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Alabama football: Top 10 Iron Bowls in program history

Photo by: Cedric Mason/TDAL Magazine

Records don’t matter. In rivalry games, a champion is determined by executing fundamentals.

The Alabama-Auburn rivalry, known as the Iron Bowl, started in 1893 in the steel mills of Birmingham, Ala. Issues with player per diems and officiating caused the contest to be suspended for 41 years, but it was renewed in 1948 with Alabama winning 55-0.

The Crimson Tide dominated Auburn in the 1960s and 1970s under legendary head coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. He enjoyed being a national champion, however, Bryant relished claiming victory over the Tigers. He would win 19 of 25 (76 percent) Iron Bowls in 25 seasons.

Head coach Walter “Ray” Perkins produced a better record than Bill Curry against Auburn. Perkins won two out of four, while Curry went winless against the Tigers from 1987-89.

Former Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville guided the Tigers to six consecutive wins over Alabama, but since 2008, both programs have traded punches. In fact, the winner of the last seven Iron Bowls has won a Southeastern Conference crown and competed for a national title.

Listed below is a breakdown of the top 10 greatest Iron Bowls in series history.

 

10. 1967—Ken Stabler’s run in the Mud

  • Coaches: Paul Bryant vs. Ralph “Shug” Jordan
  • Venue: Legion Field (Birmingham, Ala.)
  • Final Score: Alabama 7, Auburn 3

Summary: Nothing prepares a team for football like rough weather.

The forecast was brutal and Legion Field was muddy on Dec. 2, 1967. No.8-ranked Alabama faced Auburn in the final game of the regular season. Both defense were stout, until a field goal gave Auburn a 3-0 lead.

Constant thunderstorms caused a delay in action, but quarterback Kenneth “Ken” Stabler made the play of the game. He scrambled through mud for a 47-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Stabler’s efforts delivered the Crimson Tide to a 7-3 win.

It appeared as if Stabler ran out of bounds on the play, but the referees did not call it because the sidelines were washed away.

 

9. 1972—Punt Bama Punt

  • Coaches: Paul Bryant vs. Ralph Jordan
  • Venue: Legion Field
  • Final Score: Auburn 17, Alabama 16

Summary: If only Alabama’s punter Greg Gantt had a reset button. The Crimson Tide led Auburn 16-0 in the 1972 Iron Bowl game, until the Tigers connected on a field goal.

Auburn’s Billy Newton and David Lagner took over in the second half. Newton blocked two of Gantt’s punts, and Lagner returned them for touchdowns. The Tigers claimed victory 17-16.

 

8. 1981—315th win for Paul Bryant

  • Coaches: Paul Bryant vs. Pat Dye
  • Venue: Legion Field
  • Final Score: Alabama 28, Auburn 17

Summary: No.4-ranked Alabama made coach Bryant the winningest coach in college football history on Nov. 28, 1981. Bryant secured his 315th career victory, in Alabama’s 28-17 win over Auburn. It was Bryant’s last win over the Tigers, prior to his retirement after the 1982 season.

 

7. 1982—Bo over the top

  • Coaches: Paul Bryant vs. Pat Dye
  • Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium (Auburn, Ala)
  • Final Score: Auburn 23, Alabama 22

Summary: Bo Jackson was Auburn’s freshman running back from Bessemer, Ala., in 1982.

He gave Auburn fans hope when he jumped over the top, and stretch the ball across the goal line for the game-winning touchdown. Auburn won 23-22, ending the Tide’s 9-game win streak.

 

6. 1985—Van Tiffin’s “The Kick”

  • Coaches: Ray Perkins vs. Pat Dye
  • Venue: Legion Field
  • Final Score: Alabama 25, Auburn 23

Summary: Quarterback Mike Shula and placekicker Van Tiffin both made it into Alabama folklore, after their performances in the 1985 Iron Bowl. Shula engineered a drive that started from the Crimson Tide’s 12-yard line, to position it for a field goal try at Auburn’s 36-yard line.

Tiffin came onto the field with seconds ticking away, and nailed a 52-yard field goal as time expired. Alabama trailed Auburn 23-22, but Tiffin’s kick delivered it a 25-23 victory.

