Monday, June 9, 2014

Taylor's Tiger Tales: The Prayer in Jordan-Hare

The Auburn Realist

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No Auburn Fan's list of Classics would be complete without talking about this game. But, only 87,451 people can claim to have been there. And, of those, a lot of them were fans that were rooting for the "other team".

I have a confession to make that you will see here as well as in my post about the Kick-6 game. 

That is, there was only one game in 2013 that I had any desire to actually keep my tickets to. In fact, I sold all 6 of my Iron Bowl tickets in the first of September to a friend's family. Luckily, my friend Chris told me NOT to sell the UGA tickets.   He was going to be in town that weekend and wanted to tailgate with us. Josh and his wife Emily were present during that conversation and expressed an interest to go, though they are Bama fans.Additionally, Alyse and I wanted to start tailgating the RIGHT way. That is, take a camper down on Friday and stay all weekend.

That isn't to say that we didn't already do that. We did. Except we stayed at my best friend Kevin's house in Auburn. But, we have 3 kids. He has 1. And it gets awfully crowded. We didn't plan to take the kids down anyway, but we didn't want to inconvenience his wife and baby-time. So, as the season went on..Auburn picked up momentum. Suddenly, this game MEANT something more than just a rivalry game, though UGA had OWNED Auburn most of the decade. 

We packed up and headed to Auburn on Friday morning, finding a camping spot off of Lem Morrison right by the track and field field house. I quickly setup only to watch an officer of the law tell several other fans that it wasn't time to open up THIS tailgating spot yet. They needed to pack up and move. Now, there must have been 25 campers. And, though he might have been instructed to tell us it wasn't 2pm yet, I could tell that he didn't really expect us to pack up. So, when he made his way to me, I told him I had heard what he had said and was going to do my best to get out of here,  though it was 1:38. He winked at me. I smiled. Then went right back into my bag chair and cracked a cold one. 

Josh and Emil showed up around 4pm. Kevin got off work and headed to see us. We all loaded up and headed to dinner at our favorite eatery, the Irish Bred Pub in Opelika. If you haven't been there. Do so. Immediately. 

We had a great dinner with Kevin, his wife and baby, Josh, and Emily. After that, the girls went to visit their friend Sarah, who runs Spirited Art in Auburn (she also does a ton of game day art and face painting. Check here out!) Meanwhile, we guys did....nothing. We drove around and caught up. I can't tell you how awesome it is to have two best friends who would have never known each other except for me to get along so well. I sat in the back as they hung out. They have met several times get along great, despite their choices in fandome. 

Then, it was back to the camper for some sleep since we knew it would be a long day. 

I admit it was hard to sleep with all the noise and generators running in the background, but it was OUR generator who was the loudest. The carb needs adjusting and the poor thing searches for an idle constantly. The tone goes up. The tone goes down. Finally, I turned it off. Sure, it might get cold. But that was ok. We had women to keep us warm. 

Up early. We had a nice breakfest of eggs and hashbrowns, thanks to Alyse (and my dad for the home grown eggs!)

Then it was off to tailgate. And, do we tailgate.
 Alyse and Emily
Kevin and I

You hear me talk about how lucky I am. Well, here is another reason. Between 2000-2003, there was a massive influx of Sparkman High grads into Auburn. I was friends with all of them. Many of them have remained in Auburn as professionals and have done extremely well for themselves. After college was over, we had to move from Wire Road to a more *respectable* tailgating spot. My friend Justin did just that, and in spades. He thought, "if i can't tailgate in the best student spot. I will make the best "adult" spot." So, after making a lot of professional in-roads, he secured perhaps the best tailgating spot in Auburn. He setup camp at the corner of Plainsman Park and Donahue. Literally, at the front gate of the Park and right on Tiger Walk, just steps from Jordan-Hare. Which means, front row seats to see Aubie, Coach, the players, and all the Tiger Walk festivities while being just steps from the bathroom (important to us, as adults.) 

