Tag Archives: Phil Gargis

Auburn Tigers 2015: Whispering Hope

When I sat down at my computer to do this column, I began the process of doing some last second research to help firm up my ideas. I am THE Eternal Optimist and I can spot a silver lining in a dark cloud quicker than you can say, “Damnit! Another interception!”  #[email protected]#*!%!

I was prepared to do the ultimate Realist piece and just get right down to the nitty-gritty of how this Gus Bus ran off in a ditch, and Auburn’s call to AAA to pull her out. It was not a column I was looking forward to putting together. I was going to throw my sunshine pump deep into the woods behind our house and muse upon what I perceived to be the, seemingly, fatal flaws that exist within the 2015 edition of the Auburn Tigers football team.

I was going to re-live bits of the 1975 and 2012 seasons, as bad as I hated to.

The 1975 Tigers opened to much fanfare with another group of Tigers, these from Memphis. Phil Gargis, Mitzi Jackson, Secedrick McIntyre and company were picked to finish near the top of the polls en route to a magical season, Shug Jordan’s last… no dice.

Memphis 31, Auburn 20 (and it wasn’t that close).

Game two… Baylor 10, Auburn 10.

Game three… Tennessee 21, Auburn 17

Game four… Virginia Tech 23, Auburn 17 (and this was a mostly inept gang of Gobblers. No Beamer Ball here.)

Auburn wound up with a 3-6-2 record, that year, and ended Coach Jordan’s tenure on a very sour note.

And the 2012 campaign? My intention was to focus on the Texas A&M debacle as an example of the agony suffered those three short years ago, a 63-21 total embarrassment. A microcosm of the season. My wife and I left that no-contest with 1:51 seconds remaining in the FIRST QUARTER, and Auburn trailing 21-0. And it’s not that it was 21-0. The problem is WE HAD NO HOPE. We were beaten. We knew it. And we, simply, could no longer bear it.

NCAA Football: Rice at Texas A&M

This past Saturday afternoon I was having flashbacks, as I cringed, while watching Auburn being manhandled in Baton Rouge. No, not the residual psychedelic kind of flashbacks from the years of 1973-1975. I was having a much more painful, and much less enjoyable, type.

My mind was swirling with the tattered and broken images of the 1975 and 2012 (3-9, 0-8 in the SEC) Auburn Football seasons. It hurt. It was hellish.

“How can this be?” I thought. I am no coach and I certainly am no expert. I have no earthly idea how one could fix the problems that had beset the 2015 Auburn Tigers, but I had a great many questions. I’m sure most of you had, or are still having, similar questions.

We now fast forward back to me at the computer. Today.

A “twitter” notification appeared to me in the top right hand corner of the screen of our iMac as I prepared to type. It was from our executive editor at Campus Pressbox, Damien Bowman.

“auburn going with Sean White this week. wow.”

I happened to be on the auburn.scout.com site at the time. I had actually begun to read the beginning of notes from Coach Malzahn’s presser this morning. I went back to the master board of topics and found it. Redshirt freshman, Sean White, was to start Saturday.

Now, hear me on this. I have nothing against Jeremy Johnson. I love him as I do all of the Auburn team. I think he is a tremendous talent but, for some reason, that talent has not been in evidence thus far during the 2015 football season. It has been quite the opposite. He and the entire team have, collectively, performed abysmally. And I had begun to lose hope… rapidly.

No “joy in Mudville.” Casey had whiffed, big time, down in Death Valley. And not only that, things had been looking grim since the second half of the Louisville game.

But now… HOPE. Maybe just a glimmer but, nonetheless, HOPE.

Just that one sliver of information changed my perspective on Saturday’s upcoming game vs. Miss State.

Maybe Auburn is righting the ship! HOPEfully they are piecing this thing back together!

