I was born in the quaint town of Johnson City, Tennessee to a mother whose entire family was from Memphis and a father who spent much of his childhood and younger adult life in the hills of East Tennessee. As such, I was raised a Tennessee fan; that is, until I started at Auburn in August, 2003. While UT still holds a special place in my heart, I mention this to explain the fact that the five games on this list occurred in this decade.
Now, without further ado, J.D.'s top 5 Auburn football games!
5. Auburn 34, Tennessee 10 - October 2, 2004, Knoxville, TN
The 2004 Auburn Tigers were a great team; perhaps the greatest I've ever watched, and without a doubt the greatest I've ever followed. However, Auburn fans didn't realize that something special was happening that season until this crisp October night on the banks of the Tennesseee River. In four games up to this point, Auburn had handily beaten three also-rans and edged defending national champion LSU by one point -- while only scoring ten -- at home. The trip to Tennessee was the first big road test for the veteran Tigers squad, with new offensive coordinator Al Borges. The Vols, on the other hand, were 3-0 behind waxings of two also-rans and a last-second, 50-yard field goal to beat Ron Zook's last Florida team in Knoxville. UT featured two true freshman QBs in Erik Ainge (the thrower) and Brent Schaeffer (the runner). Most analysts predicted that the home crowd would be too much for Auburn to handle, but Ronnie Brown and Carnell Williams had the last laugh:
Auburn would run out to a 31-3 halftime lead, and leave Knoxville with an emphatic 34-10 victory. This would be the point in the season where Auburn went from "Hey, they're pretty good" to "Damn, this team is nasty."
4. Auburn 10, LSU 9 - September 18, 2004, Auburn, AL
As mentioned in the AU/UT recap above, Auburn edged LSU by one point behind some last-minute heroics by Jason Campbell, Courtney Taylor and Junior Rosegreen. Earlier in the week, the game was in danger of being postponed due to Hurricane Ivan; Auburn let class out for Wednesday through Friday of the week, and Ivan hit hard on Thursday. However, by game time on Saturday, the weather was warm, muggy, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. LSU came in on the heels of winning the program's first national title since 1958 in 2003, but with two green QBs: Marcus Randall and JaMarcus Russell. The purple Tigers were 2-0 with a close, should-have-been-a-loss win over Oregon State (OSU's kicker missed like 30 field goals and 15 extra points) and a laugher over Arkansas State. Auburn was also 2-0, and had yet to be challenged. LSU came out and took an early 9-3 lead (thanks to a missed (or was it blocked?) extra point following their lone touchdown); from there, it would be a battle of the punts (and an unsuccessful 4th and goal attempt from Tommy Tuberville). On Auburn's final drive, Jason Campbell completed 4th-and-long and 3rd-and-long passes to Courtney Taylor to tie the game, then John Vaughn gave Auburn the lead on his second extra point try (LSU was penalized on Vaughn's first try, which was a miss). Junior Rosegreen intercepted a late Russell pass, and the celebration was on. Enjoy this, which may be my favorite Auburn game montage on youtube:
3. Auburn 28, Alabama 18 - November 19, 2005, Auburn, AL
Alabama started 2005 9-0, and were supposedly "back." Auburn started the year off with a loss to Georgia Tech, and was seemingly out of the SEC West race with an overtime loss to LSU in mid-October. However, by the time this game was starting, Alabama had lost a heartbreaking overtime game to LSU in Tuscaloosa, and Auburn had quietly gotten on a post-LSU roll (including a certain game that may appear next in this list...what could it be??). On a cool, overcast day, Auburn started the game by forcing a 3-and-out (including two sacks), outscored Alabama 21-0 in the first quarter, and the outcome was never in doubt after that. Brodie Croyle was sacked eleven times in the game. Here's the highlight package:
2. Auburn 31, Georgia 30 - November 12, 2005, Athens, GA
Georgia was a win away from a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game. Auburn needed some help and to win out to make the trip. Georgia was the heavy favorite, though Auburn had put together a quiet run of nice wins. In a game that was back and forth the entire time, Auburn came out with a miracle victory thanks to a 4th-and-15 completion from Brandon Cox to Devin Aromashodu and a last-second chip shot field goal from John Vaughn. Coming down the stretch, it was apparent that the last team to have the ball would win the game; this was true, excepting for the few seconds Georgia had the ball after the Vaughn field goal. Poor clock management by Mark Richt could have cost the Bulldogs the game, however; Georgia scored a touchdown to take a 29-28 lead, and while deliberating going for two (what's to deliberate?!), Georgia took a delay of game penalty, then another, before finally opting for the PAT from the 13 yard line. **EDIT: I was mistaken. The PAT/2-point conversion mistake occurred when the score was 21-20. Going for 2 would have made it a 28-21 game, but the extra point only made it 27-21.** The only thing to remember from this game, though, is "Are you kidding me?!"
1. Auburn 27, Florida 17 - October 14, 2006, Auburn, AL
This was hands down the most fun football game I've ever attended. When Auburn blocked Florida's punt early in the third quarter and Tre Smith recovered it and flipped into the end zone, Jordan-Hare was louder than I've ever heard any football stadium, and it was literally rocking. After Florida dominated the first half en route to a 17-8 lead, Auburn took the opening drive of the second half and kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 17-11. **EDIT: Auburn kicked the field goal right before halftime, not right after. It was 17-11 at halftime, and I believe Florida actually got the ball first in the second half.** After a Gator 3-and-out, the magical punt block occurred, putting Auburn ahead 18-17. Florida would not score another point in this game, as Auburn used four John Vaughn field goals, a safety, a special teams touchdown and a game-ending defensive touchdown to fell the Gators. This would be Florida's only blemish on their 2006 national championship team. Charles Barkley's 21-17 prediction would have been exactly right were it not for the last defensive touchdown; I'm sure he could have paid off some of his gambling debt with that kind of prediction. Enough talking, here's the awesome video:
You can always tell how big of a touchdown it is by how crappy the Auburn band sounds playing "War Eagle" afterward. Listen to how out-of-tune the band is after Smith's touchdown.
AU 23 Clemson 20 - 2007 Chick-fil-A Bowl
AU 24 Georgia 6 - 2004
AU 28 Alabama 23 - 2003
The last one is my first Iron Bowl experience. The very first play of my very first Iron Bowl:
I can't imagine a better way to get your feet wet in the biggest college football rivalry.
Special thanks to Auburn youtube-maker extraordinaire autiger96 for putting together several of those videos, and to the makers of the other videos.