So last week, at their request, I penned a special guest entry for RollBamaRoll‘s “RBR Reading Room” series. I reviewed the book Braggin’ Rights: Alabama vs. Auburn by Bill Cromartie, and my post went live over there yesterday. I’d suggest clicking over, but if you want the short version: Braggin’ Rights is terrific as a handy Iron Bowl reference guide, chockful of fun little tidbits from the early days of the rivalry and classic quotes and photos, but a bit of a slog as a start-to-finish read. Great book to have around, especially if you’ve got any interest at all in the series’ history, but just don’t expect to be blown away if you’re reading it in one shot.
The biggest problem with writing the review was that there were so many of those fun little tidbits, and I couldn’t figure out how to work even a fifth of the ones worth mentioning into the post. So I decided I’d just save them and share them with you here, especially since Auburn football history is one of TWER’s raison d’etres to begin with. Here’s five of my favorites:
1. Cheers were different back then. The book reproduces via photocopy the program from the very first Iron Bowl back in 1893. It included “Yells and Colors” for both sides. The first one (of two) listed for “Agricultural and Mechanical College” went as follows:
Preck-a-ge-gex ! Preck-a-ge-gex !
Who-wah ! Who-wah !
Hallaballoo ! !
Auburn ! ! ! ! ! !
All punctuation is reproduced verbatim. Which is why my favorite part of this is a perfect tie between 1. “Preck-a-ge-gex” 2. the six exclamation points after “Auburn.” I don’t know how you vocalize those, but I bet the good Plainsmen of 1893 found a way.
2. At attention. The book did little to change my general grudging dislike of Bear Bryant–it makes clear just how far back the “cow college” snobbery goes amongst the Tide rank-and-file, but to have it endorsed by the head football coach himself still strikes me as awfully petty–and no doubt, he seemed to take a particular, even exuberant joy in beating Auburn.
But I can excuse that joy as natural football-based rivalry hatred, and Bryant could be a sportsmanlike loser on occasion. In 1963, when Auburn won a battle of top-10 bowl-bound teams (back when “bowl-bound” really meant something) by a score of 10-8, snapping a four-game Tide streak in the series (in fact, it was the first time if five seasons Auburn had even scored on the nation’s best defense), Bryant saluted Shug Jordan at midfield. Yep, saluted. There’s a great photo–Jordan on his players’ shoulders, Bryant’s hand by his forehead military-style. A Birmingham News writer described it this way:
Bryant looked up at Jordan. Then Bryant stepped back. And then he saluted. Bryant of Alabama hasn’t had much practice, but he can lose with grace, like he wins with grace. [OK.–ed.] And if he died a little on the inside, Legion Field at 4 o’clock on Saturday afternoon wasn’t the place to show it.
Four times in a row, he had been a happy winner. Now, it was Jordan’s time.
Paul Bryant actually saluted.
3. I went to the Iron Bowl and a WAC game broke out. All you need to know is the final score of the 1969 game–Auburn 49, Alabama 26–to know it was as wild a shootout as the Iron Bowl has ever produced. But the offensive statistics are still just staggering:
— 1,074 combined total yards, 541 from Auburn and 533 for ‘Bama
— 51 first downs
— Auburn outrushed Alabama 349-49; the Tide outpassed Auburn 484-192
— Auburn scored on an 84-yard fake punt touchdown run by Connie Frederick, Alabama on a 102-yard kickoff return.
Insane. It’s easy to point out, of course, that Pat Sullivan was at the helm of that Tiger offense and only a year away from winning the Heisman, but even Sullivan-to-Beasley took a back seat that day to Wallace Clark (117 yards, 3 TDs), Micky Zofko (74 yards), and the rest of the Tiger rushing attack. You’d think the Tide quarterback who’d managed to throw for almost 500 yards in the Iron Bowl would be a household name, but he wasn’t any of the legendary Tide QBs who would go on to be NFL stars–it was a kid named Scott Hunter. I’m sure the Tide fans and older Auburn fans are plenty familiar with Hunter’s name … but I will admit I was not.
4. Not that it was necessarily inaccurate at the time, but … How far back does the prestigious state university/agricultural educational backwater schism go? This is the sub-headline for the Birmingham News‘s story on Auburn’s 23-0 win in 1902:
BLACKSTONE VOTARIES NEVER ENOUGH FOR TECHNIC SHOP HANDS
Since we’re Auburn and we can never have enough nicknames, here’s a vote for occasionally referring to our teams as “Technic Shop Hands,” just for the hell of it.
5. Ha ha ha ha ha. You may know Auburn’s 14-13 victory over the Tide in 1949 as one of the bigger upsets in the series’ history, but it’s still worth recalling how big:
— Auburn entered the game at 1-4-3, the only win coming over winless Miss. St. Alabama entered at 7-2, their only losses to SEC champion Tulane and annual powerhouse Vanderbilt
— Auburn had only won 5 times in 34 games, and had been outscored by more than 500 points in that span
— Alabama had won the previous year’s matchup 55-0.
But Johnny Wallis (on a pick-six) and George Davis scored touchdowns, Bill Tucker converted both point-after attempts, and Auburn won anyway. LOL. Just goes to show you what the pregame dope is worth.
Yes, dope. Look, even the News used the term. Here’s their subhead:
SOUPED-UP AUBURN DEFIES DOPE, ROLLS TO GREAT TRIUMPH
I hope they’d have re-used that one if Auburn had won last fall. They probably wouldn’t have.