Painful Games In AU Football History

Phillip Marshall writes about 11 Auburn football losses that were very tough to take.

For college football players, who put forth immense effort year-around for the opportunity to play a relatively small number of games, all losses are painful. It's the same at every school in every division. The losses that hurt the worst aren't the blowouts. No, the ones that really hurt are the close ones, the ones it seemed surely you had won. Coming back emotionally from those games can be very difficult.

Auburn, of course, has only to look back to last Saturday to find one of those. Reflecting on that game, I started thinking about others like it I have witnessed. I came up with 11 games that compare to what happened last Saturday. Remember, I limited this list to only games I have seen in person, and it's very subjective. Here they are:

1. Alabama 25, Auburn 23, 1985: Auburn, it seemed, had won the game. Reggie Ware scored on a short run with less than a minute left to give Auburn a 23-22 lead. Alabama got the ball at the 20 and quarterback Mike Shula was sacked at the 12 on the first play. But it wasn't to be for Auburn. Al Bell gained 20 yards on a reverse on fourth-and-four. Receiver Greg Richardson dragged defensive back Luvell Bivens from the hashmark to get out of bounds and stop the clock. Van Tiffin kicked a 53-yard field goal to give Alabama the victory as the horn sounded.

Next game: Texas A&M 36, Auburn 16 (Cotton Bowl).


2. LSU 7, Auburn 6, 1988: Auburn thoroughly dominated the game, knocking LSU quarterback Tommy Hodson to the ground repeatedly. But two missed field goals kept LSU in it. Finally, Hodson got something going. He completed two fourth-down passes on the winning drive and finally threw a touchdown pass to Eddie Fuller. The Tiger Stadium roar was so loud it registered on the campus seismograph. The loss probably cost Auburn a chance to play Notre Dame for the national championship.

Next game: Auburn 42, Akron 0.


3. Georgia 14, Auburn 10, 1992: It was Pat Dye's final game at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Auburn was literally inches from victory in the final seconds, but when quarterback Stan White turned to handoff to tailback James Bostic, he was hit by an offensive lineman. The ball came loose. Auburn recovered, but it was too late to get off another play. Making it all the more frustrating for the Tigers was the fact that a gaping hole awaited Bostic.

Next game: Alabama 17, Auburn 0.


4. Georgia 56, Auburn 49, 1996: It was, at the time, the longest game in college football history. It took Georgia four overtimes to finally win it. The overtimes were painful enough for Auburn, but what happened in regulation was worse. After leading 28-7, Auburn clung to a 28-21 lead. Marcus Washington sacked quarterback Mike Bobo as the clock raced inside 10 seconds. Georgia was out of timeouts. But Bobo dropped the ball after he was tackled and Auburn defensive tackle Charles Dorsey picked it up. The officials stopped the clock. Georgia got lined up and Bobo spiked the ball with one second left. On the final play of regulation, he threw a touchdown pass and the game was tied.

Next game: Alabama 24, Auburn 23.


5. Florida 18, Auburn 17, 1986: Auburn was unbeaten and contending for the national championship. Florida had lost four straight games. Auburn led 14-0 at halftime, but it should have been worse after the Gators turned the ball over six times behind backup quarterback Rodney Brewer. It was 17-0 after three quarters. Kerwin Bell, on one good leg, replaced Brewer and engineered a dramatic rally. Robert McGinty, who had transferred from Auburn after missing the field goal that would have beaten Alabama two years earlier, kicked a long field goal to make it 17-10. Reggie Ware ran for the first down that would have allowed Auburn to run out the clock, but he dropped the ball. Bell took Florida to a touchdown, then limped into the end zone for the two-point conversion.

Next game: Auburn 52, Cincinnati 7.


6. Florida 30, Auburn 23, 2002: That one is still fresh. Damon Duval missed an extra-point length field goal and Rex Grossman made a sensational throw to Taylor Jacobs for the winning touchdown in overtime.

Next game: LSU


7. Miami 17, Auburn 15, 1978: Auburn seemingly had won a dramatic victory after a late touchdown and two-point conversion made the score 15-14. But on fourth down, Miami's O.J. Anderson broke a long run deep into Auburn territory and the Hurricanes won it on a last-second field goal.

Next game: Auburn 49, Vanderbilt 7.


8. Ole Miss 24, Auburn 17, 1999: It was Tommy Tuberville's first game against the school he had left months earlier. Auburn lost starting quarterback Ben Leard, but after a Rashaud Walker interception, was in position to win. Damon Duval missed the field goal that would have won it and the Rebels won on a Romaro Miller touchdown pass in overtime.

Next game: Tennessee 24, Auburn 0


9. Mississippi State 18, Auburn 16, 1999: Just two weeks after the loss to Ole Miss, Auburn lost a game that seemed impossible to lose. The Tigers led the 14th-ranked Bulldogs 16-3 and had the ball deep in their territory with less than five minutes left. Reserve quarterback Matt Wyatt threw two touchdown passes as the Bulldogs rallied to win.

Next game: Florida 32, Auburn 14


10. Florida 19, Auburn 17, 1982: Florida coach Charlie Pell made a bizarre decision that paid off. Facing fourth-and-eight and trailing 17-13 late in the game, Pell called for a field goal, then an onsides kick. Auburn's Lionel James came out of the pile with the ball on the kickoff, but officials said Florida had established possession first. A last-second field goal lifted the Gators to victory.

Next game: Auburn 30, Rutgers 7


11. Tennessee 10, Auburn 7, 1982: In Pat Dye's first SEC game as head coach, Auburn drove relentlessly for the winning touchdown. In a scene much like the one that unfolded against Georgia 10 years later, the drive died in the final seconds when an offensive lineman ran into quarterback Ken Hobby, forced a fumble and stopped the drive.

Next game: Nebraska 17, Auburn 3


Honorable mentions: Alabama 17, Auburn 15, 1984; Wake Forest 24, Auburn 21, 1981; Wake Forest 42, Auburn 38, 1979; Georgia Tech 21, Auburn 20, 1968; LSU 21, Auburn 20, 1969; LSU 21, Auburn 17, 1980; Baylor 15, Auburn 14, 1976.

MOVING ON

Auburn players were badly hurt by last Saturday's loss. I don't believe anybody on the sideline doubted Duval would make the 23-yard field goal to win it. But he didn't. Auburn goes into Saturday's game against LSU at Jordan-Hare Stadium in a far different situation than if he had made it. The Tigers are faced now with a crucial game. The season won't be over if they lose, but most of the goals they set for themselves back in August will become unreachable. And it's safe to say the fans will become even more restless than they are already.

Can Auburn win? Of course, Auburn can win. Will Auburn win? It will be difficult. LSU's defense has given up no more than 275 yards in any one game and is rated No. 1 in the nation. Auburn is without Carnell Williams. Ronnie Brown was outstanding in gaining 163 yards at Florida, but anyone who thinks Williams won't be sorely missed isn't being realistic.

When you break down the game position by position, it's difficult to find many advantages for Auburn. If the defense can go back to forcing turnovers like it did early in the season, Auburn's chances will improve dramatically. If Jason Campbell starts at quarterback and ignites the offense from the beginning like he did in the fourth quarter at Florida, Auburn's chances will obviously improve. I think it will be close, but I think LSU will have too much in the end, something like 24-20.

In other games: Alabama 28, Tennessee 13; Kentucky 31, Georgia 28; Ole Miss 23, Arkansas 21; Vanderbilt 38, UConn 20.


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