This week The Wishbone continues its lists of “greatests ever,” this time looking at the best games (“best” for a variety of reasons) Auburn has played in the friendly confines of Jordan-Hare Stadium. [Here’s the Top Ten NOT played in Jordan-Hare.]
As usual with us, we draw the cutoff date at 1981, which we consider to be the beginning of the “modern era” of Auburn football—the first season led by Coach Pat Dye.
And as usual, we welcome suggestions of games we’ve overlooked and arguments about the ones we’ve included. A slight effort has been made to rank them in order of importance, but such measurements are extremely subjective: surely everyone who reads this will prefer a different order to the list.
For obvious reasons, we have broken what turned out to be a pretty massive undertaking into four parts. The installment covers numbers 6-10 of the greatest home games from 1981-2000; next week’s will cover numbers 1-5 from that period. Two subsequent columns will cover the ten greatest home games from 2001-2010.
So, without further ado:
The Top Ten Auburn Home Games, 1981-2000, Part 1
1983 Florida State, 1988 Tennessee (38-6!), 1990 Tennessee (a tie, but Stan White stepped up), 1995 Alabama, 2000 LSU (a nice win over Nick Saban), 2000 Georgia (29-26 in OT).
10. Texas, 1987 season.
Other games—perhaps any of the Honorable Mentions above—could fill this spot as easily as the 1987 Texas game. After all, nothing much was on the line here; no conference titles, no championships, and heck—it wasn’t even a bowl game. It was in fact the opening game of the year. That being said, this game did mean a lot to Auburn players and fans alike. Texas had ruined Auburn’s shot at the national championship in 1983, dealing the Tigers their only loss of the season. A year later, in Austin, the Longhorns had won again and dislocated Bo Jackson’s shoulder in the process. Payback was more than due, and the ’87 Tigers delivered it by the truckload, crushing Texas 31-3 to start off a memorable season.
The Longhorns, who had dismissed Fred Akers as coach following the previous season and replaced him with David McWilliams, appeared to expect that Auburn would run the ball every play. To the contrary, Auburn had every intention of throwing the ball, and the passing game (which had been in use since the beginning of the previous season) clicked on all cylinders. Senior Jeff Burger connected with a powerful squadron of receivers that included Freddy Weygand, Lawyer Tillman, Alexander Wright, and Duke Donaldson, among others. For the defense, in his first game as a Tiger, Greg Staples at safety made an eye-popping interception when he crashed into a Texas receiver in midair and literally tore the ball away, and Kurt Crain at linebacker helped stuff the Texas run game and at one point even hugged the referee.
No, this wasn’t an earth-shatteringly consequential game in the big picture, but it was a big, emotionally satisfying win over the Texas Longhorns, after two very damaging losses to them. And that’s plenty.
9. Florida, 1989 season.
The Auburn-Florida series in the 1980s generally gave us great defensive performances by both teams, and the ’89 edition was no different. Twelfth-ranked Auburn’s spirits were high coming into this game, which marked the fiftieth anniversary of Jordan-Hare Stadium, and even featured a reenactment at halftime of Auburn’s touchdown pass scored during the very first game against Florida in the stadium. The #19 Gators, on the other hand, were in turmoil. Defensive Coordinator Gary Darnell had taken over as head coach of Florida five games into the season, amid suggestions of NCAA violations by Coach Galen Hall. Things quickly went south for the Gators, who would finish the season 7-5 after starting out 6-1.
Even so, the Gators—led by running back Emmitt Smith—gave Auburn a hard-nosed game that came down to the final play. Florida’s lone score came after Auburn fumbled deep in their own territory; otherwise, the Gators were unable to move the ball. Neither were the Tigers, however; they had mustered only a field goal before their final drive of the game.
With time running out, Reggie Slack put together a scoring drive that culminated with a rollout pass to Shane Wasden falling down in the end zone. Jim Fyffe summed it up in his inimitable style: “I have seen the impossible happen!” Auburn held on to win, 10-7.
Emmitt Smith turned pro after this season and thus finished his college career 0-3 against Auburn—a school he had very nearly chosen over Florida as a high schooler.
Here’s video of Smith after the ’89 game, regretting his decision.
After the game, Darnell engaged in a shouting match with numerous fans in the Auburn student section on his way out of the stadium, and a number of Auburn students were actually restrained (by plastic wrist-ties) and detained by AU police (including one of Van’s roommates!). Darnell would not return at the helm in Gainesville in 1990; instead, the Gators brought in a former Duke coach you may have heard of: Steve Spurrier.