The last few years have seen this tailgate spot rise in stature and scope, thanks to the work of a few individuals, making it AWESOME for us to drive down and tailgate without a hassle. They know who they are. I am eternally grateful and I hope they will let me help. 

The food and amenities had really reached a new level in 2013, but it was the Deep South's Oldest Rivalry and they decided to kick it to a new level by bringing in live entertainment. Yes. Live entertainment. 

It was River Dan. And he was on POINT with Waylon, Willie, Cash, and the rest of the boys for the afternoon. He was amazing. Go check him out. 

And then it was Tiger Walk Time. And, I had to carry out a tradition I have now started by chest bumping Aubie.

Then, it was time to head to the game! Since Chris, Josh, and Emily used my tickets, Kevin didn't go. He stayed behind to watch the game at the tailgate spot. 

Now, for those of you that read all my posts, you may recall what I had written in my Georgia vs Auburn Preview. Go check that out. 

The festivities got underway and we were off. Though Josh and Emily are big time Bama fans, they stayed quiet and enjoyed their time. I certainly appreciated it. That was true for MOST of the game....And, let's not forget that they decided to sport UGA gear to the game. 

As you recall, Auburn played fantastic through the first 3 quarters. It certainly wasn't boring.  The first quarter was nearly perfect for Auburn as they scored a FG, forced a 3-and-out followed by a Grant TD.  Another 3-and-out for UGA and Auburn was moving the chains AGAIN at the start of the 2nd quarter. Nothing could be better. Auburn was RROOLLLIINNGGG. 

The second quarter started off with a Parkey field goal, but was followed by a first down 42 yard strike to Bennett from Murray. If I recall, UGA had returned Bennett and several other key players from injury, including Gurley, who ran in a 9 yarder to make it 13-7 Auburn. Auburn answered right back with a Nick Marshall TD to make it 20-7. A 3-and-out by UGA followed. Auburn put together a great drive to get to the UGA 19 where the drive stalled. I remember thinking that a FG would all but seal this thing up before halftime. Yet, the 36 yarder was blocked. 

Luckily, Murray was picked off by Smith. Auburn got behind Mason and scored yet another TD. UGA was able to sneak a much needed FG in at the end of the quarter to end it 27-10.

Now, as far as I was concerned, this game was over. UGA had different plans as they came out slinging the rock 8 times with 2 Murray rushes mixed in, including a 16 yard TD. 27-17. 

Auburn did what they did best. Offense. Nick Marshall scores on a 5 yard rush. 34-17.

And the defenses decided to play for both sides. The scores ended for the quarter. 

Auburn opened up the 4th with a FG to make it 37-17. We were deciding whether or not to head back to the tailgate spot. This one was in the books.  And that's when the comeback started. If you read my Preview, you know that I really thought Murray's legs would be the real danger. We know he can throw the rock. He can really run, but he hasn't HAD to due to a steady stream of top talent at RB. But, the Murray show kicked off with a TD pass to Wooten after soem chain moving runs by Murray. 

Auburn goes 3-and-out. UGA hits his TE Lynch for a 24 yard TD making it 37-31 in under 3 minutes! Suddenly, Emily wasn't so quiet anymore. We had mistaken her quietness for general boredness with watching Auburn play. Now that it was a game, she was rooting. For the other team. Not too much, but certainly a little bit. 

Auburn gives up ANOTHER 3-and-out. Murray is hitting passes. He makes runs. And he scampers into the endzone with under 2 minutes to go to go up 38-37. I am eating my hat. I mean, literally, I am chewing my hat. WHY CAN'T THE OFFENSE DO ANYTHING!!! I can't believe we have squandered a lead after DOMINATING the game. It's like Gus channeled his inner Tommy Tuberville and went on cruise control! 

Emily AND Josh were into it now. I can't say I blame them. How many times can you see your most hated enemy squander a lead away and lose at home?  I do remember that Alyse wasn't taking it very well, looked at Emily and said something like: "Oh, you ain't so quiet now, are you!"

