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College Classic Rewind: ‘Bama wins Iron Bowl on Last-Second FG

Posted on November 22, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The rivalry between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers is one of the most storied and intense rivalries in all of college football.

There have been many great games in the series known as the “Iron Bowl” such as Ken Stabler’s “Run in the Mud” in 1967 or Auburn returning two blocked punts for touchdowns in the 1972 “Punt, Bama, Punt”.

Another memorable chapter occurred in 1985 in a game that is simply known as “The Kick”, referring to Van Tiffin’s game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired to give Alabama the victory.

The Crimson Tide entered the 1985 “Iron Bowl” with a 7-2-1 record but unranked in the AP Poll as they were led by third-year head coach Ray Perkins, the successor to Bear Bryant who retired following the 1982 season.

Perkins had not exactly endeared himself to the Tide faithful as he had gone a modest 20-12-1 during his tenure in Tuscaloosa which included the first losing season for Alabama in 27 years with a 5-6 season in 1984.

With Mike Shula, the nation’s second most efficient passer, and all-American linebacker Cornelius Bennett, ‘Bama fans hoped that brighter days were ahead and that the Tide would soon back as one of the country’s most elite programs.

The Tide were underdogs to the #7 ranked Auburn Tigers who entered the game with a 8-2 record after starting the season as the #1 team before a loss in September to Tennessee.

The Tigers were coached by Pat Dye, who took over in Auburn in 1981 and led the Tigers to a 23-22 victory over ‘Bama in the 1982 “Iron Bowl” to snap the Tigers’ nine-game losing streak to the Tide.

In that game, freshman running back Bo Jackson scored the winning touchdown as he went “over the top” to score the one-yard touchdown run that gave Auburn the victory.

Jackson ran for 256 yards in Auburn’s 1983 victory over Alabama, but missed a block on a 4th-and-1 from the one-yard line that cost the Tigers dearly in the 1984 “Iron Bowl” as they lost to the Tide 17-15.

Jackson was in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy in 1985 as he had rushed for 1,644 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in the Tigers’ first 10 games of the season, but broke two ribs in the game against Georgia two weeks earlier.

Despite the pain, Jackson would play and help contribute to one of the greatest “Iron Bowls” ever played.

Both teams traded punts until the Tide’s second possession of the game when they drove 94 yards in 13 plays, as Shula completed six of seven passes for 83 yards on the drive, that culminated with a one-yard touchdown run by fullback Craig Turner to put ‘Bama ahead 7-0 with 2:52 left in the opening quarter.

Then on the first play of Auburn’s next drive, defensive tackle Jon Hand sacked quarterback Pat Washington to force a fumble which was recovered by nose guard Tommy Cole at the Tigers’ 13-yard-line.

However, the Tide could not gain a 1st down and had to settle for a 26-yard field goal by Van Tiffin, to increase the ‘Bama lead to 10-0 with just over a minute left in the first quarter.

Alabama head coach Ray Perkins consults with quarterback Mike Shula on the sidelines.

Early in the second quarter, ‘Bama was back inside the Auburn 20-yard-line as Greg Richardson returned an Auburn punt 62 yards, before he was forced out of bounds by Lewis Colbert at the Tigers’ 13-yard-line.

Once again, the Tigers defense did not allow a 1st down and forced another field goal attempt, which Tiffin made from 32 yards out to make it 13-0 in favor of Alabama.

After an Auburn three-and-out, the Tide drove to inside the Tigers’ 50-yard-line again, but a sack by Harold Hallman forced ‘Bama to punt the ball back to Auburn.

Following Trey Gainous’ 23-yard punt return, the Tigers took over from their own 47-yard-line and finally got going on offense as Washington connected with Freddy Weygand for a 44-yard reception which led to a 7-yard touchdown run by Jackson that cut ‘Bama’s lead to 13-7 with 8:04 left in the second half.

The Tide got back on the scoreboard late in the first half when Tiffin made his third field goal of the half, a 42-yarder that was set up by a 38-yard catch by Al Bell, to increase the Tide lead to 16-7 with 1:02 left in the second quarter.

Auburn took over at its own 22-yard-line and was able to the Tide’s 22-yard-line, thanks to Washington’s 3-of-4 for 55 yards on the drive.

But a quarterback sack and an incomplete pass forced a field goal attempt, which Chris Johnson made from 49 yards out as time expired to trim the Tigers’ deficit to 16-10 at the halftime break.

The third quarter was a defensive stalemate as neither team scored any points, with ‘Bama still in the lead at 16-10 as the fourth quarter began, which would go down as perhaps the 15 most exciting minutes in the history of the “Iron Bowl”.

The Tide offense seemed to finally get back on track at the start of the quarter as Gene Jelks took a Shula handoff and ran 39 yards to the ‘Bama 49-yard-line on the second play of the quarter.

But after a 10-yard run by Bobby Humphrey that put the Tide in Auburn territory, Shula threw a deep pass into the end zone that was picked off by Kevin Porter for a touchback to give the ball back to the Tigers at their own 20-yard-line.

That is when Auburn went straight to the running game as they ran the ball nine straight times to get the Tigers to the Tide 17-yard-line.

However, when the Tigers went back to the passing game, the drive stalled as Bennett sacked Washington on 1st down for a nine-yard-loss which was followed by another incomplete pass.

