AUBURN WAS CLINGING TO A 14-10 lead with 5:14 to play in the third
quarter at Vanderbilt Stadium, but the Commodores' I-bone offense --
some locals call it the I-sore -- was presenting the Tigers with an
I-ful. For nearly eight minutes Vanderbilt had held the ball and
bulled steadily forward, advancing 68 yards in 10 plays to earn a
first-and-goal at the Auburn three. ''In a situation like that,
you're just coming off the ball,'' Tiger defensive end Gary Walker
said later. ''They're lining up guys and saying, 'Hey, we're coming
at you, and you have to stop us.' Everybody had to reach down.''
On first down Vanderbilt quarterback Kenny Simon rushed for two
yards. On the next play 5 ft. 7 in., 170-pound tailback Jermaine
Johnson attempted to hurdle the pile at the line of scrimmage, but
Auburn linebackers Anthony Harris and Terry Solomon met him in
midair. Johnson was stopped cold. On third down fullback Royce Love,
who had battered the Tigers on dive plays all day long, tried once
again and blasted to within a foot of the goal line. When Commodore
coach Gerry DiNardo chose to forgo the field goal on fourth down,
defensive tackle Randy Hart laid down the law to his counterparts
across the line as he lowered himself into his three-point stance.
''I was just telling them they weren't getting in,'' Hart recalled.
''We were not letting them in.''
Simon took the snap, pivoted left and pitched to Johnson. Harris,
meanwhile, penetrated the line of scrimmage, and when Johnson again
tried to rise up and over the line, the 6 ft. 2 in., 221-pound Harris
was there to meet him square and sure. Johnson tumbled backward, and
Harris roared in triumph. ''They chose to run him, and I chose to
take him down,'' Harris said. Added linebacker Mike Pelton, ''I just
never believed they were going to get in. It just shows you we've got
11 guys with a lot of heart.''
Minutes later, with the aid of a clutch 59-yard punt from his own
end zone by the Tigers' Terry Daniel and a time-consuming, 73-yard
drive down to the Vandy one-yard line, Auburn had secured its second
A win over the Commodores should probably have come more easily:
The Vanderbilt team that ran for 230 yards against the Tigers had
gained just 32 the week before, against Ole Miss. Still, the victory
did come, and a sense of Auburn's character was beginning to emerge.
''This was clearly the best win we've had all year,'' coach Terry
Bowden said after the game. ''I saw a team that was going to find a
way to win, and that's one thing we've been looking for at Auburn for
a long time.''
By Monday the Tigers' unbeaten record and the possibility of an
amazing season had begun to sink in. ''We had a lot of fans chanting,
'It's great to be an Auburn Tiger,' and we haven't heard that in a
long time,'' said fullback Tony Richardson.
With the win Bowden became the first Auburn coach to go 5-0 in his
first season since Mike Donahue did so in 1904. ''I dreamed it; it
starts there,'' Bowden said. ''I couldn't be happier. All the credit
goes to the players. They're the ones who made the commitment. We've
won as many games right now as Auburn has won in the past two
years.'' -- H.H.
This is an article from the Dec. 17, 1993 issue