You may have been reminded this week of Alabama’s all-time record playing at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn: 4-7.
The first game in Auburn was played in 1989 (yawn), the Tigers were the home team at Legion Field for one more time in 1991 and then the game began it’s permanent rotation to the Plains every other year.
Of course, the 4-7 record is now written in the stone of history, but it may not be quite what you think. Except for a couple of plays, that record could be turned over.
The Tide lost the 1993 game 22-14 and was a game in which junior quarterback Jay Barker was lost with a knee injury. Would the Tide have won with Barker upright? Who knows, but it sure didn’t help that he got hurt.
The 1995 game is the first worst example of how the record could be different. The Los Angeles Times records this:
The rivals exchanged blows and leads, with the outcome uncertain until the end. Auburn punted with 3:22 left, giving Alabama one more shot at winning and preserving bragging rights for another year.
But Kitchens, in only his second start as a college quarterback, threw incompletions on three consecutive passes. It ended on fourth and 10 with nine seconds left, as Kitchens missed his receiver in the corner of the end zone.
That doesn’t sound so bad, right? Wrong. Kitchens missing his receiver in the corner of the end zone was actually Kitchens connecting with wide out Curtis Brown for a touchdown, but the officials called him out of bounds. See picture.
Of course, this was also in the days before instant replay so the Tide went home with a loss.
The next trip to Jordan-Hare brought just as much, if not more, misery.
It was 1997 and Alabama was coming to the end of the first year of the Mike Dubose era. The Tide rolled into Auburn with a miserable 4-6 record and a win over the Tigers would have made the off season a whole lot more endurable. But that wasn’t meant to be, was it Bruce Arians?
The situation was this on the evening of Nov. 22, 1997, at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn: Alabama led its cross-state rival 17-15, facing third-and-eight from its own 36-yard line with the clock ticking down.
A hand-off up the middle would have resulted in Auburn calling its final timeout and, after a punt, getting the ball back on its side of the field with a little over half a minute to go.
Arians instead called a screen pass to fullback Ed Scissum, who hadn’t caught a pass all year. He caught the ball and fumbled when he was hammered by an Auburn defender. The Tigers recovered with 42 seconds to go and kicked a field goal in the final moments for an 18-17 Iron Bowl win.
Arians, to his credit (I guess), would make the same call:
Arians wants you to know he’d do it all over, just the same way.
“I’d call that same play again,” he said.
“You play to kneel down, not to put your defense back out there.”
Of course, that’s crazy-talk. That sounds like someone more interested in his offense looking good than in doing what’s best for the team. Alabama’s defense has played fairly well that night, holding Auburn to five field goals. Sure, there’s risk in getting a punt blocked (and, yes, we’ve seen that happen before), but with a third-and-eight, you’ve already dug yourself a hole if you’re trying to run out the clock. If the pass had been incomplete, the clock would have stopped, basically handing Auburn an extra time out. If a run is called, Auburn calls their timeout, ‘Bama punts and Auburn is forced to move the ball about 50 or 60 yards in less than a minute, in order for a final field goal. At the time, I very much liked our chances.
But I don’t leave all the blame with Arians. Dubose’s role in the play call was much discussed after the game and if I had been the quarterback, I’m not sure if I would have run the play.
Yeah, that game still burns. Not so much that Auburn won – hey, they did what they had to do – it’s just the manner in which the Tide handed the game to them.
Things could have been different. The 1995 and 1997 games should be on ‘Bama’s side of the ledger and the record for the Tide should be 6-5. That would have also created a four-game win streak for Alabama at Jordan-Hare as they also won the 1999 contest (28-17) and the 2001 game (31-7).
Oh well, not meant to be.