But on 3rd-and-19, Washington hit Jackson on a screen pass, who proceeded to get 21 yards and give Auburn a 1st-and-goal at the four-yard-line.

Three plays later, the Tigers were faced with a 4th-and-goal from the one-yard-line, when Dye decided to go for the touchdown.

Just like he did in 1982, Jackson went over the top for the touchdown and after Johnson’s extra point, the Tigers had their first lead of the game at 17-16 with 7:03 left in the fourth quarter.

The 16-play, 80-yard drive appeared to take the wind out of ‘Bama’s sail as they muffed the ensuing kickoff with the ball going out at the Tide 11-yard-line.

Bo Jackson played through the pain of two cracked ribs and rushed for 142 yards and scored two touchdowns.

But following a 15-yard reception by Bell for a 1st down, Shula tossed it to Jelks, who burst through untouched for a 74-yard touchdown run that put ‘Bama back in the lead just 66 seconds after giving up the lead.

The Tide went for the two-point conversion but were unsuccessful as Humphrey caught a Shula pass but fell down at the one-yard-line to keep the ‘Bama lead at 22-17 with 5:57 left in the game.

Down by five points, the Tigers took over at their-own 30-yard-line needing a touchdown to retake the lead.

Jackson ran for four yards on the drive’s first play, which was followed by a 21-yard pass from Washington to Weygand, to give Auburn a 1st down at the Tide’s 45-yard-line.

Then after two runs by Jackson that gained six yards, Washington scrambled for seven yards and the 1st down at the ‘Bama 32-yard-line.

Jackson got the ball on the next three plays and was able to get Auburn a 1st-and-gaol at the Tide’s eight-yard-line following a late hit out of bounds on Alabama during Jackson’s last carry.

Agee carried it for two yards on 1st-and-goal, then Jackson carried it for five yards on 2nd-and-goal to put Auburn on the doorstep of the go-ahead touchdown.

Then on 3rd-and-goal from the one-yard-line, fullback Reggie Ware punched it for the touchdown that put Auburn back on top at 23-22 to complete an 11-play, 70-yard drive.

The Tigers went for two points to make it a three-point lead, but Bennett knocked Washington’s pass that was intended for Jackson to keep the deficit at one point with 57 seconds left in the game.

Johnson kicked the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for a touchback, to give ‘Bama the ball at their own 20-yard-line with just one timeout and only 57 seconds to get into field goal range.

This was familiar territory for Shula and the Tide as in their season opener, they drove 71 yards in just 35 seconds for the winning touchdown, a 17-yard pass from Shula to Bell with 20 seconds remaining to give ‘Bama a 20-16 win over Georgia as Shula completed four of five passes on the drive.

However, this drive seemed destined for failure as Shula threw an incomplete pass on 1st down, then was sacked by Harold Hallman for an eight-yard loss which forced the Tide to burn their last timeout with 37 seconds to go.

Needing 18 yards for the 1st down, Shula hit Jelks for 14 yards, who stepped out of bounds to set up a 4th-and-4 from the 26-yard-line.

With the Auburn defense expecting a pass, Shula tossed it to Jelks, who ran to the right only to toss it back to Bell on a reverse to the left side of the field, who got a key block from Shula to allow Bell to run for 20 yards and go out of bounds for a 1st down at the Bama 46-yard-line with 21 seconds remaining.

Then after an incomplete pass cost the Tide six more seconds, Shula dropped back and found Richardson on a crossing route at the Auburn 45-yard-line.

Richardson was able to gain 10 more yards before he was forced out of bounds at the Auburn’ 35-yard-line with six seconds left on the clock.

With no timeouts and very little time to run another play, Perkins had to go for the field goal as Tiffin would come on to attempt a 52-yard field goal that would give the Tide the victory.

Van Tiffin kicks his game-winning 52-yard field goal into the wind as time expired for the 'Bama victory in the 1985 Iron Bowl.

Despite having made a 57-yard field goal earlier in the year against Texas A&M, Tiffin’s kick would be incredibly difficult not only because of the range and the outcome of the game on his foot, but because he would be kicking into a 5-mile per hour wind.

Butch Lewis’ snap was perfect, Larry Abney’s hold was perfect, and Tiffin’s kick was perfect as the ball sailed through the uprights as time expired to give Alabama a 25-23 victory over Auburn.

The last-second loss put a damper on the Auburn season in which Jackson would win the Heisman Trophy as he defeated Iowa quarterback Chuck Long in the closest race for the Heisman Trophy as Bo finished with 1, 785 rushing yards.
Auburn would accept an invitation to play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl which they lost 36-16 in Jackson’s last college game.

As for the Tide, they ended the season with a 24-3 victory over USC in the Aloha Bowl to finish the season with a 9-2-1 record and a #13 ranking in the final AP poll.

Shula, Tiffin, and Perkins would come back the following season to lead ‘Bama to a 10-3 season and a Sun Bowl victory over Washington.

But after that season, Perkins would leave Tuscaloosa to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Shula and Tiffin would be heard from again in Tuscaloosa as Shula become the team’s head coach in 2003, but mustered only a 26-23 record in four seasons, which included four straight losses to Auburn.

In Shula’s last season as head coach, the Tide introduced kicker Leigh Tiffin, son of Van, who would go on to be the Tide’s kicker for the next four seasons, and made 30 out of 35 field goals in the Tide’s 2009 national championship season.


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