Tag Archives: Jimmy Sidle

Auburn vs. Mississippi State: From Jackson to Starkville

November 9, 1963 was a blustery, overcast day in Jackson, Mississippi. There was also occasional misty rain. But it wasn’t particularly cold.

My parents found a local downtown restaurant where we could step in, out of the weather, and get a warm beverage. Coffee for them and hot chocolate for me. Or was it a Coke? I don’t clearly recall that bit of minutia.

One thing that I do remember was peering at the front page of that day’s Jackson Clarion-Ledger newspaper and seeing a cartoon of a Bulldog cutting a rope, on which walked a Tiger, with a pair of large scissors. Under the rope was the caption “7-0 winning streak.”

The Bulldog in the cartoon represented Mississippi State and the Tiger was one of the Auburn ilk.

The ’63 edition of The Auburn Tigers was indeed riding a seven-game winning streak and were ranked No. 5 in the nation. The Maroons, as State was still referred to in many circles, were unranked.

The cartoon aroused in me a huff of righteous indignation. How dare they think they can beat us?

At this point in my young life I had attended a total of four Auburn football games. I’m 4-0! Yes, how dare the idiots at the Clarion-Ledger insinuate a win by the lowly Bulldogs over the mighty, undefeated Tigers?!

Game time!

Auburn led State at the half, 10-3, on the strength of a zig-zagging 47-yard run by All-American quarterback Jimmy Sidle and a 30-yard field goal by Woody Woodall. Mississippi State’s Justin Canale tallied its only score with a 35-yard three-pointer.

The home team tied the game in the third quarter as quarterback Sonny Fisher hit halfback Ode Burrell on a 22-yard pass play.

The game rocked on as a tough defensive battle deep into the fourth stanza. I wasn’t worried in the least. Jimmy Sidle or Tucker Frederickson or somebody would step up and do something to pull out the Tigers’ eighth win in a row.

Then it became eerily late in the ballgame. My concern was not that my precious Auburn would lose. My concern was that I better haul fanny down to the playing field to secure a chin strap.

I took off from my perch in the east stands, out the portal, and broke into a dead sprint around the concourse of the north end zone.

Run, Bird, run!

I made my way to a portal on the west side that I approximated to empty into a view of the fifty-yard line.There I stopped in the opening to catch my breath and check on the action below. Holy cow! The clock had been working quite erratically all game long, but now the sporadically lit bulbs seemed to indicate that there were maybe 28 seconds left.

Oh my! And Mississippi State had called a timeout with the football spotted at Auburn’s 29-yard line!

Justin Canale and the Bulldog kicking team trotted calmly on to the slightly muddy turf to attempt what could be the game-winning field goal.

I held my breath.

The snap. The hold. The kick.

The end over end kick split the south end zone uprights perfectly. And I thought to myself, this can’t be. Auburn cannot lose a game which I attend. It wouldn’t be fair.

A last ditch effort to complete two or three passes failed and it did, indeed, happen.

Home 13, Visitors 10. The old weather-beaten clock showed zero seconds remaining.

I dutifully made my way down the stairs and through the gate to Auburn’s bench area. I was actually happy to be there but the somber looks on the faces of the Tiger players told the story. We lost. No undefeated season.

The reality was harsh but I did have to secure my souvenir. I saw number 15, backup Auburn quarterback Mailon Kent, walking toward the bench to pick up his helmet. He did so as I arrived there at about the same time he did. I meekly asked, “Mailon, can I have your chin strap?”

I thought I saw the corners of his mouth bend just a wee bit upward as he unsnapped the white foam rubber equipment piece from his head gear and handed it gently to me.

I thanked him and broke into another run. This time down the Auburn sideline, back toward the north end zone, around it, and up to the row where my parents stood patiently. But I was beaming from ear to ear.

Yes, Auburn lost. But it was their only regular season loss of that wonderful, memorable season.

Auburn won its final two games over Georgia and Alabama to go 9-1. The victory over Alabama broke a four-year losing streak to the Crimson Tide. And it wasn’t just an old losing streak. Auburn did not score at all during that drought.

Quarterback Jimmy Sidle went on to rush for 1,006 yards and set the single-season rushing record for Auburn. The Tigers played Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Oh! The 10-8 win over Bama? Sidle was hurt in that game and the second string quarterback, Mailon Kent, filled in late and threw a short touchdown pass to Tucker Frederickson to erase an 8-3 Alabama lead and give Auburn the victory. It was fitting and I, in some small, small way, felt a part of it.

The loss to Mississippi State was painful, and it remains so to this day. But an unusually short sixth grader from Camden, in Lower Alabama, most assuredly grew as a person during that special season of 1963.

