This is Part Five of a five-part series counting down the greatest Iron Bowls of all-time. This year’s game will be played Saturday, November 29th, 2008. The titles for each game are taken from Bill Cromartie’s Braggin’ Rights, the authority on every Iron Bowl ever played.
Dec. 2nd, 1972 – Legion Field, Birmingham, Ala.
Auburn 17 Alabama 16
In 1972, the Alabama Crimson Tide, 10-0, ranked #2 in the country, and gunning for a national championship, was favored to beat the Auburn Tigers by 16 points. That’s exactly what they lead by after the first three quarters of the game. It would have been 17, but Tiger Roger Mitchell blocked ‘Bama’s first extra point attempt in the first quarter of this incredible Iron Bowl. That one is known as “the other kick.”
In fact, UA led AU, 16-3, with five-and-a-half minutes left in the game. The Tiger offense had barely moved the ball all day and showed no signs of doing so. Auburn won the game, 17-16.
Fight, scratch, claw, keep on diggin.’ That’s how the Amazins got it done.
In the fourth quarter, the Legion Field clock beamed 5:31. After a ‘Bama drive stalled at midfield, punter Greg Gantt stood poised to kick the ball to Tiger returner Johnny Simmons, who waited, back in AU territory. Gantt’s punt never came close to Simmons.
Auburn gang-rushed at the snap, and linebacker Bill Newton full-body whacked the ball back into the punter’s face. The ball bounced hard at the 25-yard line, and directly into the hands of defensive back David Langner, who never broke stride as he loped toward the endzone. AU kicker Gardner Jett’s point-after was good, and suddenly the score was 16-10.
But The Tide had dominated the game thus far, and only a miracle was going to put points on the board for the Tigers. On the next possession, Bear Bryant’s team ate some clock and found itself with a fourth down on its own 43. A punt to the stagnant AU offense, and Alabama’s defense would close out the game with a stop, right? Again, Simmons waited to return a punt. Again, he would not get the opportunity.
Cow College? Those Cows Kick
I’d rather beat that cow college one than beat Texas 10 times.
-Bear Bryant, whose Tide had already accepted a bid to play Texas in the Cotton Bowl before the ’72 Iron Bowl
With 1:34 remaining in the game, Gantt lined up on his own 30 to boot the ball away. On what looked like a replay of the earlier attempt, Auburn ransacked the punter. Newton got to the ball first, and he swatted it down. Amazingly, the ball bounced perfectly into Langner’s hands again, and he raced for the score. 16-16.
Mitchell’s blocked PAT in the first quarter made Jett’s point-after attempt now so much more exciting. The incredible Tigers were going for the win. A terrible snap skipped the ball across the turf, but holder Dave Beck got it down on the tee, and Jett knocked it through. Auburn 17 Alabama 16.
‘Bama’s attempt to take back the game fell miserably short, as Langner intercepted a Terry Davis pass, and the “Punt Bama Punt” game was in the books.