking, a 9-1 record, a final 11-2 mark that year, one of the NCAA’s all-time winningest QBs at the helm … and they didn’t even deserve to be on the same field with Tubby’s Tigers that day. 16 points truly wasn’t even the half of it; Georgia was utterly overwhelmed, in a way I have never seen an Auburn opponent of that quality overwhelmed before or since. For me, this performance is Auburn’s gold standard, the bar which every other Tiger team–on every one of their Saturdays–will attempt to clear.
2. Auburn 28, Alabama 18. (2005)
Have I ever been more just plain deliriously happy watching Auburn play as I was in the first quarter, quarter-plus of this game? Have I ever felt more like my football team was injecting pure, undiluted liquid joy straight into the pleasure centers of my brain?
Maybe, I guess. But not this decade. HONK.
3. Auburn 20, Florida 17 (2007)
Auburn racked up a lot of massive, unexpected wins in Tommy Tuberville’s tenure; they were kind of his thing, man. But were any of them more unexpected than this one?
Remember how entirely miserable the start to that 2007 season had been: an iffy opening win over Kansas St., an overtime loss to South Florida that shouldn’t have even been close, a 19-14 home defeat to Sylvester Croom’s Miss. St. team marred by Auburn fans turning Jordan-Hare into Philadephia South in their disgust with a soon-to-be-benched Brandon Cox. The win over New Mexico St. the following week didn’t do much to stop the bleeding, not with Auburn trailing 20-14 on the scoreboard and 266-71 in the yardage column late in the first half. And now Auburn had to travel to the Swamp to face the defending national champions.
But Cox grabbed the frisbee, Wes Byrum became Wes Byrum, and somehow everything was whole again.
4. Auburn 23, Florida 20
The spiritual forerunner to No. 3, right down to the much-maligned QB and last-second field goal. Playing at home, after the narrow escapes against Vandy and Miss. St., maybe we weren’t quite so desperate (or pessimistic) as in ’07 … but it was Spurrier, the Gators were No. 1, and Auburn was starting a kid they’d borrowed from the Opelika junior high team at outside linebacker, as I recall. Victory wasn’t exactly expected.
Tubby, of course, found some way of giving it to us anyway.
5. Auburn 31, Georgia 30 (2005)
The most purely thrilling, most visceral, most heart-stopping Auburn win of the decade … and the high-water mark for an Auburn offense that (despite its successes this past season) has yet to return to anything like these kinds of heights. Even had a nice redemption story attached with J**n V****n’s game-winner.
For the record: still can’t believe Georgia left Aromashodu that open, or that Cox looked that calm on 4th-and-the-game.
6. Auburn 17, Alabama 7 (2002)
In some ways, this game shouldn’t rank this high on the list. It wasn’t dramatic; the signature play (the long Tre Smith run on Auburn’s opening drive) took place just a few minutes in. It didn’t help Auburn win a divisional title or springboard the Tigers to any new poll heights or big future victories. It didn’t feature any offensive fireworks, go-for-broke coaching maneuvers, or off-field drama. At least, not more than is usual for the Iron Bowl.
But that’s the thing–it was the Iron Bowl. And not one of Auburn’s seven wins in the Iron Bowl this decade came as more of a surprise. Not one was any sweeter. Not one makes me smile more today. And when you’re talking about the Iron Bowl, that counts for an awful, awful lot.
7. Auburn 10, LSU 9 (2004).
It says something about the decade Auburn had that the most taut, exciting game in their best season–featuring two of the decade’s top 10 plays by my count–still comes in at No. 7 here. If you want to rank it higher, given how hair-trigger tense it was, how high the level of play that day was, how this was the game where that 2004 team became the team they’d become … well I certainly won’t stop you. (Come to think of it … why am I putting this seventh?)
8. Auburn 27, Florida 17 (2006)
Yep, yet another ecstasy-inducing upset of a highly-favored Gators team. This one was ranked No. 2. Helped ease the pain of that humiliating loss to Arkansas a week prior right quick.
