Auburn's top 10 moments of the decade
I’ll be honest.
I know that Auburn hasn’t had the success of Alabama this decade. Depending on how LSU finishes the season, there’s a case to be made that Auburn ranks No. 3 in the SEC among most successful programs this decade.
But nobody has had more signature moments this decade than Auburn. I’m talking about the unpredictable, heart-stopping stuff that you and your buddies talk about 20 years from now. Auburn leads the conference and maybe the country in that department during the 2010s.
That’s why I decided to highlight those. I understand I easily could have gone negative with a few of these. I could have elaborated on the gut-wrenching 2013 national championship loss, or gone into detail about the 2012 Iron Bowl being the last straw on the Gene Chizik era.
Because Auburn just has an absurd amount of see-it-to-believe-it moments in the 2010s, let’s count those down:
10. The wild 2016 Tiger Bowl ending
This is one of the great sliding doors moments of the SEC that I’m not sure people talk about enough. Heading into the 2016 Tiger Bowl, there was talk that the losing coach was going to get fired. Gus Malzahn was off to a 1-2 start, having lost 6 of the past 7 games to Power 5 competition. Les Miles and preseason No. 5 LSU lost the opener to Wisconsin and were fighting for their Playoff lives … in September.
So of course the game had to come down to one of the crazier plays we’ve seen in recent memory. Initially, it appeared that Danny Etling threw a last-second touchdown pass to stun Auburn. LSU players celebrated as Jordan-Hare falls silent.
But then, as fate would have it, officials reviewed the play and saw that LSU didn’t get the snap off in time and the clock had run out before the game-winning touchdown.
6 days to kickoff: Daniel Carlson’s six field goals lifts Auburn to an 18-13 win against LSU in 2016. LSU ran out of time and couldn’t get the snap off in time on the final play. This was one of the stranger games I’ve even been to but that’s the Auburn-LSU rivalry for ya. #WDE pic.twitter.com/szNUdMeFoH
— Graham Brooks (@The_GBrooks) August 27, 2018
If there’s a theme on this list, it’s that wild stuff always seems to happen to Auburn when there’s a debate about time left on the clock. But more on that later.
LSU fired Miles after the game and eventually hired Ed Orgeron while Auburn kept Malzahn and actually made it to the Sugar Bowl. Who knows how those 2 things would have been altered had LSU’s touchdown held up.
9. Auburn “whips the dog crap” out of Georgia
Georgia came into the 2017 matchup of The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry feeling all sorts of confident. The Dawgs were the undefeated No. 2 team in the country having dominated their schedule for the previous month and a half.
Then Auburn showed up and pounded Georgia 40-17. Perhaps “pounded” was the wrong verb.
As Malzahn famously said after the game, Auburn “whipped the dog crap” out of Georgia.
— Justin Ferguson (@JFergusonAU) November 12, 2017
That win kept Auburn’s 2-loss Playoff hopes alive and sent a loud statement to the college football world. This wasn’t the same team that blew a 3-score lead in Baton Rouge. Auburn found its identity with Kerryon Johnson and Jarrett Stidham, and even a vaunted defense like Georgia had no response.
It was easily one of Malzahn’s best game plans he ever drew up.
8. The 2019 Iron Bowl
Recency bias? Not really. I know some will say Auburn being eliminated from the division/SEC/Playoff race shouldn’t put this game ahead of the aforementioned “whip the dog crap” performance, but consider this:
Auburn did something that it couldn’t even do in 2017 — knock Alabama out of the Playoff race. Unlike in 2017 when Auburn had to watch a pair of teams it beat play for a national championship, the Tigers put the dagger in the Crimson Tide’s season. In fact, the loss even dropped Alabama out of a New Year’s 6 Bowl for the first time since 2010.
As is always the case, it came amidst some controversy. The hotly-debated added second at the end of the 1st half that allowed for Auburn to kick a field goal, which later loomed large. And Malzahn’s brilliant maneuver to force Alabama to have a 12-men-on-the-field penalty instead of punting the ball back put the game on ice.
Any time Auburn fans can watch Nick Saban get riled up after a loss at Jordan-Hare, it’s a major win.
7. Cam Newton runs away from Patrick Peterson
It was a moment that Auburn fans will probably take to their graves. They should, at least.
For some, this was the moment that they realized that Cam Newton was a different breed.
Today in Auburn History:
2010 – #4 Auburn topped #6 LSU 24-17.
Cam Newton flashed his smile and his speed in what many consider his “Heisman Moment,” changing gears and speeding past All-American Patrick Peterson in the third quarter.#WarEagle pic.twitter.com/QR4ACfFm2S
— Clint Richardson (@Clintau24) October 23, 2019
It was such a defining moment because by that point, Peterson was an All-American household name. Watching a quarterback of Newton’s size flash that kind of speed was unheard of. Auburn went on to win that game, and Newton obviously went on to win the Heisman and national championship (more on that in a minute).
Chizik told me how after that game, he sat Newton and his parents down and told him that “his life was about to change forever.” Needless to say, he was right on the money about that.
6. The 2017 Iron Bowl
This is a tricky moment to rank because at the time, it probably felt like one of the 3-4 best moments of Auburn’s decade. With 2 losses, it beat No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama to clinch an SEC West title and keep its Playoff hopes alive. The Auburn defense had Jalen Hurts scattered while Stidham and Johnson proved again to be an effective 1-2 punch.