This 64-year-old kid is looking forward, with the same eager and wide-eyed anticipation, to the Mississippi State game tomorrow as that 11-year-old did back then.

The game is no longer played in Jackson. State home games were moved to Starkville in 1982.

Yes, the venue has changed and one more important thing will be different from that November day in 1963.

Auburn will win.


E-mail Bird at bird [dot] lecroy [at] campuspressbox [dot] com or follow him on Twitter@Autull

Auburn: Past, Present and Future

Auburn's future. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson.
Auburn’s future. Quarterback Jeremy Johnson.


This week in Auburn Football History:

The first football game ever played on November 19th was versus Georgia in 1932, Auburn 14, Georgia 7. The game was played in Columbus, GA. The Tigers went 9-0-1 that year and were Southern Conference Champions.The next year Auburn would join the newly formed Southeastern Conference.

In 1960 Auburn trounced the Florida State Seminoles by a score of 57-21. Ed Dyas kicked his 13th field goal of the season which broke his own national season and career records. But, unfortunately, he was tackled into a bench on the sidelines later in the game and sustained facial fractures. Auburn finished 8-2, ranked 13th in the AP poll and 14th in the UPI.

On 11/19/2005 the Auburn Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide. The final score was 28-18 but did not reflect the dominance the Tigers displayed on that sunny afternoon in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Tide quarterback Brodie Croyle was sacked 11 times prompting bumper stickers urging motorists to “Honk If You Sacked Brodie.”

The last time Auburn played a game on 11/19 was three years ago in 2011. They overcame a spirited Samford team, 35-16. The Bulldogs were coached by Auburn’s first Heisman trophy winner, Pat Sullivan. That bring’s us back to…


Auburn (7-3) vs. Samford (7-3). Pat Sullivan remains the head coach at the Baptist school located in Homewood, AL. He heads the list of total wins in a career for a Samford coach with 47. More on Coach Sullivan shortly. First a few, quick notable takes on Samford past.

In 1841 the institution was founded in Marion, AL as Howard College. It is a private school affiliated with the Alabama Baptist Convention. It was named in honor of John Howard who was noted for his work in prison reform in England.

In 1895 women were first admitted to Howard College.

Bobby Bowden played quarterback at Howard from 1949-1952. Bowden was named offensive coordinator there in 1954 and he went on to become the head coach of the Bulldogs from 1959-1962. Bowden compiled a sterling record of 31-6 during his tenure.

Bowden’s son, Terry, was the head coach at Samford from 1987-1992. He was also quite successful there. He won 45 games while losing 23. One game ended in a tie. Most of us know what occurred with this Coach Bowden in 1993; he took over as the head coach at Auburn where he put together a 47-17-1 record. His .731 winning percentage remains first in Auburn Football history.

Current Florida State head coach, Jimbo Fisher, played quarterback for Terry Bowden at Samford in 1987. He was named Division III national player of the year.

Now back to Pat Sullivan. I have been following Auburn Football very, very closely for the past 54 years. My favorite players, through the years, include Bobby Hunt, Jimmy Sidle, Tucker Frederickson, Terry Beasley, Terry Henley, Phil Gargis, Joe Cribbs, James Brooks, Dameyune Craig, Rudi Johnson and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. Also near the top of that list would be former Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson and Cam Newton.

I have followed and loved, lived and died with these and a host of other Tiger greats throughout these five plus decades. But the player at the very top of that list of favorites is Patrick Joseph Sullivan.

Pat Sullivan is the epitome of an Auburn man.

In his career, 1968-1972, as varsity quarterback on The Plains he led Auburn to regular season records of 8-2, 8-2 and 9-1. These years included 49-26 and 33-28 wins over cross-state rival Alabama. The 49-26 win over the Tide in 1969 is the most points EVER scored on a Bear Bryant coached team.

In 1968 Sullivan brought the Tiger freshman back from a 27-0 deficit to defeat the Crimson Tide frosh, 36-27.

In the 33-28 victory over Bama in 1970, Super Sully, as he was fondly known, brought Auburn back after trailing 17-0 in the first half. The game, played at Birmingham’s Legion Field, was the first win that I ever witnessed over the Tide. Coach Bryant said that the only thing Sullivan didn’t do that day was sell hot dogs and take up tickets. He was masterful on that beautiful Saturday afternoon.

I can still hear Gary Sanders, the voice of the Auburn Tigers during the Sullivan years, on the small, white Philco radio we were glued to on autumn Saturdays… “At quarterback number 7, Pat Sullivan, a 6 foot 190 pound sophomore form John Carroll High School in Birmingham.”

The biggest victory, to this point, in Pat Sullivan’s life did not occur on the football field.