 

5. 2008—Beat Down in T-Town

  • Coaches: Nick Saban vs. Tommy Tuberville
  • Venue: Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
  • Final Score: Alabama 36, Auburn 0

Summary: Alabama broke Auburn’s hold on the Iron Bowl in 2008. Its run game pounded the Tigers’ defense for 234 yards and three touchdowns. Alabama’s defense was stifling, giving up 170 total yards and shutting Auburn off the scoreboard. The Crimson Tide won 36-0.

Alabama totaled 412 yards offensively, and finished the regular season at 12-0 for the first time in SEC history. The beat down of Auburn ended its streak of six consecutive victories.

 

4. 2010—Cam-Back/Meltdown in T-Town

  • Coaches: Nick Saban vs. Gene Chizik
  • Venue: Bryant-Denny Stadium
  • Final Score: Auburn 28, Alabama 27

Summary: Auburn’s quarterback Cameron “Cam” Newton put the team on his back in 2010, despite NCAA investigations. He navigated the Tigers to an undefeated season heading into the Iron Bowl. Alabama dominated the first half, as it took a 24-7 lead into halftime.

Crimson Tide fans witnessed Newton’s determination and an utter meltdown in the second half. The Tigers outscored Alabama 21-3 in the second half, resulting in a 28-27 comeback victory. Newton would go on to capture a Heisman Trophy and lead Auburn to a national title.

 

3. 2009—Greg McElroy’s “The Drive”

  • Coaches: Nick Saban vs. Gene Chizik
  • Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium
  • Final Score: Alabama 26, Auburn 21

Summary: Every Alabama fan held its breath on the team’s final drive in the 2009 Iron Bowl.

Auburn led 21-14 in the fourth quarter, until Alabama’s placekicker Leigh Tiffin nailed two field goals. Quarterback Greg McElroy led a sequence known as “The Drive” with a little over seven minutes left in the game. The drive ended on a 4-yard touchdown reception by Roy Upchurch.

Alabama would go on to defeat Florida 32-13 in the 2009 SEC Championship Game, and Texas 37-21 in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game for its 13th national title.

 

2. 2013—The “Kick Six”

  • Coaches: Nick Saban vs. Gus Malzahn
  • Venue: Jordan-Hare Stadium
  • Final Score: Auburn 34, Alabama 28

Summary: “Punt Bama Punt” took on a new meaning for Alabama in the 2013 Iron Bowl, but in this case, it was “Kick Bama Kick.” The Crimson Tide took a 21-14 lead into halftime, however, placekicker Cade Foster became the sickest man alive. He missed three field goals, including a 33-yard attempt from the middle of the field. The game was tied at 28 in the fourth quarter with one second remaining, when Alabama’s running back T.J. Yeldon ran out of bounds.

Head coach Nick Saban decided to go with redshirt freshman Adam Griffith on a game-winning 57-yard field goal attempt. Auburn’s Chris Davis fielded the kick nine yards deep in the end zone. He avoided being tackled, and returned the missed field goals 109 yards for a touchdown. It was the second answered prayer at Jordan-Hare Stadium for the Tigers in 2013.

Auburn rode the momentum from Davis’s play into the 2013 SEC Championship Game and the 2014 BCS National Championship Game. The Tigers would lose to Florida State, 34-31.

 

1. 2014—The Shootout in Tuscaloosa

  • Coaches: Nick Saban vs. Gus Malzahn
  • Venue: Bryant-Denny Stadium
  • Final Score: Alabama 55, Auburn 44

Summary:  Alabama’s senior quarterback Blake Sims wanted one chance to prove himself.

He won the starting job over Florida State transfer Jake Coker in 2014, and delivered Alabama to victories over Florida, LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas and Tennessee.

A matchup against Auburn in the 79th Iron Bowl separated Alabama from representing the SEC West in the conference title game. Sims threw three interceptions in the contest, but rebounded well in the second half.

He totaled four touchdowns, including two touchdown passes to wide receiver Amari Cooper. Auburn’s quarterback Nick Marshall accounted for 456 passing yards with three touchdowns, however, the Tigers’ rushing attack struggled. A late interception from fifth-year senior Nick Perry sealed the game for the Crimson Tide. Alabama won 55-44.

It appeared in the 2014 SEC Championship Game, and defeated Missouri 42-13. Alabama entered the inaugural College Football Playoff as the No.1, however, it loss 42-35 against Ohio State in the 2015 Sugar Bowl.

 

2012 Special Iron Bowl Alabama Tradition Video

Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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