Just so you know, any Gator fans reading out there: it was a fumble.
9. Auburn 7, LSU 3 (2006)
Unlike a lot of the games on this list, this one was not “fun” to watch. It was the opposite of fun, in fact, as two brutal defenses pretty much brutalized the opposing offenses for four quarters. I’d be hard-pressed to name an Auburn game I thought was harder-hitting or more physical, one where yards were any more precious than they were that day.
Which–fun or not–is why this, too, was a truly terrific game.
10. Auburn 28, Alabama 23 (2003)
As far as the game itself goes, I’ll be honest: I don’t remember too much about it other than the play above. What I do remember is how desperately we needed that win; for all kinds of reasons, I would say we needed that win more than any other this decade. That we got it is reason enough to slot this game here.
FIVE MORE IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER
Auburn 29, Georgia 26 (OT) (2000)
The 2000 team didn’t actually end up offering us too many memorable moments on their way to the SEC West crown, but beating the Dawgs in overtime to seal up a trip to the Georgia Dome remains a highlight.
Auburn 16, Virginia Tech 13 (2004)
Still think Auburn didn’t play its best game, but a Sugar Bowl victory to cap a 13-0 season is a Sugar Bowl victory to cap a 13-0 season regardless.
Auburn 31, LSU 7 (2002)
At 3-3 and smarting from an OT loss to Ron Zook’s Gators, it didn’t look like Auburn had yet shook off the end-of-2001 malaise. Then they smashed Saban’s LSU team into tiny, tiny pieces.
Auburn 41, West Virginia 30 (2009)
Between the rain, the tightrope walk of the first three quarters, and finally the emphatic YES this game offered to the question of whether this staff was ready, I think this goes down as the definitive game of Chizik’s debut season. (OK, the Auburner video helps a little, too.)
Auburn 24, Georgia 17 (2001)
41 carries for Carnell + his game-winning touchdown + the thrilling last-second goal-line stand = a classic.
STILL ROOM FOR HONORABLE MENTION
Auburn 34, LSU 17 kicked off the 2000 divisional title run … Auburn 17, Alabama 10 in 2007 to extend the Streak to 6 at Saban’s expense was awfully sweet, as was Auburn 23, Clemson 20 that same year in Chick-Fil-A Bowl overtime … speaking of bowls and overtime, Auburn 38, Northwestern 35 maybe ought to rank higher on pure excitement, but I can’t shake the fact that Auburn didn’t play that well … oh yeah, Auburn 38, Tennessee 28 in 2004 earned Auburn its only SEC title of the decade and may have been its best offensive performance of the last 10 years … and lastly, I only considered one loss for this post: Alabama 26, Auburn 21 from this season. Devastating emotionally, sure, but those kind of guts deserve a nod.
I think Florida 06 should get bumped up a little higher.
Nationally televised on ESPN AND ESPN2, where a home team, backed by a slam-packed house full of loyal fans, who all showed up in full throat despite a terrible loss just a week before, goes up against the eventual national champions and gets the win with NO offensive touchdowns.
That game was the single ultimate SEC game ever. It was the single embodiment of the Southeastern Conference. (Doesn’t mean it was Auburn’s absolute best game of the decade, or it did a whole lot for the school compared to some others, but I think it should still be higher than 8, and above the 2007 Florida game.)
That AU v UGA in 2004, I concur. I’ve gotten all fired up just watching the video. Stinks that it is January, and August seems worlds away.
High Plains Drifter says
My brother and I saw the double OT win over Wisconsin in the Music City Bowl that was a hard fought win. It wouldn’t make my top ten, but perhaps an honorable mention.