In September of 2003 Sullivan was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his jaw and tongue. This resulted from years of smokeless tobacco use. It was grave. He was given less than a 50% chance of survival. It was the toughest battle he ever fought. He was found clear of cancer cells in April of 2004 but the disease took a tremendous toll on Sullivan’s body.

God bless Pat Sullivan.

Sullivan will bring his Bulldogs to play Auburn’s Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium Saturday in a 6 PM CST kickoff. I shudder at the sound of that Samford mascot nickname after last week’s drubbing ‘between the hedges’ in Athens, GA. Auburn will not be drubbed Saturday. They will win decisively. I will be pulling for Auburn to win. I will also be pulling for Coach Sullivan. It will be an emotional night for him and for those of us who love him dearly.


What does the future hold for Auburn?

When this weekend’s clash is said and done their record will stand at 8-3. They will move up from their current position of 14th in the College Football Playoff poll if someone above them loses. The way things are going here in 2014, that should happen.

Then, on November 29th, they will face the team ranked number one in that poll. The Tigers will face off with the Alabama Crimson Tide, in Bryant-Denny Stadium, that evening at 6:45 PM CST. If Auburn were to upset Bama they would vault in the polls and in the minds of college football fans everywhere.

A win in these next two games would make the Tigers 9-3. That would then conclude a very good regular season and a spot in a prestigious bowl game. That would be a great building block toward 2015 and beyond.

We shall see.

50 Years Ago: The 1964 Auburn Tigers

It was September and the excitement was building to a fever pitch in the state of Alabama. Auburn was coming off a 9-1 regular season record with a heartbreaking 13-7 loss to Nebraska in the Orange Bowl (AU’s last appearance in the game). Alabama finished 8-2 with a victory over Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl. To make things even more exciting, the Tigers were picked by Sports Illustrated to be the number one team in the country.
Boys and girls, this was before any hint of a BCS, a College Football Playoff or anything resembling a way to come up with a “true” national champion.
Jimmy Sidle, Auburn’s All American quarterback, who set their single season rushing record with 1,006 yards in 1963, was back as was Tucker Frederickson and a host of other talented teammates. The stage was set for a monster season on the Plains.
The first game in 1964 was played on a muggy Saturday afternoon in Auburn. The University of Houston was the opening day opponent and the Cougars were a decided underdog. Auburn had traveled to Texas to defeat this team, 21-14, in it’s 1963 opener and fans were more than ready to “tee it up.”
The Tigers prevailed over the Cougars by a score of 30-0. It truly did appear that this team was capable of accomplishing very big things. An SEC Championship ? Maybe. A national championship ? Possibly. BUT Jimmy Sidle hurt his right shoulder and did not pass the ball well in the next game versus Tennessee, although he did run for 94 yards, and Auburn eked out a 3-0 conference win.
Next on the schedule was a night game at Stoll Field in Lexington, KY. Auburn lost three fumbles and, without Sidle being able to pass effectively, the Wildcats came away with a 20-0 victory over the Tigers. A once promising season was now beginning to take on a more somber tone and just when it didn’t seem that things could get much worse… they did. Sidle suffered a double shoulder separation in the next game against Chattanooga and the visions of grandeur, less than one month ago, were now becoming only shattered images of what might have been.
Auburn went on to stumble to a 6-4 record in 1964.
I attended my first Iron Bowl in ’64. It is now a bittersweet memory. The game was played on Thanksgiving Day and it was televised nationally. To say I was excited would be a gross understatement. The undefeated Crimson Tide were solid favorites but that did nothing to dampen my enthusiasm. We were on the way to visit my father’s family In Isabella, AL on Wednesday of that week en route to Birmingham. As we passed through Selma a short sports segment played on the AM radio of our 1963 Plymouth Fury. Frank Gifford was doing predictions and he informed us listeners that the undefeated Tide should have “no trouble” with “Ah-burn.” I was livid !
Alabama had a great deal of trouble with “Ah-burn” on that brilliant Saturday afternoon in the “Football Capital of the South.” My Tigers led the Tide 7-6 at halftime and our hopes were very high. Tom Bryan, the sophomore AU quarterback, was having a solid day and Tucker Frederickson was simply playing his heart out. But Ray Ogden ran the second half opening kickoff back 107 yards for a touchdown. Bama made the two-point conversion and we trailed 14-7. Later, in the fourth quarter, Joe Namath hit Ray Perkins on a 23-yard pass and Auburn lost a tough one 21-14.
It is hard to believe the 1964 college football season is now that far back in the rear view mirror. It does seem like just yesterday when a 12 year old kid from LA (Lower Alabama), who had earlier in the year contracted a permanent case of Beatlemania, experienced the heady highs and lasting lows of this great, great game we know as college football.
But hey ! Let’s do it once more with feeling !!!
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