One thing links the Fourth of July and Auburn football — the word “fireworks.”
The Tigers have fielded several explosive teams during its 115-year history, lighting up scoreboards like the night sky on Independence Day.
In honor of fireworks on the Fourth, we take a holiday look back at Auburn’s 10 greatest teams in offensive pyrotechnics. You know, the ones that would make a certain head coach go “boom.”
By modern standards, this team had a decent offense. But more than 100 years ago, the Tigers scored at a ridiculous pace compared to the standard, grind-it-out offenses of the day. Auburn scored 28 points per game in 1913 — a high number for that era and better than Alabama’s 20.9 ppg — behind star quarterback Kirk Newell. The Tigers signal-caller averaged a whopping 213.4 yards per game. When several games stayed in the single digits, Mike Donahue’s offense was stunning.
One year after Bo Jackson’s Heisman Trophy campaign, Auburn still maintained an impressive level of offensive production. Brent Fullwood led the way on the ground for the Tigers, who only lost two games by a combined five points in their 10-win season. Auburn’s 32.9 points per game ranked fifth in Division I football, and it averaged 381.7 yards per game — the vast majority on the ground.
Auburn wasn’t a prolific all-around offense during Jackson’s Heisman Trophy-winning season. However, the legendary athlete brought plenty of fireworks to go around for the Tigers. Jackson rushed for a then-SEC record 1,786 yards in 1985, as he averaged a school-record 162 yards per contest. He scored 17 touchdowns on the ground as the Tigers averaged 382.8 yards in an uneven but award-winning year.
The perfect 1993 season for Auburn featured a new kind of offensive approach from the Tigers. Terry Bowden brought in his own attack, and it beat every team on its schedule to the tune of 32.1 points per game, 5.8 yards per play and an even 420 yards per game. Auburn scored at least 30 points in eight of its 11 games on the schedule behind the likes of Stan White, James Bostic and Frank Sanders.
Tommy Tuberville’s Auburn teams weren’t typically known for prolific offense. However, his 2004 team was way too talented to have an underwhelming year. Offensive coordinator Al Borges unleashed his Gulf Coast Offense for the first time in 2004, led by the ultra-efficient Jason Campbell and the one-two running back punch of Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown. Auburn went undefeated in 2004, averaging 420.7 yards per game and 6.35 yards per snap.
Although the team as a whole fell short of high expectations in 2014, Gus Malzahn’s second season as head coach featured a record-breaking offense. The Nick Marshall-led offense averaged 35.5 points per game, 6.71 yards per play and 485 yards per game in 2014. Marshall broke the program’s single-game record for total offense with 505 yards against eventual national champion Alabama in an Iron Bowl shootout. Offense definitely wasn’t Auburn’s biggest issue in the 2014 campaign.
The 1995 Tigers only went 8-4, but they still stand as one of the best-ever offenses to take the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Patrick Nix threw for more than 2,500 yards, Stephen Davis had a 1,000-yard season, and four different receivers had at least 30 catches. Auburn averaged 38.5 points per game in the regular season — a top-10 finish in Division I — along with 459 yards per game and 6.4 yards per play.
Pat Sullivan won the Heisman Trophy in 1971, but the 1970 season featured the most explosive offense under Ralph “Shug” Jordan. The Tigers set an SEC record with 4,850 yards in the regular season — quite high by the standards of the day — and scored 35.5 points per game. Sullivan’s 1970 campaign still ranks in the top five in Auburn history for both passing yards and total offense, while Terry Beasley had the second-most receiving yards and touchdowns that year.
The greatest turnaround in modern college football history featured one of the most prolific offenses in Auburn history. The Tigers ran all the way to the SEC title and the final BCS National Championship Game with first-year head coach Gus Malzahn’s new-school Wing-T attack. Auburn scored nearly 40 points and racked up more than 500 yards per game behind Nick Marshall, Tre Mason and Sammie Coates. The Tigers won the highest-scoring SEC Championship Game of all-time — beating Missouri 59-42 — and scored at least 30 points in all but one of their wins.
It’s hard to imagine any Auburn team ever topping what Cam Newton and the Tigers offense did in 2010. Newton scored 50 touchdowns by himself in 2010, running away with the Heisman Trophy and the SEC title in the process. The 2010 Tigers averaged 41.2 points per game and a ridiculous 7.37 yards per play. Auburn scored at least 49 points in seven games. Even though the national title win over Oregon was surprisingly low-scoring — 22-19 — this remains one of the most explosive offenses college football has ever seen.