For personal reasons, the 2002 Iron Bowl is #1 for me. 1) We had been pimp slapped by injuries and weren’t expected to win. 2) Alabama fans were being their douchiest best gameday by doing the “Hope you guys give us a good game…” routine. 3) It was my son’s(age 7) first Iron Bowl/away game….I explained to him before the game that going to Tuscaloosa was not like going to Auburn, no one would think he was cute in his blue and orange….he seemed not to understand, so I told him in a language he could understand “Son, going to Tuscaloosa for us is like when Han, Luke, Chewie and Obi Wan went to the DeathStar…..Tuscaloosa is the DeathStar.” After the game, as we celebrated in the Auburn section of BDS, he looked at me and said “Well Dad, we blew up the DeathStar!” So for me, that will always be the greatest Auburn victory, no matter what.
Wow, great memories. I was at 7 of the top 10.
2006 Florida: Loudest. Game. Ever. And I’ve been to a lot.
I remember watching the 2001 AU/UF game by myself at a bar in downtown Mobile. There was some frat guy looking AU fan at the bar next to me and we were drinking and commenting the game. He was kind of quiet and mellow the whole time, even as AU was looking like they might have a chance. But when Duval made that kick, he suddenly jumped up and started screaming like a girl. Then he ran out the door screaming down the middle of this street in downtown Mobile. Never saw him again but for some reason this sticks with me today. I think Duval made another game winner from like 50 yards vs Miss St that same season.
Kind of wish I wouldn’t have gotten drunk for the 2004 Auburn-UGA game as I can’t remember most of it with the exception of that rosegreen hit and the refs giving UGA their only points. Should have blown bammer out in 2005 and I still kick myself for leaving the 2005 UGA game early for fear of a possible repeat experience down in BR after the LSU game that same year. At the 2004 LSU game the guy standing next to me caught Vaughn’s second XP and I’ll never forget seeing Courtney Taylor what seemed like all by himself in the endzone at the end of that game, my god it was like everyone went quiet when Campbell threw that ball to him. Watching Carnell run 80 yards on the first play of the game was something to behold. All feels like it was more than just 5-7 years ago…
Thanks for the chills i got while reading this; so many memories. This years WVU and Iron Bowl games could definitely hold their own in the top ten. Just hearing the student section in the pouring rain of the WVU game made me certain that we would win that game. And the Iron Bowl, i would have cried had we won. Although we didn’t, my God did that feel great! WDE!
#9 … that game against LSU … only game that I can remember pacing the floor wanting a cigarette after the game was over (I don’t smoke). It felt like some goon had punched my spine.
Alex P in Smyrna G says
The regular season win against Tenessee in 2004 has to give the UGA contest a run for its money for the “best I have ever seen an Auburn football team play. Ever” crown.
Beating defending BCS Champ LSU was awsome and exciting, but by the thinnest of threads. Despite running a two-QB offense with two true freshmen, UT was a top ten team at the time.
But the sheer dominance of this ass-kicking was the “Ah-ha!” moment where we started to grasp what kind of greatness AU had that year. Before that game we knew AU was going to be very good, but this was the point after which running the table was no longer just a pleasant possibility but a requirement — anything less would have been a dissapointment.
Jumpn Jack Flash says
What? No Auburn vs Miss St 2008? I thought that was the most nerve racking game of the decade. I also thought AU vs Arkansas 2007 was a great game, especially with the way the defense shut down D-Mac and Felix the cat.
Maybe I am just a sucker for low scoring defensive sluggfests.
I personally attended 9 of these games (only missed the 2002 game in tuscaloosa, i went there in 04 and will never go back). I feel considerably blessed.
Why was Devin open? He had been open all game. The coaches figured it out early on, but knew they would need to save the play. According to rumor, the running joke on the sideline was:
Q:”When is Devin gonna run the post?”
A: “Whenever he wants to”
I saw that one from behind the band in Sanford Stadium. Still one of the most unreal things I’ve ever seen.
I also agree that Florida 06 was the loudest JHS has ever been. And i’ve walked in those gates 100+ times.
Smyrna Tiger says
I agree with Alex – the Tennessee ass-kicking was the point that I started to believe. I’m pretty sure Alex and I were watching it at a wedding shower – a wedding shower scheduled around the game (presents at halftime, then all back to the basement to watch the second half).
