1954 started rough for the Tigers. They opened with a 45-0 win over Chattanooga at home, then lost three straight on the road. But they’d been close losses; to Florida by six, to Kentucky and Georgia Tech by seven (and plenty of folks thought the zebras had as much to do with that last one as the Yellow Jackets).
Shug wasn’t worried; he had a good team, he knew it. Jim Pyburn was one of the best players in the country, probably the best end, a sure-fire All-American. Joe Childress… Bobby Freeman… Fob James. They were all better than 1-3. They wanted to prove it.
They’d start October 23rd with Florida State.
It was Auburn’s first-ever game against FSU. The Seminoles were on the rise—that was the vibe, at least. Florida writers were comparing the job second-year Coach Tom Nugent had done in Tallahassee to the magic Shug Jordan was working on the Plains. Nugent had them heading in the right direction. They’d started the season with back-to-back losses, but had bounced back beautifully with three straight wins over Louisville (and Johnny Unitas), Villanova, and North Carolina State. They had this speedy little halfback named Lee Corso, they had this thing called the I-Formation that Nugent had brought with him from VMI…
They were underdogs heading into Cliff Hare Stadium, but not by much.
It was a blowout.
Shug broke up his X-Y platoon attack and just went with whatever and whomever was working. And most everything and everyone was.
Pyburn dropped jaws on both sides of the ball. Relentless tackling, hard running, brutal blocks, literally hurtling a guy to snuff out a punt, 121 yards and a touchdown on two receptions.
The final score: Auburn 33 — FSU 0.
The Seminoles only really came close to scoring once. It was in the third quarter. Corso’s roommate had gone in at halfback. He shot out of the backfield like a cannonball for Florida State’s longest yardage of the day.
It was Burt “Buddy” Reynolds.
Here’s how Florida State’s yearbook remembered it.
Looks like the Bandit remembered it… slightly differently… in this 2016 memoir:
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