AUBURN, Ala. — Players forget the details of games they play and seasons they’re apart of over time, but it’s difficult to forget the perfect 2004 Auburn Tigers. At the end of the year, despite an undefeated record (13-0) and wins over four top-ten teams, Tommy Tuberville’s group was left out of the BCS National title game. Instead, the Tigers defeated the Virginia Tech Hokies in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, winning their third-consecutive bowl victory.
For Jason Campbell, ’04 will always be special. In order to total 2,700 passing yards or be named the SEC offensive player of the year, the former Auburn quarterback first had to survive and beat Nick Saban’s No. 4 LSU Tigers. Campbell recalls the turning point of the season — the 10-9 win over the LSU Tigers, which became known as the “Kick it Again” game — like it unfolded yesterday.
Here’s how Jason remembers the game (As told to Lauren Shute):
That game, it’s always a big part of you. The fans really get into the game and the players really get into it, It’s definitely a rivalry game. It’s a passionate game. You approach every game in SEC that way, but that game on your calendar you know it’s going to be physical.
LSU is always going to have a top tier team or a top tier defense. Their defense is always good. And just the atmosphere, especially when it’s a night game. It’s the battle of the two Tigers. It’s always been a game you paid attention to because it used to help decide who went to the SEC championship out of the west. LSU was coming off a national championship the year before and at the time they were ranked No. 4 overall.
I always called it the Hurricane Ivan game because that’s the week the hurricane was going on. They let school out at Auburn because it was coming through that direction. They put us up in the conference center downtown and everybody else was gone so it was like a ghost town except for the people that lived there and us.
We stayed in a hotel all week long and we weren’t able to practice, so we watched film on LSU all week and we did walk-throughs in the hotel. They finally cleared us to play the game later in the week, maybe Wednesday or Thursday, but my first time throwing a pass live that week was Friday before the game.
So, our practice that week was a walk-through practice. I’m pretty sure it was the same for LSU. I remember going to that game knowing it was going to be a hard hitting game because they were the defending national champs and Saban is always going to have a well-coached team. We knew if we beat them it would put us in position to achieve our goals that year.
It was our first big test. It was loud and one of the hardest hitting games I’ve ever played in, college or pro. There were a lot of pro prospects on both sides of the ball and I just remember a lot of hard hits that game. I was so sore after that game I walked out with a boot on my foot and I was even sore that next week. I was glad we were playing a lesser opponent and had time to recover just before we went to Tennessee.
That was the year (wide receiver) Courtney Taylor was really coming along. We knew he was a big third down possession receiver. Courtney was clutch, he always had that confidence. That game I think he caught a lot of big third downs for us to keep the chains moving. He only caught five passes for 71 yards, but it was one of those things where he wasn’t going to have 150 yards because you were playing against a Saban defense.
At that time, it was before the spread system. We ran a pro-style offense and everything, so it was kind of like an NFL game, just in college uniforms. Everything we did was going to be a big possession.
I remember them scoring early and I just remember us moving the ball up and down the field on them, but every time we got to the red zone they clamped down on us. We kicked one field goal and got back down to the red zone and they stalled us again. It was kind of like they were playing that bend but don’t break defense.
We knew we had to be patient, at the same time. It’s one of those games where as a quarterback you can’t force a lot of throws because the team that has the most turnovers is probably going to lose. Whoever has the ball last or has the opportunity to have the ball in the last couple of minutes is probably going to have the chance to win it. We needed to keep moving the chains and have a chance to win.
Saban threw an all-out zero blitz at me, everybody came. I just knew I had to hurry up and try to get to a spot to get the ball out. I remember throughout the game Courtney did a good job of running his routes the right depth to get first downs. I knew I had to throw it before he could even turn around because I got hit as I was throwing it, I just barely got it out.
At the end of the game we ended up running a pump move, and Courtney beat his guy in the back of the end zone. I threw it to him, he caught it and that’s the loudest I’ve ever heard Jordan-Hare. I was down on the ground. I couldn’t see anything, but the crowd was going wild.
Our kicker John Vaughn was 36-36 when he stepped up to kick that extra point. Watching the game back over the year, the announcer says that and every time they say that on TV the kicker misses. It’s like they do it just to jinx people. If you watch a game, every time they say something like that, the kicker misses. It’ll be an easy kick but he’ll miss it.
I just remember watching that kick and I said, “Oh my gosh, I know he didn’t miss that. Not all this work and then he missed that extra point. No.” And then I just remember seeing that flag.
They put that rule in that year where you couldn’t jump over the snapper or the guy coming down, and they ended up calling that. That’s what ended up getting us an extra kick. I just couldn’t imagine going to overtime after all of those hits we took in that game and how hard it had already been. The game had to be over.
After that game I kind of held the ball up with one hand for a few seconds. It was the combination of thanking God because he blessed us with a win and get me out of here. It was our last year, so we wanted to make sure we went out the right way. It was our last chance to achieve the goals we always wanted to achieve.
LSU was one of our biggest targets standing in front of us. To get that big goal down and then keep trekking away, I think that was the game that kind of got us going. From that standpoint, we looked like a football team that was destined for something.
We played for each other. Guys were playing loose, we were having fun. Even the coaches were having a lot of fun. I just remember having such a close-knit — from every person on the team, from our team chaplain to our doctors to our equipment people, everybody — program. Everyone was into it and just having fun with each other. It was one of the most relaxed seasons I’ve ever been a part of but at the same time we understood we had a lot to achieve. It felt different. It was just a different year.