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As Auburn looks for upset over Alabama, here's a look back at major Iron Bowl upsets

As Auburn looks for upset over Alabama, here's a look back at major Iron Bowl upsets

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As we’ve seen over the years, truly anything can happen in the Iron Bowl.

Favorites and underdogs often don’t amount to much when Alabama and Auburn meet, and as the two teams close in on their 86th meeting it’s become apparent upsets are always in play. Since 2000, the lower-ranked team has won six of the 19 games in which at least one team was ranked, with three of those victories coming in the past eight years.

“No matter whether you’re the underdog or the favorite, whether you’re playing for a championship or not, the game still has its highlights,” said Tommy Tuberville, who went 7-3 in the Iron Bowl as Auburn’s head coach. “You’re going to get an unusual performance out of somebody. You don’t know who it’s going to be; you just hope it’s enough because somebody’s going to step up.”

Tuberville was on both sides of the Iron Bowl upset over the years. The No. 17 Tigers fell to the Crimson Tide 31-7 in 2001, but in 2002 unranked Auburn topped No. 9 Alabama 17-7 and in 2005 No. 11 Auburn took down No. 8 Alabama 28-18.

Let’s take a look back at 10 Iron Bowl upsets going back over the last 35 years of the rivalry:

2019: No. 16 Auburn 48, No. 5 Alabama 45

Alabama entered the game two weeks off of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffering a season-ending hip injury, which forced sophomore Mac Jones to take the reins of the offense.

While the game went back and forth throughout the afternoon, a pair of Auburn pick sixes – one by safety Smoke Monday, the other by linebacker Zakoby McClain – proved huge for the home Tigers, as did Shaun Shivers’ 11-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter.

Alabama Auburn Football

Auburn linebacker Zakoby McClain (35) intercepts a pass intended for Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) and returns it for a touchdown during the second half of the Iron Bowl rivalry game on Nov. 03, 2019 in Auburn.

Alabama had a chance to tie the game late, but a missed 30-yard field goal – followed by a crafty call by Auburn’s Gus Malzahn to bait Alabama into a drive-extending substitution penalty – helped give the Tigers what stands as their latest win in the series.

2017: No. 6 Auburn 26, No. 1 Alabama 14

The stakes were incredibly high for both teams given a spot in Atlanta’s SEC Championship Game – and the hope of making the College Football Playoff – likely hinged on who beat who in Jordan-Hare Stadium.

The two teams found themselves in a low-scoring staredown in the first half before Auburn built a 20-14 lead in the third quarter on a Daniel Carlson field goal and Kerryon Johnson’s 1-yard rushing touchdown. Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham put Alabama on notice with a 16-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter’s early minutes, after which the Crimson Tide had two turnovers on downs to effectively end the game.

Alabama Auburn Football

Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) gets past Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses (18) to carry the ball in for a touchdown during the second half of the Iron Bowl rivalry game on Nov. 25, 2017, in Auburn.

While Alabama lost the battle, the Crimson Tide ultimately won the war. Auburn’s loss to Georgia the next week allowed Alabama to make the CFP as the No. 4 seed before beating Clemson and Georgia to capture another national championship.

2013: No. 4 Auburn 34, No. 1 Alabama 28

Arguably the greatest game in college football history – and, by proxy, in Iron Bowl history – this one will forever be remembered as “The Kick Six”.

Facing a battle that would again determine the SEC West champion, Auburn and Alabama traded blows throughout the contest before Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall connected with Sammie Coates for a tying 39-yard touchdown with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Alabama wasn’t done quite yet, though, as the Crimson Tide marched down the field and reached the Auburn 38-yard line as time ticked away.

After initially ruling time had run out, the officials gave Alabama one second back, which was enough time to send out kicker Adam Griffith for a 57-yard field goal. What came next was a play that will never be forgotten: Griffin’s kick fell short in the end zone and was fielded in the end zone by Auburn cornerback Chris Davis, who raced down the left sideline and returned the kick 109 yards to give the Tigers an improbable walk-off victory.

From there, Auburn won the SEC Championship Game over Missouri then squared off with Florida State for the national title.

2005: No. 11 Auburn 28, No. 8 Alabama 18

Auburn fans will remember this game fondly due to the bumper stickers that arrived soon after.

The Tigers jumped out to a 21-0 lead on the Crimson Tide not only thanks to a Brandon Cox touchdown pass and rushing scores from Kenny Irons and Ben Obomanu but also because of Auburn’s relentless pass rush. Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle got off on the wrong foot by being sacked twice on the Crimson Tide’s first drive, which proved to only be the start of what was to come.


Auburn junior defensive end Stanley McClover stands over Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle in the 2005 Iron Bowl in Auburn.

Croyle got hit throughout the game by the Tigers, and by the end of the evening Auburn had 11 sacks for a loss of 81 yards. Soon after the rivalry victory, Auburn fans had “Honk If You Sacked Brodie” proudly displayed on their vehicles.

2002: Auburn 17, No. 9 Alabama 7

Dennis Franchione’s Iron Bowl debut at Alabama in 2001 went as smoothly as possible.

The next year, however, Auburn got the last laugh.

