By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent
The 2014 version of the annual blood feud between the University of Alabama and Auburn University is in the record books. Records were set, legends were made and firsts were seen during Alabama’s 55-44 come-from-behind victory on Nov. 29 in Tuscaloosa.
The previous high score in the Iron Bowl came in 1969, a 49-26 Auburn victory.
Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall looked like he could do no wrong for much of the game, connecting with open receivers while gouging a Crimson Tide defense that couldn’t get off the field. He was 27 for 43 passing for 456 yards and three touchdowns. Auburn was an offensive machine in the first half, gaining 383 total yards to Alabama’s 178 en route to a 26-21 halftime lead. The Crimson Tide turned the tables in the second half, holding the Tigers to only 18 points while scoring 34. The offensive explosion smashed scoring records midway through the third quarter to a combined 99 points, which also was a series record. The rivalry that produced last season’s most memorable play – Auburn’s 109-yard game-winning kickoff return of a missed field goal on the final play – turned into a shoot-out, showcasing Sims-to-Cooper and Marshall-to-Coates. Auburn wound up gaining 630 yards against the SEC’s top defense. The Alabama offense racked up 539 yards.
While the Alabama/Auburn rivalry is not the oldest in college football, it is the most intense. The game is called the Iron Bowl due to the influence of the steel industry in Birmingham, where the game was played for years. The term was coined by legendary Auburn coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan in the 1970s.
Alabama and Auburn played their first football game in Lakeview Park in Birmingham on February 22, 1893. Auburn won 32–22, before an estimated crowd of 5,000. Alabama considered the game to be the final match-up of the 1892 season and Auburn recorded it as the first of 1893. The series was suspended after the 1907 game when the schools could not come to agreement over the amount of expenses to be paid players, as well as from where officials for the game should be obtained.
The Alabama state legislature threatened to withhold state funding from the schools unless they resumed the rivalry. With that threat in mind, Ralph B. Draughon, the president of Auburn (then officially named the Alabama Polytechnic Institute) and Alabama president John Gallalee decided during the winter and spring of 1948 to end the disagreement and renew the series.
There have been many memorable Iron Bowl games over the years. For Auburn fans, the 1972 contest rates near the top of the list. Alabama was leading No. 9 Auburn 16–0 when an Auburn drive stalled, forcing the Tigers to settle for a field goal. On the ensuing possession, Auburn’s Bill Newton blocked Greg Gantt’s punt. Auburn’s David Langner caught the blocked punt and ran the ball back 25 yards for an Auburn touchdown, making it 16–10. Alabama was again forced to punt again several minutes later, and once again, Newton blocked the punt and Langner returned it for a touchdown. Gardner Jett hit the extra point to give Auburn a 17-16 win.
In 1981, Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant earned his 315th career victory after Alabama defeated Auburn, 28-17. With the victory, Bryant passed Amos Alonzo Stagg’s record and became the all-time winningest FBS coach.
In the 1982 Iron Bowl, Auburn drove the length of the field with two minutes left and scored when running back Bo Jackson jumped over the top of the defensive line for a touchdown, giving the Tigers a 23-22 victory. The win ended Alabama’s nine-game winning streak over Auburn, and Bryant passed away 60 days later on Jan. 26, 1983.