Friday, November 14, 2008

Clemson Without a Lake

Lewis Grizzard once described the Clemson University campus as "Auburn with a lake." That's an insult to Clemson. While I dislike Clemson as much as the next guy, there are some insults that take it too far. Comparing another campus to Auburn is just plain rude.

Georgia visits the Plains this weekend, a game that in most years has quite a bit riding on it. This year, not so much. Auburn needs a win in one of its final 2 games (UGA or Alabama) just to qualify for a bowl, while the Dawgs are trying to finish off what most observers would actually call a disappointing 10 win season and a New Year's Day bowl game. Not exactly what we've come to expect in most years with this game, but for a few of us out there the stakes of this game are still high. Some of us actually subscribe to the idea that Auburn is UGA's biggest rival.

Of course, UGA has played Auburn more than anyone else, 11 more times that Georgia Tech, and 25 more times than Florida. The Dawgs have only beaten Tech more times than Auburn, and haven't lost to any team more than the Tigers. For a while the all-time record went back and forth in favor of either team, until Auburn recently won 5 of 6 in the late 90s and early part of this century, to take a slight lead. The Dawgs have won 2 straight in the series, but still trail the Tigers 50-53-8 all time. The Dawgs recent blowouts of the Tigers have resulted in UGA taking a lead in the all-time point totals 1,730-1,685. Think about it, in 111 total meetings, UGA has averaged 15.6 points per game, Auburn 15.2. I'd venture to guess there aren't two teams in the country that have played over 100 times, hell...over 50 times, that are as closely matched as these two teams.
The series has had its share of memorable games. It seemed like every game in the first half of the 1980's had an SEC title riding on it. In recent years it has (at times) been more of the same, and there have been some classic games played.
1996: In Auburn, the Dawgs came from 21 points down in the 2nd half to tie the game on a last second touchdown toss (a prayer) from Mike Bobo to Corey Allen. 4 overtimes later, in the first overtime game ever played in the SEC, the Dawgs emerged with a 56-49 victory.
2000: The Dawgs and Tigers would play another overtime game in Auburn, this time with Auburn pulling out a 29-26 win that would ultimately help seal the fate of Jim Donnan.
2001: In Mark Richt's first foray into the rivalry, Auburn won 24-17 in Athens behind about 700 yards from Cadillac Williams. Richt inexplicably handed it off to Jasper Sanks with no timeouts on a potential game winning touchdown. Auburn stuffed it and the Dawgs lost. Tommy Tuberville would add fuel to the rivalry by telling Richt (through the media) that he would soon learn you have to run the ball to win in the SEC (since then Richt has 2 SEC titles to Tuberville's 1.)
2002: The "lid gets knocked off" the UGA program in Auburn, as David Greene hits Michael Johnson on 70X takeoff to secure a 24-21 victory and help UGA to its first conference title in 20 years.
2004: Auburn pounds the Dawgs 24-6 on the Plains on its way to the SEC title and an undefeated season.
2005: The Tigers come to Athens and play one of the classic games in the series, winning 31-30 after a 4th down pass from Brandon Cox to Devin Aromashadu that went about 60 yards to set up a game winning FG moments later.
2006: Georgia visits a one-loss Auburn with a record of 6-4, coming off a loss at Kentucky, and promptly pounds the Tigers 37-15 in Matthew Stafford's coming out party as the UGA QB. The loss effectively knocked Auburn out of the National Championship discussion.
2007: The first "blackout" in Sanford Stadium history saw the Dawgs beat down a pretty good Auburn team 45-20.

Personally, I've had my share of memories of this game. I attended my first Georgia game at Jordan Hare Stadium in 1994, and didn't miss another one (with the exception of 2001 thanks to my first born's arrival) until I vowed to stop attending all UGA-Auburn sporting events in 2005 (more on that later.) 1995 was the year the fans tore the hedges up at Sanford Stadium in the last game before it was temporarily converted to an Olympic soccer venue. 1999 was one of the most painful games I've ever watched, as Ben Leard is still throwing it to Ronney Daniels as he glides past Jeff Harris. After the loss in 2000, the thing I remember most that personified the situation was that one of my good friends cried after the game (although I'm not sure if it was because the Dawgs lost, or because his wife passed out in an open field.) Just bad, bad memories on the Plains (although '02 was a pretty good one.)

Back to my solemn vow to never attend another UGA - Auburn sporting event in person. The beginning of the end for me was actually a basketball game in 2002 on the Plains. This was the worst officiated sporting event I've ever attended. An Auburn team with a 10-11 record shot 37 free throws, while a Top 20 Georgia team coached by Jim Harrick only shot 16 of them. After storming out of what has to be the biggest craphole of an arena in these United States, I began a slow upward crescendo of Auburn hatred. The following year Auburn would beat Dennis Felton's first UGA hoops squad in a game that was marred by similarly crooked officiating. Follow that up with the 2005 Georgia-Auburn football game (the worst officiated football game I've ever seen), and my days of watching the Dawgs get screwed by SEC officials were over. I took a brief respite last year to attend the 2007 Blackout, but have since resumed the boycott, which will continue this weekend and perhaps through the end of my days on Earth.

Much like Bop so eloquently described below, I despise Auburn. Tiger fans have the ultimate inferiority complex. No matter how many times they beat Alabama consecutively, they run a distant 2nd in their own state. Only at Auburn can an SEC team go undefeated and not even play for the National Championship. Only in Auburn do the home fans believe that they can knock the "sting" off a home loss by yelling "War Eagle" at the opposing fans. (By the way, that is ALL that needs to be done. Yell "War Eagle" at the opposition and as an Auburn fan, you've officially avenged the loss. Especially if you are a female. I think that technique taught at AU freshman orientation.)

So in short, this is a storied rivalry that gets very little respect nationally, mostly because both teams have bigger rivals that are more well known. But this rivalry tends to get very little respect from its own fans as well, where there isn't near enough hatred spread around. If I have to hear one more comment about this being a "friendly rivalry", I think I'll vomit. There should be nothing "friendly" about this rivalry. If you've been a UGA fan for more than 10 years, you know that no team has ruined more potential "great" seasons for UGA than Auburn. The history books prove it.


Bop said...

I will never forget that basketball game in Auburn. "Did that really just happen?" was what I kept saying.

My wife isn't like me...she's even-keeled, sweet natured and kind. But bring up the officiating in that '05 football game and another side of her that I've only seen once comes out.

We have got to take the lead back in this series. There is no reason we shouldn't win the next 4 vs them.

Bop said...

Trey Blackmon news:

Whit said...

I won't forget when Robert Baker tried to taunt UGA V in 1996. Rule number one is you don't taunt Happy Fun Ball. There is not even a rule that says do not taunt a large English bulldog. You should just know that from birth.

I also won't forget the first time I felt burning hatred for Auburn. They had just beaten us in Sanford Stadium and decided to pluck large branches from the hedges and flaunt around with them in their mouth.

And I won't forget that little fat coach with the tie and ballcap they had in the 90s when they had that fluke season.

Mike said...

For the record I just want to say that JJ's solemn vow to boycott UGA-Auburn athletic events is well documented in our family. He's not just saying that for the sake of a good post.

Screw AU, but you have to have some level of respect or sympathy for Blackmon for doing that, right?

Whit you're right, never taunt happy fun ball. That thing with Baker and UGA V was almost a display of pure natural selection.

Bop said...

Yeah M, I gotta lot of respect for the boycott.

Holy crap Whit, how do we go all week without a Tater Tot mention?