Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Taylor's Tiger Tales: The 2003 Iron Bowl

Taylor's Tiger Tales: The 2003 Iron Bowl

The Auburn Realist

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What was your first Iron Bowl experience? Now, I know a lot of people haven't been fortunate to make an Iron Bowl. My first one was....interesting. 

First off, a little background story. Auburn had entered the 2003 as one of the top ranked teams in the country. I remember going to Barnes&Noble and buying ALL the preseason hype magazines. I must have read them dozens of times. I even went so far as to buy tickets to the nationally televised USC opener. 

Then Auburn was drilled 23-0 by future Champs USC. Then, a surprising loss to Georgia Tech at Georgia Tech. I recall that tickets became REAL cheap after the GT game. So much so that I went to my first Away game at Vandy the following week (and what a fun game that was). 

Tuberville pulled off BIG wins against Arkansas and Tennessee in back to back weeks. Both were ranked #7 at the time. Then, the Tigers lost to Ole Miss, Georgia and LSU, putting them in the bottom of the SEC.  Being either a Tide or Tiger fan, you know that a win in the Iron Bowl can do wonders for keeping your job. First year coach Shula needed a desperate win and word was circulating that Tommy may be on the doorstep by Saturday night if he couldn't beat the Tide. It's interesting that this was the first time in the history of the great rivalry that featured 12 combined losses for the two teams. The game had little national attention paid to it as it had almost nothing on the line outside of the rivalry itself, yet it still found it's way onto ESPN. 

My 21st birthday was coming up and my friends did what all friends do for their buddies. They threw me a kegger on the Friday night proceeding the Iron Bowl. But, before the party was kicked off, my dad called me to inform me that he had scored free tickets to the Iron Bowl. They were 1st row tickets in the endzone. Sure, I was stoked. But, at the time, the game was the furthest thing on my mind.

I stayed at my friend'd house that night and began receiving phone calls from dad at about 7am. I managed to crawl into my car and get to my parent's house, get showered, get in the Exploder, and promptly fall asleep. 

In 2003, a lot of my younger friends started their freshman year at Auburn. In fact, we (my future wife and several other friends), had gone down to Auburn to stay with them. They were into tailgating, which had been a new experience for me, since we had never tailgated to games. I took my dad to meet my friends at their spot on Wire Road(before they had the pillars up to prevent parking).  Now, many of you may recall the Wire Road of old. It was rowdy and loud. It was a boozefest. I was a naive little kid and just wanted my dad to meet my friends. And so he did. He could not have felt more out of place being around a thousand teenage and early 20s kids who had been at it all night and were just ramping up. 

I recall introducing him to my friend Derek, who was completely bombed out of his mind. I remember that he was drooling on himself as he shook my dad's hand. My dad raised a very disapproving eye brow at me. Of course, Derek offered us a Natty Light, to which I managed to politely decline while nearly vomiting on myself from the thought of beer. 

We went to see the Tiger Walk and then made our way to the Jordan-Hare. We entered the gates as soon as they opened. I recall that it was very hot and it made me very uncomfortable. But I was determined to prove that I wasn't hung over, though I was definitely Hung. Over.  Capital letters on that. But, dad bought me a souvenir size Coca-Cola and life got better. It's amazing what a youthful body can do. Sigh.

Anyway. It didn't take long for the party to get started. The first play from scrimmage, the Tiger's with their backs to me and dad,Campbell hands the ball off and Williams was gone. That 80 yard run seemed to take forever as he hit the sideline and raced with McIntyre at his side into the endzone. I couldn't recall that ever happening, and indeed it appears that it was the first time in Iron Bowl history that the first play from scrimmage was a touchdown. It was one of those plays where you didn't actually watch the end. You didn't have to. When Williams hit that sideline, everyone knew what was going to happen. 

Last night and its effects were long forgotten as every Tiger fan in the stadium was jumping with joy. This fanbase needed it, as the wins against Arkansas and Tennessee seemed like long ago for a team that was supposed to be a National Contender. 

The rest of the first quarter was strange and wonderful at the same time as Auburn piled up yards in a big way while still throwing an INT in the endzone and taking a safety just feet from us. 

The only other play I recall from my first Iron Bowl was the 2nd half kick off when Brooks took the kick right in front of us to the house. I can't find the right angle shot, but in one replay, you can see dad and I yelling. 

 There was a time when I didn't think I would ever see another Iron Bowl again and that I should stop while I was ahead. The first one isn't the best one, but I will always remember it!