8. Florida, 1983 season.
This game was a huge win for Auburn in Pat Dye’s best season as Tigers coach. The ’83 Gators were a strong unit—ranked fifth in the country—and were in fact the only team to defeat the Miami Hurricanes that year. Lots of future NFL players dotted the lineups of both squads. It was an epic clash in a season of epic clashes for then-#4 Auburn.
The Tigers got off to a big start following a 55-yard touchdown run by Bo Jackson and then a short Randy Campbell scoring run. Florida hung in there when QB Wayne Peace connected with Ricky Nattiel for a touchdown. The Tigers tried to pull away again by way of a 17-yard Lionel “Little Train” James score. But the Gators weren’t done. They marched down to the Auburn goal line in the third quarter and threatened to punch it in—only for RB Neal Anderson to fumble the ball out the back of the end zone. Auburn took over on the twenty and on the very next play, in quintessential Bo Jackson style, the Great One rumbled eighty yards for a touchdown. (He would end the day having amassed nearly two hundred yards rushing.)
Florida managed two scores of their own in the fourth quarter and even recovered an onsides kick, but it wasn’t enough—the Tigers held on for the huge 28-21 win and remained on track for the SEC title and a shot at the national championship. And of course any win over Florida is a big win—which brings us to:
7. Florida, 1987 season.
Auburn fans were beyond hungry for a victory over Florida in 1987, having lost three straight to the Gators following the ’83 win. The 1984 game had been a 24-3 embarrassment, with Bo Jackson returning to the lineup after missing six games with a separated shoulder, only to play somewhat tentatively. The game the following year was a hard-fought affair—a “Game of Steel,” as the Birmingham News called it—that nevertheless went Florida’s way. The 1986 game in Gainesville was hardest of all to swallow; Auburn had the win in their pockets only to lose at the last moment when limping quarterback Kerwin Bell somehow hobbled across the goal line to score a two-point conversion and steal the 18-17 win. It hadn’t helped that Florida had pulled to within 17-10 earlier in the game due to a long field goal by Robert McGinty—a former Auburn kicker Pat Dye had essentially shoved out the door after he missed a potential game-winner against Alabama in 1984. Thus in 1987 Tigers fans were desperate to beat Florida, and beat them soundly.
At the beginning of the national telecast of the 1987 game, the CBS announcer summed up the zeitgeist perfectly: “It’s the irresistible force—Florida’s Emmitt Smith—against the immovable object—Auburn’s Aundray Bruce.” Now, looking back, we know that the actual “immovable object” of that defense was probably Tracy Rocker, not Bruce. But Bruce had recently put together one of the most remarkable individual performances in some time against Georgia Tech in Atlanta so he’s who the media and fans were focusing on at the time.
The game was played on Halloween night and T-shirts beforehand proclaimed a “Nightmare at Jordan-Hare.” Indeed, the tenth-ranked Gators were spooked from the first moment, with every phase of the game coming together for sixth-ranked Auburn. The Gators were held to only six points and Emmitt Smith was mostly held in check, failing to reach a hundred total rushing yards. Auburn, meanwhile, scored 29 points and cruised to victory in what was one of the most satisfying wins against a big rival in Auburn history.
6. Florida State, 1990 season.
This game brought the Auburn-Florida State series to a close; the teams have not faced one another since. It’s been so long, many young Auburn fans have no real understanding of how intense this rivalry became during the 1980s. Both programs were on the rise under iconic head coaches (Pat Dye/Bobby Bowden). Both had developed stout defenses to go along with exciting offenses. (It was as if, one day in the middle of 1986, Florida State came around to the idea of playing defense at the exact same moment that Auburn came around to the idea of passing the football.)
This game was the rubber match of what had turned out to be a seven-game series. Auburn had won in exciting shootouts in 1983, 1984, and 1985, while FSU struck back with a blowout win in Jordan-Hare in 1987 (the very week after the above Florida game!) and a controversial Sugar Bowl win at the end of the 1988 season (featuring a no-call on a Deion Sanders [CORRECTION: Dedrick Dodge] pass interference of Freddy Weygand as Auburn was driving for what would have been the winning score). The Seminoles brought the series level in 1989 by holding on in the face of a furious Auburn comeback to win in Tallahassee. So 1990 would decide the series winner and would also provide the Tigers a chance to break the three-game losing streak. Auburn fans were ravenous for victory over the Seminoles and this would be the last chance to get it.
Auburn’s defense ultimately would make the difference. They shut out FSU in the second half, and two of their plays in particular stand out from this game—along with one interesting coaching decision by Pat Dye.