Somehow, Auburn had been installed as a 4 point favorite over the Bulldogs. Now, mind you, that only means that the odds-makers had come up with a number to induce betting on BOTH Auburn and Miss State. It doesn’t mean that Vegas thinks Auburn is 4 points better than State. And if the betting goes heavily on the boys from STARK-Vegas then that line will drop to reflect so, and to create more wagering on Auburn. State would then become only a 3 or a 2 point underdog. Or it could have gone all the way to a “pick ’em.”

(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)
(Photo Credit: Rogelio V. Solis — AP Photo)

Bird-Vegas had made State anywhere from a 7 to 10 point favorite. I didn’t see how Auburn could contain Dak Prescott, play hard-nosed on BOTH sides of the ball, and triumph in the end. Based on what we had seen so far in the season I could not see Auburn prevailing. I said as much during our current SEC 411 podcast. I picked Mississippi State to win.

How was I to write this, put it in black and white? I would rather have a root canal than to pick against Auburn in my weekly column.

That is no longer an issue because of… HOPE.

Yes! It springs eternal!

 

Whispering Hope

Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard.

Hope with a gentle persuasion whispers her comforting word

Wait till the darkness is over, wait till the tempest is gone

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is gone.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

If, in the dusk of the twilight, dim be the region afar

Will not the deepening darkness brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us, why should the heart sink away?

When the dark midnight is over, watch for the breaking of day.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

Hope as an anchor so steadfast, rends the dark veil for the soul

Whither the Master has entered, robbing the grave of its goal

Come then, oh come, glad fruition, come to my sad weary heart

Come, O thou blest hope of glory, never, oh never depart.

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

The words from that old hymn now resonated in my heart.

Why do I have now have more HOPE in Auburn’s chances under the lights of Jordan-Hare Saturday night?

For one, I have heard there have been some serious “come to Jesus” meetings in the Auburn Athletic Complex, and on the practice fields, this week. I have also heard that if you were a defensive player and sat in defensive coordinator Coach Will Muschamp’s meetings this week, that your young ears have been permanently blistered.

This man is a college head coach. Seriously.

But that happens often in football complexes across the country each and every week.

I also think that, as a result of these meetings and practices, that the AU coaching staff will find 22 players who really want to lay it all on the line Saturday.

Furthermore, I DO think that Sean White will provide the spark that the Tigers have been needing, desperately, in this, still young, 2015 season.

[Ostendorf: Auburn to start Sean White over Jeremy Johnson at QB]

So what does this all mean?

This means that Auburn will start playing AUBURN football at 6:30 PM CDT on Saturday. They will play with promise, passion and precision.

AND…

They will win.

Auburn 31, Miss State 24

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice

Making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

E-mail Bird at [email protected], follow him on Twitter @Autull or visit his personal website at BirdLeCroy.com.

Auburn: Past, Present and Future

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

THE PAST

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…

THE PRESENT

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.

THE FUTURE

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.

