O.K., O.K., so Majors was a little tipsy with the intoxication of the moment, but Robinson is still the biggest thing in Tennessee since Dolly Parton left Pigeon Forge. "He can throw and he can scramble," says the Dallas Cowboys' top talent hunter, Gil Brandt, who came to see Bo, but wound up enraptured with the odd and dancing vision of Robinson, a 6'3", 187-pound whippet—Jimmie Walker in cleats. Says Majors, "I mean no disrespect, but when you see him running, he looks like a crane. But does he move !"
So fishing-line thin is Robinson that when people recognize him on campus, "They think I'm a basketball player," says Robinson. "They'll stop me and say, 'Hey, nice game last night.' And I'll say, 'You sure?' And they'll say, 'Yeah, you're [Volunteer center] Rob Jones, right?' And I'll say, 'Uh, yeah. Thanks.' "
Truth is, Tennessee is lucky to have Robinson hanging around campus at all. Stuck behind quarterback Alan Cockrell his first two years, Robinson mostly moped his freshman and sophomore seasons. He went home once, considered going another time and almost took his old job back at a hardware store in Tallahassee, Fla. after that. "Tony just didn't have his heart in it," says Vols quarterback coach Walt Harris. To make matters worse, Robinson, who is mostly skin wrapped around pride, was so sure he should start that he refused to redstart. When Cockrell signed a baseball contract with the Giants in June 1984, Robinson was handed the ball and instantly blossomed. From his first game, in which he completed 13 of 16 passes against Washington State to open '84, to the Auburn upset, Robinson may have been the best quarterback you never heard of.
Most unacquainted with Robinson, it seemed, were the Auburn players, who confused him with somebody slow and chicken. "He's not much of a scrambler," said Tiger cornerback Jimmie Warren in The Knoxville Journal. "He's always doing that hook slide. He looks like a quarterback who's either not very good at running or afraid to take a lick.... But I don't think it'll be a problem. It's hard to throw on your back."
The Tennessee band had barely returned to its seats after playing the national anthem when Robinson had Auburn munching modifiers. Wearing his trademark orange wristbands around his ankles (that's how skinny he is), Robinson loped away from the Tiger rush on a third-and-five, cut up the middle and dashed 39 yards, sans hook slide. Five plays later, tailback Charles Wilson scored from the three to finish a 76-yard drive. One way or another, Robinson accounted for 72 of those yards. Six minutes later Auburn's sophomore quarterback, Jeff Burger, gave the ball back to the Vols on a bad pitch, and on the next play Robinson threw a 37-yard touchdown strike to McGee to make the score 14-0.
By now the 94,358 fans at Neyland Stadium had made it ear-splittingly clear that this was not Bo's Show, but Robinson's. And, like Mae West, even when Robinson was bad, he was good. Halfway through the second quarter, Robinson, falling backward in a near sack, heaved the ball vaguely in the direction of split end Vince Carter, who not only was not open but also could hardly see Robinson because of the two defensive backs hindering his view. But Carter came up with the ball and a 21-0 lead. In the fourth quarter, when the Vols needed one more score to help them forget UCLA's 16-point, 11th-hour comeback to tie on Sept. 14, split end Eric Swan-son mugged Auburn safety Arthur Johnson, presto-changing an interception into a 30-yard, let's-get-the-goalposts-now-Joe-Bob touchdown and a 38-12 Tennessee advantage.
Meanwhile, woe befell Bo. While Jackson had 181 yards in the first quarter of his goosebumpy opener against Southwestern Louisiana, he had just 29 at the same juncture against Tennessee. The Vols' defense, playing somewhere on the outskirts of consciousness, bid Bo hello at every hole, turning Auburn's offense into an I sore. No matter where Bo went on this crisp fall day, he got to see the colors change: green to orange, green to orange.
And who better to put Bo in low than Tennessee's 60-year-old defensive whiz. Ken Donahue, wearer of a double-billed Sherlock Holmes hat and bearer of a nose so perfectly flat that his glasses are always askew and never anywhere near the neighborhood of his eyes. This game was for Donahue's peace of mind. Bear Bryant's defensive assistant at Alabama for 19 years, Donahue for the last four years has had to wear the title of the Man Who Lost Bo Jackson at Alabama. As the story goes, Donahue let it slip to Bo during a recruiting visit that Bo wouldn't start at Alabama for two seasons. Jackson signed with Dye.
Bad enough Donahue had to live with that, but Jackson made for an ill reminder by averaging 163 yards against Donahue at Alabama. In his first season back at his alma mater since 1960 (Donahue coached Majors when Majors played in Knoxville), the wise old dean of defense finally put a stop to Bo. Said Donahue, "I was glad to see Bo go to the sideline, and I will be even gladder to see him graduate."
When Donahue wasn't stopping Auburn, Auburn's three quarterbacks were doing the job. The Tiger troika—Burger, freshman Bobby Walden and senior Pat Washington—completed only 10 of 26 throws for 100 yards, with three interceptions, two lost fumbles, countless bumbled plays and a low-light reel of overthrown receivers. So bad was Auburn's passing game that even with the Tigers trailing 24-0 in the third quarter, Dye kept running the ball, using up 7 l/2 minutes but getting no points. "Obviously," said Dye, "we're not settled there."