Auburn. Clemson. 1952. Cliff Hare Stadium. Nothing-Nothing. Less than two minutes left.
“We were struggling that year,” says Vince Dooley, who quarterbacked Shug’s first Auburn teams before joining him as an assistant (and then heading off to Georgia). “Very much so.”
Very much so indeed. It was Shug’s second season at the helm—and his worst. Clemson was the second-to-last opponent of the season, and up to that point, Auburn had beaten just one team—Wofford (thankfully). Clemson wasn’t exactly a world beater, either, having won just two. Sad times all around. Both teams probably would have been satisfied with a tie. But Auburn needed a win.
Because while Auburn’s Moses had returned to the Plains the previous year, the natural order of certain things <LINK TO PREVIOUS CLEMSON POST>was still upside down.
In Shug’s first year, Auburn had managed to avenge its wost-season-ever loss to… Wofford. But the biggest loss of Shug’s inaugural 5-5 season was a 34-0 loss to… Clemson… who had also somehow managed to hand Auburn’s its worst loss of that horrible 1950 season (though if it helps—but it doesn’t—Vandy also beat Auburn 41-0).
In fact, heading into the 1952 game, it had somehow been 10 years since Auburn had conquered Clemson, the team that used to count four-touchdown losses to Auburn as moral victories. <LINK TO PREVIOUS CLEMSON POST>
What ended this streak of insanity?
An injured Vince Dooley somehow got the ball on the ground.
Auburn had returned an interception to the Clemson 25. Three plays later, they were still at the 25. Shug ordered a field goal. “Automatic Joe” Davis, the Kid with the Magic Toe, jogged out on the field. Dooley, in his one and only play, was the holder.
According to the Plainsman, the ball was at least two feet over his head.
“All I remember from that year is that that was absolutely the worst snap that I’ve ever had come back to me as a holder,” Dooley told me. “I jumped in the air and brought the ball down and Joe Davis patiently waited, and he kicked and we beat Clemson.”
Coming as it did in such a dismal season, not to mention on a bad knee, Dooley’s acrobatic effort was probably the best play of the year—or maybe even years according to Shug. Here’s how the 1953 Glomerata remembers it:
“Vince Dooley, who made a great play on a high snap from center, held the ball and Davis sent it directly between the posts. Dooley’s sensational play was termed by Coach Jordan as “one of the best I’ve seen in football.”