When we blocked UF’s punt and scored the TD to go ahead in ’06, the stadium was literally shaking. I’ve never been anywhere that was even close to that loud.
I agree with the above statements about that 2004 UT game in Knoxville. I was there and the amount of disbelief from BOTH sides was jaw-dropping, because it was hard to comprehend the performance that was happening. It’s the best I have ever seen us play. 31-3 at the half!!!!
word to that 2006 florida game. i was sitting in normally subdued north endzone and my ears were ringing. plus that blocked punt got the pontiac game changing performance of the year.
Great post as always.
Looking back on the last decade, it seems to me that the 01 Florida game was the single most important win of Tommy Tuberville’s career. Sounds crazy, I know, but hear me out: Despite the fact that we were one season removed from an SEC west crown, Tommy still had no signature wins (maybe you can count 99 Georgia) and was still reeling from a beatdown in the SECCG the previous year. That year, we had already lost to Syracuse (!), and had barely survived against 2 of the SEC’s bottom dwellers. It clearly looked like we were headed for mediocrity (which we were, that season). But in my opinion, that win changed the direction of the whole program. The game put Tuberville on the map and singlehandedly changed his perception in the players’ and fans’ eyes. It’s no coincidence that the list doesn’t include any games that happened before that night. The #1 team in the nation came to our house and we defeated them. That instilled a confidence in that young group of players that lasted all the way to 04 and beyond. I don’t think the dream season happens without that victory. In fact, if Tuberville lost that game, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have gotten the axe after the 03 season. That’s how much good will he built with that victory.
Much is made of “the streak,” but honestly, the only victories we had over Bama over the last decade that are really memorable for me were the 02 and 05 seasons. The others were just routine-every bit as expected as wins over MSU and Vanderbilt. What really made the Aughts special were the games against Florida.
The aforementioned ’01 game. The ’02 game….despite the loss, we watched Jason Campbell and Ronnie Brown grow up in the second half. That was when everything finally clicked and we became the offensive juggernaut that would carry us through ’04. ’06 and ’07…two games I will remember fondly until the day I die. That, and the games against LSU and Georgia are what really stood out to me, then and now.
Bama just wasn’t good enough. Unfortunately, I didn’t really fully enjoy “the streak” while it lasted. Bama just wasn’t good enough. I’m sure Bama fans did the same thing when they were stomping us up and down the field in the 70s. I have a feeling this decade will be different. ‘Bama is back, unfortunately. Every forthcoming victory we have against them, starting with the ’10 season (I’m calling it), will be enjoyed to the fullest.
Disappointed to say I was only at half of these, but get a pass on ’05 uga. It was our last day in Jamaica for our honeymoon. We watched it live and probably disturbed a lot of happy couples when DA made that play! To this day I still regret not coming back a day earlier to be there! (Please don’t tell my wife.)
Still bothered that we were able to pick up $10 tickets outside JHS before ’01 florida. Weather wasn’t good, we had “no shot”, but so little belief left a bad taste, until we rushed the field to celebrate!! (agreed that ’06 uf was loudest ever)
And Alex nailed it on ’04 ut. Most impressive and important win of that magical season. Actually made the SECCG feel much closer than we felt it would be. (BTW, great cf venue. Enjoyed how quiet it got there this past visit.) WDE!
Van P in Illinois says
Tre’s run in the 02 bama game was on the second drive. You’re thinking of the pass to Mix on drive one.
I did this list as a countdown to this season on FB and had UT 04 way higher.
I flew down from IL for the 06 UF game because I had supreme confidence in Tubby vs Fla at that point, and I was rewarded for my faith!
Van, you’re right. Damn. Oh well.
I docked the late 2004 games a little, I guess, because they felt like such inevitabilities by that point. After the Georgia game, I had absolutely no doubt at all Auburn was going to win out. So I thought there was a little less drama involved. But your mileage is welcome to vary.