Injuries had decimated Auburn’s backfield prior to the game, but that meant little to fourth-string tailback Tre Smith. Smith piled up 126 rushing yards while quarterback Jason Campbell connected twice with Robert Johnson on touchdown scores to fuel a one-sided Iron Bowl victory.

2001: Alabama 31, No. 17 Auburn 7

The terrorist attacks on September 11 meant this year’s iron Bowl would not be the regular-season finale for either team, the first time that had happened since 1948. With that change came a challenge for Auburn, which could clinch the West with a win as a three-point favorite.

Instead, this game was all Crimson Tide by the second half.

Alabama running back Santonio Beard rushed for 199 yards and two touchdowns and Andrew Zow threw for two score to deliver a gut punch to their biggest rival.

1995: No. 21 Auburn 31, No. 17 Alabama 27

Auburn actually got the benefit of being a home favorite despite being the lower-ranked squad, and in the end the Tigers proved they were worthy of the trust.

Auburn running back Fred Beasley gave the Tigers a four-point lead early in the fourth quarter, and as time slipped away it seemed the Tigers would hold on. Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens and the Crimson Tide offense had other plans, though, and reached the Auburn 22-yard line in the final seconds.

On a must-have fourth down, Kitchens fired to the back of the end zone at wide receiver Curtis Brown, who appeared to get one foot down with possession of the ball. The play, however, was ruled an incompletion, giving the Tigers their second win over the Crimson Tide in three seasons.

1990: Alabama 16, No. 20 Auburn 7

Auburn entered this year’s matchup riding a four-game winning streak in the rivalry, the Tigers’ longest since winning five in a row from 1954-58.

As it turned out, the streak would not reach five.

Alabama running back Robert Jones scored on a short first-quarter run and kicker Phillip Doyle delivered three field goals to fuel the Crimson Tide’s upset hopes. Doyle’s final kick, a 40-yarder, effectively put the game away and came after first-year Alabama head coach Gene Stallings gambled and picked up a crucial fourth-and-1 near midfield.

1989: No. 11 Auburn 30, No. 2 Alabama 20

Alabama was in great position to play for the national championship as long as the Crimson Tide took care of business against its biggest rival.

About that.

After Auburn head coach Pat Dye worked to get the Iron Bowl to Jordan-Hare Stadium, his Tigers rewarded him with an outstanding performance in the series’ first game in Auburn. The Tigers trailed 10-7 at halftime but came on strong after the break by ripping off 20 straight points and holding on for the upset win.

Auburn’s win foiled Alabama’s title hopes and also forced an SEC championship split between the Crimson Tide and Tennessee. Nearly one month after the loss, Alabama head coach Bill Curry resigned.

1986: No. 14 Auburn 21, No. 7 Alabama 17

The first of the aforementioned four-game winning streak for Auburn saw Dye’s Tigers get tricky with the game on the line late.

Trailing the Crimson Tide 17-14 late in the fourth, the Tigers mounted a promising drive that got as far as the Alabama 7-yard line when Auburn pulled off a well-timed trick. Auburn quarterback Jeff Burger pitched to running back Tim Jessie, who ran to his right before pitching the ball to wide receiver Lawyer Tillman on a reverse.

Tillman cut past two would-be tacklers then fell into the end zone to secure the Tigers’ dramatic victory.

1985: Alabama 25, No. 7 Auburn 23

Both teams traded blows back and forth in a contest some remember it as “The Kick.”

Alabama and Auburn traded the lead four times in the fourth quarter before quarterback Mike Shula and the Crimson Tide went to work late. Alabama converted a big fourth down on a Al Bell reverse before Shula found Greg Richardson on a play that got Alabama to the Auburn 35-yard line.

Alabama kicker Van Tiffin then raced onto the field and connected on a 52-yard field goal to give the Crimson Tide a dramatic 25-23 victory.

1984: Alabama 17, No. 11 Auburn 15

Two years after Bo Jackson played the hero in an Iron Bowl victory, the Tigers’ star running back was on the wrong end of a chaotic ending.

With Alabama leading by two late in the game, Auburn head coach Pat Dye left his offense on the field for a fourth-and-goal from the Crimson Tide 1-yard line. Jackson was supposed to be the lead blocker for running back Brent Fullwood, but Jackson ran left instead of right, leaving Fullwood vulnerable as he charged toward the end zone.

Fullwood never got close, as the Crimson Tide defenders swarmed toward him and pushed him out of bounds to dash the Tigers’ hopes.

1972: No. 9 Auburn 17, No. 2 Alabama 16

This one will be forever remembered by three words: “Punt, Bama, Punt.”

Auburn trailed Alabama 16-3 in the fourth quarter when Bill Newton blocked Greg Gantt’s punt, which allowed Newton’s teammate David Langner to recover the ball and return it 25 yards for the touchdown. The situation repeated itself several minutes later: Newton raced in and blocked the punt, Langner recovered the ball and returned it for a touchdown.

Auburn kicker Gardner Jett gave Auburn a one-point lead with his PAT after Langner’s second score. Langner wasn’t done there, either, as he intercepted a pass late in the quarter to secure the win for the 14-point underdog Tigers.


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