Last week I talked about the highest scoring “great” game on my list, in which Auburn beat Alabama, 48-45, so it only seems appropriate this week to talk about the lowest scoring “great” game on my list.
No. 19 Florida traveled to Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 4, 1989 with enough baggage to fill six U-Hauls. Gator coach Galen Hall had resigned amid allegations of impropriety Oct. 8, oddly enough, after a win on the road in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in Week 5.
Oct. 16 after another win, starting quarterback Kyle Morris and three other players were suspended for allegedly gambling on pro and college football games. They supposedly did not (and why would we possibly doubt them?) bet on any Florida or SEC games.
This is a direct quote from the Los Angeles Times back in ’89: “There are charges of assault, drug use, fraud, gambling and illegal payoffs facing Florida athletes and coaches.”
Hey, what can I say? It was the SEC in the 80s. Or was it last year?
Oh well, I suppose that’s neither here nor there.
The Gators were 6-1 when they arrived on the Plains even with all the turmoil and boasted the No. 1 defense in the country. They also had the nation’s leading rusher — a young man now referred to as NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. Florida defensive coordinator Gary Darnell had been promoted to head coach and the team was on a five-game winning streak.
No. 12 Auburn was 5-2 on the season with losses on the road in Knoxville, Tennesse, and Tallahassee, Florida, by one score each. The Tigers also fielded one of the best defenses in the country finishing year No. 6 in total defense.
Senior quarterback Reggie Slack was a prototypical “game manager” before that term was even widely used. Stacy Danley and James Joseph anchored the Tigers’ running attack which was more than satisfied with 3 yards and a cloud of dust.
I fully admit the game was not the most exciting for the first 58 minutes.
However, mixing up the ingredients of everything going on leading up to the game, an incredibly exciting ending and the incomparable Jim Fyffe on the call and you somehow wind up with a classic.
Smith scored a touchdown on a 5-yard run in the first quarter. Auburn kicker Win Lyle connected on a 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. That was it. That was practically all the action that took place until Auburn’s final drive.
Again, it wasn’t action-packed like so many games today, but it was fairly normal for the time.
I’ve witnessed quite a few defensive struggles on the Plains and they are just as intense and exhilarating as the shootouts. It’s just in a different way.
Somehow, the Tigers managed to drive to the Florida 25-yard line with 40 seconds to play, the clock running and no timeouts. On fourth and 10, Slack dropped back and hit Shane Wasden in the corner of the end zone. Wasden simply ran straight down the sideline and inexplicably no Gator was within ten yards of him. The entire stadium shook.
You can actually see the goalpost shaking on the ESPN broadcast when Lyle kicks the extra point. It was one of the loudest and most incredible moments in Jordan Hare history.
There’s a great shot of Smith on one knee after the game pounding the turf in frustration. He never was able to solve the Auburn Tigers.
Andy Graham is a regular columnist for The Outlook.