Now they have to do something they haven't done much...though they have done before....throw the ball under 2 minutes to play. 

Marshall has a pass to Bray broken up. He hits Marcus Davis in a critical 2nd down, then rushes for the first down on the next play. They are at the 35...a long way from field goal range. But, that's all the fans are looking for. Just get us to the 30. Maybe the 35. Just don't take a loss! 

He hits Coates on a short 2 yarder. Not helping us any. But not hurting. Timeout. 

Marhsall misses Reed to set up a 3rd and 12. And, now the booty holes begin to pucker. 12 yards is a long way for a QB draw. Waayyyy to long for a run play. Got to throw the ball. But, you have 2 chances to get it. Just don't take a sack.

Jenkins bottles up Marshall for the sack. It's over. I am ready to puke. 4th and 18 is nearly impossible to pick up, even if the defense drops into prevent. We all take a deep breath of resentment, knowing it's probably over. Though, always possible that someone gets open at the sticks and picks up the first. 

The UGA brings up their typical 3 D-line front. Drope 4 guys about 10 yards back and another 4 in deep coverage. The crowd is deathly silent, not just from wanting to help Marshall direct traffic, but because of the striking inevitability of this play.  

Sure enough, the snap comes back and one of the receivers gets open at the sticks. Prosch, who has good hands and wasn't picked up. Coates, in the middle of the field ALL ALONE! Of all players, Coates gets open! We are saved!  We all see it and we KNOW Marshall sees it too. Just stick it in there and get the first. But no. He loads up. 

I started yelling. "NOOOO!! WHY!" He is going to LAUNCH it into DOUBLE COVERAGE! The ball goes up, wiggles. waggles. And it's SHORT. SHORT! HE THREW IT SHORT EVEN THOUGH LOUIS HAD A STEP! 

But I keep watching. I don't know why. I normally can't watch it. But the ball comes out. Even from teh opposite end zone I see it. But, it looks like it's tipped WAY out in front. Now way that #5 can get to it. Except that he is fast. Real fast. And he never checked up. I wonder if he knows why he never checked up. But he didn't. He gets one glove on it. Just a little. Just enough. And the ball hangs up again. This time he gets both hands on it! 

He runs into the endzone. 

I get the Holy Spirit in me. I am speaking in tongues. We pound the concrete with our shoes and beat the air with shakers and claps. It's a hurricane of emotion. It's the best feeling. It's 38-27 with 25 seconds to go.

TV takes its sweet time with commercials. 

Murray takes the field and promptly eats 50 yards of field in two pass plays. They are on the 20 with a 1st down and 3 seconds to go. No FG try here. Murray takes the snap, steps into the pocket. Gets flushed to the 14 or so before he gets leveled. Just smoked. And the game is over! 

We all go running out of the stadium. Despite there being 80,000+ fans streaming out, Kevin finds me. I guess because he is nearly 7 feet tall. He runs and picks me up like I am a child and tosses me. It's unreal.

Then the party starts. The DJ fires up the PA and we all start dancing. 30 minutes later, the players come out of the stadium, heading to the athletic facility. We manage to get several of them to come hang out with us. We didn't get very good pics, but you can see a few below. 

Sammie Coates
Jeremy Johnson
It was an amazing game and atmosphere that didn't stop until 4am Sunday morning. We stayed at the tailgate spot until the buses left. We had to give the UGA players and coaches an Auburn goodbye! 
Then, we all hit up Bourbon Street, a local gathering spot. Perhaps the highlight of the night came when the band struck up their cover of 4 Non Blondes "What's Up." I have to admit, I HATED that song growing up. But, it struck a very special chord with me that night. Here I was, midst all of these young college kids, my two best friends from two different periods of my of those a die hard Bama fan, my wife, a converted Bama fan and now the biggest Auburn fan I knew...and we had all witnessed one of the most dramatic plays in sports history. 

I couldn't help but sing along. 
"And so I wake in the morning 
And I step outside 
And I take a deep breath and I get real high 
And I scream at the top of my lungs 
What's going on?"