First came the “fumblerooksi.” A staple of the Bowden playbook in those days, FSU would save this (now-banned) trick play for critical situations. Unfortunately for the Seminoles, AU’s defensive line had been well-versed in how to spot it. When the FSU center placed the ball on the ground to start the play, a Tiger lineman immediately leapt upon it. Boom: “fumblerooski” becomes “fumble.”
With Florida State ahead very late, 17-14, an Auburn drive stalled out and Pat Dye called for a field goal. This brought back memories of the Sugar Bowl tie with Syracuse after the 1987 season, as well as the tie with Tennessee earlier in the season. This time, however, Dye was proven right in his decision. Auburn leveled the game at 17-17 with very little time remaining, but FSU would have one more chance to score. Quickly the Seminoles drove into Auburn territory, and things appeared bleak.
Then Auburn’s defense stepped up, getting a huge sack on the Seminole QB after pursuing him across what seemed like half the length of the field. The play lost what must have been twenty yards at the very least, taking the Seminoles out of field goal range.
Getting the ball back, Auburn moved into field goal range themselves and, as time expired, Jim Von Wyl nailed the kick that gave the Tigers an absolutely shocking and improbable 20-17 victory.
As Tigers fans celebrated in the stadium after the win, many of them spontaneously broke out into the Seminole tomahawk chop and war chant—directed at the visitors’ section of the stands. The FSU crowd, perhaps not as well-versed at that time as most SEC fan bases on the maxim, “When you lose on the road, get out of the stadium immediately,” simply stood there, agape, watching. They couldn’t quite seem to believe what had happened, or that they were getting their annoying gesture chopped back at them. Ahh, sweet victory.
The seven-game FSU series belonged to Auburn, 4-3.
This concludes numbers 6-10 of The Top Ten Auburn Games Played at Home, 1981-2000. In our next installment, we will examine the other half of the list, including the #1 overall greatest game ever played in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
As always, we welcome your comments, corrections, and insights.
Related: The Top Ten Games NOT Played in Jordan-Hare, Auburn’s Ten Greatest Bowl Games, The Ten Best Auburn Games That Never Happened
Van Allen Plexico managed to attend Auburn (and score student football tickets) for some portion of every year between 1986 and 1996. He realizes that’s probably not something one should brag about, but hey. He teaches college near St Louis (because ten years as a student was somehow just not enough time to spend at school) and writes and edits for a variety of publishers. Find links to his various projects at www.plexico.net.
John Ringer graduated from Auburn in 1991 (which may be the greatest time ever to be an Auburn student – SEC titles in 1987, 88 and 89 and the 1989 Iron Bowl). His family has had season tickets every year since well before he was born and he grew up wandering around Jordan-Hare on game days. He currently lives in Richmond, Virginia where he spends way too much time reading about college football on the internet and teaching his children to love Auburn football.
Previous Wishbone columns can be found here.
Order Season of Our Dreams — every “Wishbone” column from the 2010 preseason through the fabled Date in the Desert, plus a stadium full of extras.
Inside The Auburn Tigers Cheerleaders
* British bombshell wears Auburn shirt in Maxim
* Graffiti on the barricade around the Toomer’s oaks
* De La Soul’s DJ Maseo says he’d lend talent to pregame if ‘conducive’
* Barrett Trotter knows when to hold’em
* Bear Bryant’s lost year at Auburn
* The Ron Swanson Pyramid of Auburn
* The Auburn plaque in 1984′s Tank
* War Drobe Eagle: The Auburn shirt in Cannonball Run
theeeeeeerrrrrrre’s a seminoooooooooooooole…coming ooouuuuuuuttt my asshooooooooolllllleeee
I’ll never forget walking out of the stadium after beating FSU in ’90. Auburn students doing the tomahawk chop and chanting “Auburn Tigers….Lord have mercy…” I was 15 and just remember thinking how I couldn’t wait to go to school here.
BartC co95 says
Nice! I was at every one of these. Looking forward to the next article!
Will Collier says
The late Charlie Pell went absolutely bonkers after that famous fumble in ’83, but to Pell’s credit, when he saw the playback the next day, he forthrightly apologized (on his own coach’s show, no less) and acknowledged the official had made the right call. Most Florida fans, of course, have conveniently forgotten all about that, and to this day insist that Anderson actually scored.
Is Georgia ’88 in the top five? ‘Cause if it isn’t, it should be.
Dedrick MFing Dodge says
The 1988 Sugar Bowl no call wasn’t on Deion. You’re better than that, guys.