This game made Auburn fans feel like it was 2010 or 2013 all over again. The stars were aligning for the Tigers to stun everyone and get to a national championship. It was the type of game that earned a highly-criticized coach a $49 million contract extension.
Here’s the interesting thing about that game — there’s probably some Auburn fans who in hindsight, wouldn’t have totally hated a loss. Why? Perhaps Malzahn would have been fired or left for Arkansas. As great as a victory as it was for what was at stake, Auburn losing to Georgia in the SEC Championship killed the Playoff hopes, and it took the wind out of Auburn’s sails against UCF.
Who knows? Maybe an unbeaten Alabama team would have lost to Georgia in the SEC Championship and missed the Playoff entirely.
Whatever the case, this game felt more important at the time than it ultimately proved to be.
5. Cam Newton wins the Heisman Trophy
There was a ton of controversy surrounding Newton’s eligibility when he won the Heisman, but it was still a signature moment for Auburn. Newton was ruled ineligible for a total of 1 day after the NCAA determined that his father, Cecil, acted independently by soliciting Mississippi State for at least $120,000 to commit to MSU after transferring from Blinn College.
Without his dad in attendance, Newton accepted college football’s top individual honor in the midst of his all-time great season. There was much more debate in the court of public opinion about Newton’s status than there was suspense as to whether Newton would beat out Andrew Luck for the award.
He became the 3rd Auburn player to win the award and the 1st since Bo Jackson. Newton became the 3rd player in FBS history to throw and run for 20 touchdowns in a season.
Even with the controversy surrounding his eligibility, nobody could deny it — Newton was a phenomenon.
4. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare
Now we’re entering the “Auburn moments that were straight out of a sports movie” phase of this list.
This moment was sort of the story of the 2013 season for Auburn. Coming off the winless SEC season that resulted in Chizik’s firing, Auburn wasn’t even ranked until the middle of October. But just like in 2010, the nail-biter wins started to add up. The Tigers found themselves hosting No. 25 Georgia in need of a win to keep their SEC West hopes alive.
Down a point with 36 seconds left, the run-first Nick Marshall was faced with 4th-and-18. One long heave, one wild tip and 73 yards later, “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare” was born:
A Prayer at Jordan-Hare 4 years ago… pic.twitter.com/yZbXFSUQYQ
— Nick Marshall (@NickMarshaII) November 11, 2017
“Play of the year” and “the most improbable touchdown you’ll ever see” weren’t heat of the moment takes from Gary Danielson. They were spot on.
Well, what happened 2 weeks later changed that. But more on that later.
3. The Camback
Again, you can’t make this stuff up.
Auburn, down 24-0 in the 2010 Iron Bowl, was in jeopardy of losing its first game and leaving its national championship hopes up for grabs (things were somewhat hard to predict in the BCS era).
What happened after that squashed any questions about Auburn’s path to a national title. Newton led a comeback for the ages with 4 touchdowns (3 passing, 1 rushing) to stun the Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd. Some can debate how different that game would have been had Mark Barron gone for the ball instead of the hit on the 70-yard score from Terrell Zachery to start the 2nd half, but Newton could do no wrong in the game’s final 35 or so minutes.
It only sweetened the deal for Auburn that it was their controversial quarterback leading the charge in Tuscaloosa to end Alabama’s regular season. That Alabama team entered the year No. 1 and was considered by many one of the most talented teams ever.
And in the end, it was Newton who celebrated an undefeated regular season in front of the Alabama faithful.
2. Auburn wins the 2010 BCS National Championship on a walk-off field goal
The kick itself was essentially an extra point, and it was a tie game, but how fitting it was that Auburn won the 2010 BCS National Championship on a walk-off field goal. The team who won 7 games by 1 score capped an unforgettable season by taking down Oregon 22-19.
The program’s first claimed national title in 53 years was filled with made-for-Hollywood drama. In the end, though, there was no stopping Newton and the Tigers.
What people forget about that team was that besides Newton and Nick Fairley, Auburn only had a 7th-round draft pick. That team wasn’t stockpiled with talent yet. You could argue the 2013 team had more all-around talent, but Newton was a transcendent player and he had a coaching staff that put faith in him to lead the way, not to mention a defense that always seemed to make the right halftime adjustments.
National championships don’t come easy. Auburn fans who probably lost years off their lives watching that team can attest to that.
1. The Kick-6
For my money, “The Kick-6” is the most unbelievable moment in college football history. Forget the Stanford-Cal band game. Don’t argue that it’s Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary to beat Miami or 2nd-and-26.
Auburn still had a path to the national championship coming off “The Prayer at Jordan-Hare,” but Alabama was trying to win its 3rd consecutive national championship, and it appeared that the stars were aligning in the Crimson Tide’s favor.
Even though Nick Marshall’s 39-yard TD pass to Sammie Coates (followed by Cody Parkey’s PAT) in the final minute tied the score for Auburn, Alabama got the ball back and got into Auburn territory. T.J. Yeldon broke off a 24-yard run and Alabama appeared to have time run out, but a booth review determined that he stepped out of bounds with 1 second left.
Never in the history of sports has so much happened in 1 second:
— 12up (@12upSport) May 26, 2019
Be honest, Auburn fans. How many times have you watched that? A hundred? A thousand? I don’t blame you one bit.
The call from the late Rod Bramblett only magnified just how unfathomable that moment was. You can’t script that moment any better. That play will forever go down as one of the all-time greats not only in college football history, but in sports history.
If anyone ever asks the question, ‘How can a moment be better than a national championship?’ the answer is simple.