It seems that every generation of Auburn people have its special seasons and games to remember. In recent years, the Kick-Six or the undefeated teams of 2004 and 2010 are held in highest regard. To the Baby Boomers, few teams come close the special and unexpected 1972 Auburn Tigers, known far and wide as “The Amazin’s”. The first time I even heard of this storied team was looking at a framed picture of the team with the scores of each game on the wall of my grandparent’s house as you walk in from the garage. I also remember walking around downtown Auburn the Friday prior to the 2011 Iron Bowl and asking my dad what “17-16”, the name of a local bar, meant.
Simply put the 1972 Auburn Tigers finished the season with 10-1 record, 6-1 in SEC Play, and won the Gator Bowl 24-3 over Colorado. The season featured wins against #4 Tennessee, #18 Ole Miss, #17 Florida State, #2 Alabama, and #13 Colorado. While this is certainly a season we would all immediately sign up for in the year 2022, what makes this 10 win season so special in the history of Auburn football? Well, I think a bit of context might help out with that.
Following the 1971 season, Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan and star receiver Terry Beasley, both of which would have their numbers retired at Auburn, were drafted to the NFL. Beasley to the San Francisco 49ers in the first round and Sullivan to the Atlanta Falcons in the second round. Sullivan and Beasley led the Tigers over the three prior seasons to 8-3, 9-2, and 9-2 records and three straight bowl appearances. I think it’s pretty obvious that the 1972 season would be a bit of a reset after the recent success. Might I also mention, Auburn’s arch rival, Alabama was coming off an SEC Championship during the 1971 season. To lower expectations even further, quarterback David Lyon and tailback Harry Unger were injured in the spring and would be out for the season.
Despite the low expectations clouding the beginning of the season, Auburn did what it’s done many times before, Auburn beat the odds. The Tigers opened the season with a win on the road in Jackson against Mississippi State 14-3 and then followed that up with a lackluster 14-7 win in the home opener against Chattanooga. Confidence wasn’t very high among the Auburn faithful leading into the season’s first big test, #4 Tennessee in Birmingham. Auburn entered the game a 14 plus point underdog to the Volunteers that were on a ten game win streak. Some how the Tigers found a way to upset Tennessee 10-6 with just 143 yards of offense. Auburn would once again win in Jackson against the Rebels 19-13 before suffering the season’s only loss in Tiger Stadium to #9 LSU 35-7. Auburn won the next four against the likes of Georgia Tech, Florida State, Florida, and Georgia before heading into an Iron Bowl showdown against the #2 Crimson Tide. Alabama had a 16-0 lead in the fourth quarter and it seemed that the magic that had led the ‘Amazin’s’ to this point had run out. What happened next would not only be the most amazing moment of the season but, quite possibly, in the history of the football program prior to the kick six. Auburn would get a quick field goal to cut the Alabama lead down to 16-3. Legend has it that both sides of Legion Field “booed” the field glad attempt. Auburn people booed because they thought Coach Jordan should have gone for the touchdown and Alabama people booed because it blew the point spread among those who has bet on Alabama. Alabama would get the ball back and then have to punt. Linebacker Bill Newton had gone up the middle and blocked the punt and David Langner caught it on the bounce and ran it in for a touchdown. The Alabama lead now down to 16-10. Alabama would once again get the ball back and have to punt. In a near identical play to the previous punt, Newton got up the middle and blocked the punt and Langner caught it and ran it in for a touchdown. Auburn with an extra point pulled off the impossible and took down the Tide 17-16 in the 1972 Iron Bowl. The phrase “Punt Bama Punt” was born. Auburn would go on to beat Colorado 24-3 in the Gator Bowl to end the season in the top five.
As we look back on a season 50 years later that was filled with unforgettable games and classic Auburn memories, it’s easy to see that this “unpredictable Auburn” is not a recent trend and perhaps could come alive again this season.
Gameday Information - Auburn versus San José State | Game Two
Timeline: 3:30pm - Tiger Tailgate Show - Auburn Network
4:30pm - Tiger Walk 4:30pm - Jordan-Hare Stadium Gates Open
5:10pm - Four Corners Pep Rally 6:10pm - Pre-Game Festivities Begin
6:32pm - Kickoff
Watch: ESPN U
Listen: Auburn Sports Network
Patrick Party Information - Coverage of Week Two Patrick Party Pregame: Patrick Party Pregame, live from Auburn, AL, will air from 8:00am - 9:00am on Saturday Morning. Pregame will take an inside look into the Auburn Football Tiger's week two matchup against the San José State Spartans and all of the other games across the College Football landscape. Pregame is available on the Patrick Party's Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and website www.patrickparty.com.
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Patrick Party Podcast: The Patrick Party Podcast provides listeners with a weekly update and analysis of the Auburn Football program. This week's Patrick Party Podcast debuted Thursday morning. Episodes are made available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and www.patrickparty.com