Alabama Football VS Auburn Football
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The first time I attended the Iron Bowl I was a junior in High School. December 3, 1966. Alabama had won the previous year and 6 out of the last 7 years. Alabama was the defending National Champion. With Kenny Stabler at quarterback, the Tide was “unstoppable”. Coach Bear Bryant considered the 1966 team his best even though they were not voted national champs despite being undefeated.
1966 was a rebuilding year for Coach “Shug” Jordan’s Auburn Team and Alabama beat them, 31-0. Alabama was on top of the football world! Legion Field and Birmingham was not a “friendly” place for the Auburn faithful. This was my first “taste” of the Iron Bowl, but far from my last.
Many, many other states and schools have “rivalries” and tradition but none can compare to the annual “Iron Bowl” between Auburn and Alabama. The first game was played on February 22, 1893 at Birmingham’s LakeviewBaseballPark. About 400 people witnessed what would be the beginning of one of the most heated and emotional rivalries in the history of college sports.
Auburn dominated the first 15 years of the series, winning 11 times, but in 1907 the series was suspended and would not continue until 1949. There were many reasons for the suspension but most agree that this game was “too” dividing and distracted the fans and alumni from the other objectives of the athletic programs and the “Iron Bowl” was deemed more important than Conference, National and Bowl Game rankings.
As the Rivalry was re-born it also became the “focus” of all of the football fans in the state. Auburn brought in Ralph “Shug” Jordan and Auburn countered with Paul “Bear” Bryant. Jordan had returned in 1951 and dominated the Crimson Tide until 1958 when Bryant came to Tuscaloosa. Alabama and Auburn would split the decade winning five games each, with Crimson Tide dominating the first half and the Tigers dominating the second half. But tough times lay ahead for Auburn as Bryant would go on to take control of the increasingly bitter rivalry. The legendary coach focused on Auburn and again, the state was divided!
By the 1960s interest had begun to “snowball” and the Legendary Iron Bowl was attracting National attention. The game was played at Legion Field (a “neutral” site) in Birmingham. When the decade began, Auburn held the unique distinction of being the only Southeastern Conference team that held a lead over Alabama in its series of games. The Tigers’ 13-10-1 advantage was to become an 18-15-1 Tide advantage by the time the 1969 Iron Bowl was played. In 1964 National Television began broadcasting the Iron Bowl to the entire country and the rivalry and reputation of hard-nosed, championship football continued to grow with the Legends of the schools and coaches.
The 1970s was “Crimson” as far as the Iron Bowl is concerned but the Auburn was not without moments of emotion and glory. Alabama won three more national championships before the decade ended but perhaps one of the greatest upsets in the history of this series happened in 1972. This was one of the GREATEST games I have ever witnessed! This was the “Punt, Bama, Punt” game! Soon to adorn billboards, highway overpasses, full page newspaper ads and everything that would hold paint across the state.
Alabama came into the game undefeated, number 2 in the nation. Auburn was heavy underdogs despite a 9-1 record. Alabama completely controlled the game for 3 quarters and had a 16-0 lead with 10 minutes to go. Auburn couldn’t move the ball and Coach Shug Jordan was “booed” as he called for a long field goal try. The kick was good and the score was 16-3.
Alabama received the kick-off but was stopped and set up for a punt. With less than 3 minutes left in the game, Auburn’s Bill Newton blocked the punt and it bounced into the hands of David Langner who ran 25 yards for a Tiger touchdown and that narrowed the gap to 16-10.
After the ensuing kickoff, again, the Auburn defense held and Bama’s Greg Gantt was set to punt again. The ball was snapped and Newton broke through and blocked the punt, AGAIN and Langner AGAIN scooped it up for a 20-yard run for a touchdown. Time expired as Langner crossed into history and Alabama fans were stunned as the scoreboard revealed a 17-16 Tiger win.
The Iron Bowl will continue to be THE game in Alabama.
73 Iron Bowls
The passion the commitment to excellence and the TRUE LOVE of football will ALWAYS be part of Auburn vs. Alabama, “THE IRON BOWL.” It is what football fans across the state of Alabama live and die for!