40 Years Ago: The 1974 Auburn Tigers

74 Gator Bowl
It was September 14, 1974 and the unranked Auburn Tigers opened the season at Legion Field in Birmingham, AL. The Tigers were led by Ralph “Shug” Jordan who was entering his 24th campaign as head coach. The opponent was the Louisville Cardinals who were coached by, then unknown, Lee Corso. Auburn came out on top that night, 16-3, in a game that didn’t give fans any reason to expect the run the Tigers were about to embark on.
I was sitting on the end of a bleacher seat in Troy, AL, with my ear glued to a transistor radio, listening to Gary Sanders call the Auburn game. It was incidental that the Trojans were embroiled in a hard fought game with Northeast Louisiana, a game which they won 20-19. I trudged back to my fraternity house, Lambda Chi Alpha, happy that Auburn had won but wondering what the remainder of the season held in store.
The Chattanooga Moccasins, not named for the snake but the moccasin shape of the river near their home, were next up and did not create much anxiety or apprehension in the week leading up to the game. Auburn summarily disposed of the visitors 52-7. Many of of us who attended the game left at halftime to get a head start on that evening’s festivities.
The following Saturday on The Plains was an entirely different story. The 14th ranked Tennessee Volunteers were coming to Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time EVER and all in attendance would rarely even take a seat during this highly anticipated contest.
The previous year UT had beaten AU 21-0 in a driving rainstorm in Knoxville. Adding insult to injury, Tennessee punted on first down more than once knowing the combination of the downpour and the inept Auburn offense were probably not a threat to score that afternoon. They did not. The Vols came out on top 21-0.
The 1974 game was shaping up as a doozy. Neither team had lost and the Vols had been installed as a four point favorite. I told anyone who would listen to take Auburn and the points. This was a true “lock.” There was no way Auburn was going to lose this one… and they didn’t. The Tiger defense, led by linebacker Ken Bernich and bookends Rusty Deen and Liston Eddins, gave Vol All-American quarterback Condredge Holloway and his entire offense fits. The visitors would not score. They almost failed to cross the fifty yard line even once.
Auburn reserve fullback Kenny Burks scored three touchdowns in leading the Tigers to a most impressive 21-0 win. Yes, 21-zip. The same score the Vols had won by in ’73. People were beginning to take notice.
Visiting, and eleventh ranked, Auburn pulled out a squeaker in the rain against the Miami Hurricanes the following week. The Tigers vaunted defense was number one in the country. Miami had a stout group of defenders themselves. Auburn 3, Miami 0.
The Tigers were now on a roll as they mowed down their next three opponents. Their veer offense had come on strong to complement the stifling defense. Quarterback Phil Gargis along with running backs Secedrick McIntyre and Mitzi Jackson were putting up big rushing numbers. Gargis was also teaming up with wide receiver Thomas Gossom for some big plays through the air. The scores of said trifecta… Auburn 31, Kentucky 13, Auburn 31, Georgia Tech 22 and Auburn 38, Florida State 6.
On November 2, the undefeated Tigers went into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL ranked number five in the country. The Florida Gators were ranked at number eleven. The game was nationally televised. Hopes were high. Those hopes were dashed as the home team came away with a 25-14 victory.
Regroup and press on. In week nine Auburn got by a very tough Mississippi State Bulldog squad 24-20 in Jackson, MS. Even over the radio, the home team’s cowbells were deafening. This prompted Shug Jordan to complain loudly to the SEC office and the artificial noisemaker ban was spawned.
The Georgia Bulldogs were next up in Auburn. They came up on the short end of a real nail-biter, 17-13.
Now the stage was set for a showdown between seventh ranked Auburn and the number two Alabama Crimson Tide. Sitting with friends in the Auburn student section, I saw the Tigers come ever so close to pulling off the upset on a classic autumn day back in Legion Field.
Bama managed to go to the locker room with a 10-7 lead over the Tigers. They stretched their lead to 17-7 in the third stanza on a 13-yard run by Calvin Culliver. Late in that quarter Phil Gargis hit what appeared to be a 41-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Gossom. The points were put on the scoreboard, and then they were taken down. An official, who was far removed from the play, said Gossom had stepped on the boundary line and the score was called back. This same official had not even thrown a flag.
Gargis scored late in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run. Auburn missed on the two-point conversion attempt. They got the ball again with time running out and moved into Tide territory. In a bit of trickery, the Tigers ran a reverse to end Dan Nugent. He was met near the line of scrimmage by linebacker, and future head coach on the Capstone, Mike DuBose and was jarred loose from the ball. Bama recovered the fumble and went on to win, 17-13.
Auburn regrouped after the Iron Bowl and played the Texas Longhorns in the Gator Bowl. The Tigers were underdogs to Coach Darrell Royal’s team. They were having none of that. They dominated their Southwest Conference foes in a 27-3 walloping.
Auburn wound up the 1974 season 10-2. Their final rankings were number eight in the AP poll and number six in the UPI poll.
1974 was a great year for the Auburn Tigers as they far exceeded everyone’s expectations. It is now forty years later and expectations are sky high. Will they meet or exceed those expectations? The answer from here is a resounding YES!