From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, November 29, 1993
AUBURN FOOTBALL COACH TERRY BOWDEN was doing his weekly radio call-in show last Thursday, which consisted mostly of adoring fans telling him how wonderful he was. And why not? Terry's Tigers were 10—0—with only hated Alabama standing in the way of a perfect 11—0 year. A win against the Tide on Nov. 20 would make Bowden the most successful first-year coach in major college football history. Then a caller asked a hypothetical question: "If Auburn scores a touchdown against Alabama on Saturday with 30 seconds left in the game to go ahead 100--0, will you pass or run when you go for the two-point conversion?" Such is the depth of hatred in Auburn for those folks in Tuscaloosa.
Last Saturday in Auburn, a sellout crowd (85,214) of already bonkers, going-wacko, heading-toward-apoplexy fans saw all their hopes and dreams and fantasies and wishes come true—well, except for winning 100—0. Auburn won 22—14. Good enough. After all, Bowden admits, "we don't have the ability to blow people out. All we do is play just good enough to win the game that day."
Because they are serving the first year of a two-year NCAA penalty for cheating, the Tigers couldn't be on television this season, can't play in the SEC championship game on Dec. 4 and can't go to a bowl this year or next. Might Auburn be No. 1? We'll never know.
What we do know is that Auburn was better than Alabama on Saturday, even though winning required a miracle—which came from one Patrick Nix, a little known sophomore quarterback from Rainbow City, Ala. After starter Stan White was lost for the day with strained ligaments in his left knee, there was Nix, his team trailing 14—5 and looking at fourth down, 15 yards to go, at the Alabama 35. In the huddle Nix looked at wide receiver Frank Sanders and said, "Frank, go catch it." With that—no warmup throws, no consultations—Nix threw a strike to Sanders at the three-yard line. Sanders outdueled defender Tommy Johnson for the ball, then turned and dived into the end zone. Auburn trailed just 14—12. A 26-yard field goal by Scott Etheridge early in the fourth quarter put the Tigers up 15—14, and then, with just 2:19 left, a blazing 70-yard dash by running back James Bostic closed the deal.
This Auburn season has definitely been fantasy-driven. The team is essentially the same group that Pat Dye coached to a 5-5-1 record last year. Moreover, this is Bowden's first big-time head-coaching job, and he readily admitted that he never would have gotten this job if his name hadn't been Bowden—as in Bobby, his dad. But he did get the job, and he surely delivered. A season that began in despondency has ended in delirium because Terry Bowden came in and just willed things in a positive direction.