Van P in Illinois says
Now that I re-think it, Deion’s moment on that drive was stepping in front of the receiver and picking off Slack’s final pass of the game in the end zone. I’ve had twenty-plus years to stew over how that drive ended, so I sort of conflated the two plays in my head. But I can still see Weygand’s chin being driven into his chest just before the ball gets there. Doesn’t much matter to me which Seminole it was doing the interfering– it was a Seminole, and he did it. And we lost.
Van P in Illinois says
I have very little memory of the ’88 Georgia game. (John? How about you?) I just checked on the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry” page on Wikipedia to see if it jogged my memory, and it’s not even listed among their “noteable games” in the series. Huh. I know the score was 20-10, good guys… but what would qualify it ahead of these others? Not saying it shouldn’t be, just saying– I don’t remember much about it.
You mean I have spent almost twenty years for hating Deon for a bad call taht should have gone against Dodge. I was at the Sugar Bowl, never watched the replay.
Well now I hate Derrick Dodge. AND Deon.
Over twenty years. Not almost.
Great list, great memories. As for the ’88 UGA game, AU passed out these towels before the game that said “AU-UGA -Shoot out in Jordan Hare” . I still have it.
Will Collier says
Auburn-Georgia ’88 was a huge game, with a massive pre-game buildup. Surprises me a little that it’s apparently forgotten these days. Georgia came in with two losses, but had just beaten the tar out of Florida, and with a win over once-beaten Auburn, the Bulldogs would claim a share of the SEC championship and a Sugar Bowl bid, by virtue of winning the tie-breaker over AU, and the fact that the Sugar Bowl didn’t want to take in-state LSU. That game was also Vince Dooley’s first shot at his 200th career victory.
As for the game itself, I’ll let the late, great Lewis Grizzard sum things up (from his Monday-morning column immediately afterwards):
–I didn’t want to go the Sugar Bowl anyway. New Orleans is noisy and it’s crowded down there.
Let Auburn go. They can eat all that food and drink all they can drink and feel miserable for the Sugar Bowl where I hope they have to play somebody their own size.
Like the Saints.
I’m not bitter. I am as graceful in losing as I am humble in winning.
Georgia played Auburn, with the Sugar Bowl and the Southeastern Conference Championship on the line, here Saturday before 8 zillion fans and got its Bulldog butt kicked from Opelika to Gadsden and back again.
Georgia actually led early in the game, 7-0. This is like the first precinct from Idaho reporting that Mike Dukakis leads George Bush 3 votes to 2.
“Now I know,” said a Georgia fan seated next to me, “how all those other teams used to feel when we dominated the conference.”
“I can’t remember back that far,” I said.
Here’s a few of my own theories concerning the Bulldog backslide:
1. We can’t out-recruit Auburn in our own state. Why aren’t all those Auburn behemoths from Atlanta wearing silver britches?
2. We can’t recruit one of those quarterbacks who just sits back there, looks around and then fires a bullet down field for a first down when it’s third and 12.
3. We can’t stop the other team when it’s third and 12. Why do our opponents even bother to call running plays?
4. Jan Kemp. Thanks to ol’ Jan, other schools can accept a goat with three toes if it can run a pass pattern and we’ve got to make certain it can spell “c-a-t” first.
5. If we look deeply enough, we’d find it’s all a plot involving a bunch of liberal commies who belong to the American Civil Liberties Union.
6. If something doesn’t change, we’ll have to start taking pride in things like having a great journalism school.
7. Pat Dye is the new Bear Bryant.
8. Pat Dye is the new Vince Lombardi.
9. Pat Dye is the new Knute Rockne.
10. God is punishing us.’
Will Collier says
I’d also add that AU-UGA ’88 featured that monster Smokey Hodge stand-him-up hit on Tim Worley. If you listen carefully, you can probably still hear the echo of the pads smacking from that one…
Will Collier says
I had forgotten this until now, but that was also Vince Dooley’s last SEC game (and last loss) as a head coach.
Hey, I knew Wayne Peace. He was our high school’s quarterbacks coach. I think he’s head coach now (and it’s about time). He’s a good guy, even if he is a gator.
I was at the 88 AU/UGA game and had forgotten much of it til Will’s posts. The FSU game was one I can’t forget, stayed about 45-60 kins after the game in the stands doing the tomahawk chop at the FSU fans. The 90 Tenn game should be included if nothing else for the Carlo Cheatum hit on Reggie Cobb. Talk about a hit that still echos in Jordan-Hare…
Nice little writeup on that 1990 game in SI:
“There ain’t no damn fear in him,” [Pat] Dye said of [Stan] White. “He became a man tonight.”
Will Collier says
Carlo’s decleating of Cobb was actually in 1988, Alan.
