Auburn football has given its fans plenty of magic.
The undefeated season in 2004.
The undefeated BCS Championship, Cam Newton-led season in 2010.
A lot of Auburn fans will argue that 1993 was just as magical. It definitely was the most improbable.
After back-to-back 5-6 and 5-5-1 seasons that ended with Pat Dye’s resignation and Auburn going on probation. With Terry Bowden taking over as head coach, not much was expected of the Tigers. They weren’t even allowed to play on TV or play in the postseason.
“It all started when we lost to Alabama in Birmingham in what was Coach Dye’s last game (in 1992),” said 1993 senior defensive tackle Randy Hart. “I was interviewed and I really stepped out on a limb and said next year we’re going to go undefeated. I had to really uphold what I was saying.”
The Tigers did just that. They finished 11-0 with one stunning win after another. The two signature wins — vs. No. 4 Florida and No. 11 Alabama — were enormous. Their significance would have not been known if it wasn’t for a four-play sequence in Week 5.
That moment was Oct. 2 in Nashville against Vanderbilt. Leading 14-10, Auburn had its back to the wall. Vanderbilt drove deep into Auburn territory and had first-and-goal at the 3 in the fourth quarter. Auburn stopped Vandy QB Kenny Simon at the 1 on first down. Jermaine Johnson was held out of the end zone on second down. The Tigers stuffed Royce Love on third. Hart blew up Johnson on fourth down.
The toughest win the undefeated 1993 Auburn team had was on the road at Vandy. Took a goal line stand to prevent defeat!
— Van Plexico (@VanAllenPlexico) October 20, 2012
Auburn took over at its own 1 and exited Nashville with a 4-point win and 5-0 record.
SEC Country caught up with Hart and middle linebacker Jason Miska. The two were right in the middle of all four stops.
Miska: We just knuckled up. We didn’t give up a lot of points with that defense. In practice we went through a lot of goal line. It’s not nearly the ballet it is in practice now. Those were 15- to 20-minute sessions. You learned how to play on short yardage with backs like (James) Bostic, (Tony) Richardson and (Reid) McMilion.
Hart: They were not going to score. I mean, just that year from everything that happened with Coach Dye having to resign … You spend a lot of time around your comrades and you develop a feeling that you can accomplish anything. You know the tradition at Auburn University and all of the sudden you want to write your own piece of history.
Miska: The defensive line got great penetration — they got real low. Randy, Damon Primus … those guys, we had some dudes up front. Linebacker Anthony Harris did a great job on that side. Vanderbilt was trying to run the ball down our throat all day. I had 24 tackles. You react, you follow your keys. It’s neanderthal football.
Hart: To be part of four-down series basically from the 1-yard line … it really doesn’t take that much (to score). When you have the willpower, the heart and desire to keep your opponent from scoring — you have to carry out your assignments. God had to be on our side. There was some supernatural force that every individual had and we tapped into it and we kept them from scoring that touchdown.
Miska: It was game-by-game with the SEC schedule. We didn’t have as many distractions because we couldn’t be on TV. It was a tight unit. The same guys were on the field every play. The defense played off each other. That stop definitely was a confidence builder. But we did give up 35 to (No. 4) Florida (in a 38-35 win two weeks later).
Hart: That day at Vandy, it was part of history because you don’t really see a lot of four-down stops. It was a combination of hard work, confidence and talent. On the defensive line we had Primus, Mike Pelton, Gary Walker, Alonzo Etheridge, Willie Whitehead. Our mindset was ‘let’s dominate the game.’ We had Miska as the head of the linebacker corps, Anthony Harris. Calvin (Jackson), Fred Smith, Chris Shelling and Brian Robinson in the secondary. We didn’t have to say anything. We could look at each other and say ‘let’s carry this out.’ We believed we were the best at what we did.
Miska: In the moment, you just expected it (the undefeated season). It was great for the seniors to go out that way. It was a special feeling. The fans were great, people were great. We etched our mark in history at Auburn — the coaches, players, fans, trainers, everyone. That gets underrated — it’s not just a team win, it’s a program win.