I was a freshman in band in ’89. I submit that the best year possible to be a freshman in the AU band was 1989. You may argue with me, but you’d be wrong, so don’t. The FSU game, the Alabama game at home- nobody will forget that.
At some point in the third quarter, some of the wiseacres in the trumpet section picked out the tune to the FSU war chant, and started playing it. Dr. Vinson looked up and tried to shush us, but it was too late- the students had picked it up. Wisely, he found something to occupy himself in the tunnel for the rest of the game, and let the drum majors lead us in the War Chant for the rest of the fourth quarter. Watching 80,000 people do the chop at the FSU visitors’ section was a sight to behold. I think the FSU fans were too stunned to leave, frankly.
I know the ’89 Iron Bowl is #1 on this list- I’ll save my memories of that one for the next post.
Well, Will, all I have to say about that is the years run together. Looking back I always put the hit on Cobb and the 90 tie together as the same game. Mark me present for both of those games.
Michael Val Hietter says
Oh, that 1990 FSU game was my first as a returning alumni (graduated with my second degree in 1988). I made the trip (in two cars, because of scheduling) with one of my best friends, a then FSU-former-student (he didn’t graduate from there at that time, but he is now an FSU PhD candidate). We drove up from Jacksonville on Friday evening listening to the World Series in our car radios, glad that the NL Cincinnati Reds were beating the highly-favored A’s. We stayed that night at the folks’ of my best friend from AU, who was also going to that game. I secured some scalped tickets for me and my AU pal in the FSU section from an uncle of another friend of mine, and we AU guys were NOT ALONE there (I do know that at $50 per ticket, that was the most I ever spent at that time for a football game–actually, it’s still the most I have ever spent for a ball game, period).
My FSU fan friend was looking forward to an expected pasting of AU, and let us know it. After that game, with me and my AU friend doing the Chop, my FSU friend says (not really to us, but to the 80,000 other AU fans), “That’s not right, mocking us like that!” just before he had to leave to start his drive back home. You know, a corollary to the “get out of the stadium” rule noted above is that those who bring an “obnoxious” tradition like the Chop on the road better be ready to have it stuffed right back into their face after getting beat–just like Reverse-Rammer-Jammer (damn, I think I watched all those Reverse-Rammer-Jammer videos a hundred times after this past Iron Bowl!).
Ironically, both those pals were groomsmen in my wedding (I just got married three years ago; I was a late bloomer).
That is STILL my favorite post-graduation Jordan-Hare memory, and probably will be for some time.
(who wants to make sure that you know that my FSU friend is not really a complete jerk–he’s was just that way when he was SO into FSU football at that time!)
I still have the 1990 FSU game on tape. I keep a VCR in working order strictly to be able to watch these games:
1. 89 iron bowl (duh)
2. 1990 FSU
3. 2001 UGA (the one where Tubby decided to make Carnell his entire offense, no matter who was playing QB)
4. 97 Virginia (strictly for two back-to-back passes to Karsten Bailey. Dameyune throws a picture perfect pass to Bailey on the post, only he drops it. On the next play, he outruns/stiff-arms Patrick Kerney to the edge, throws on a side step about 60 yards to a WELL covered Bailey, who makes the catch for the TD)
5. 1990 Hall of Fame Bowl (Reggie! Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!)
Michael Val Hietter says
Pardon the second posting, but the 1987 Florida game is also a seared-into-my-brain memory, not just for the beat-down administered to the Gators, but for a really disgusting, lowest-ever example of unsportsmanship by Gator fans I ever saw.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Gators were pinned deep in their half of the field, where the AU defense kept them most of the evening. At this point , that was right in front of the Gator fan section (that entire end zone was sold out for the Gators). The Gators failed to convert a third-and-long, and as soon as the third-down pass hit the ground incomplete, the ENTIRE GATOR FAN SECTION stood up, as one, and started throwing cups, bottles, and other trash onto the field, AT THEIR OWN PLAYERS. They kept throwing stuff as the punt team lined up. I remember seeing a cup bounce off the punter’s helmet when I watched the replay on tape. Mom, Dad, and I couldn’t believe our own eyes–we thought this kind of behavior was beneath even Gator fans.
A few years later, I remember a friend of mine (an older, like, MATURE UF grad) talking about being at that game and sadly witnessing that episode, so I know I wasn’t dreaming it. Does anyone else remember seeing that? Gosh almighty, I still shudder when I think of that–may I never know personally any fan of any team that would do that to THEIR OWN TEAM.
(who points out that growing up an Auburn fan in Jacksonville, Florida was BRUTAL when it came to dealing with Gator fans, and remains a committed Gator Hater to this day!)