Battle did not have to tell the players he was pointing for Auburn. As one, they felt the same. "When you talk about the Auburn-Tennessee game, you're talking about the national title," said Curt Watson, a senior fullback who is just 129 yards from the school's alltime rushing record, an honor that leaves him cold. "Oh, I'll be happy to have the record, but it really isn't a lot of yards [1,888], you know. Beating Auburn is something else. Like I was dating this beautiful girl last night. It was our first date, and we're sitting there talking. She was going on about something, and I never heard a word she said. Then all of a sudden I said, 'I hope we beat Auburn.' I hope she understood."
Meanwhile, south in Auburn if there was any tension, it was only in the back room of the local Gulf station where students gather to drink beer and swap lies. Out on the practice field, Shug Jordan, who has been sending Auburn teams into battle since 1951, shuffled about, hands joined behind his back, the picture of total unconcern. "I heard Tennessee said they are determined that Sullivan and Beasley aren't going to do it to them," he said with the suspicion of a smile. "Well, there are other ways to beat them: Sullivan to somebody else, for instance. We had 11 different people catch passes in our opening win over Chattanooga. Tennessee won its bowl game easily last year and finished with an enviable record. But all they seem to remember is that one loss to us. Of course, revenge is a pretty strong motive."
BEASLEY WAS WORRYING MORE ABOUT AN UPPER FRONT tooth broken in half against Chattanooga than he was about any double- or triple-team tricks Tennessee might be planning. He had elected not to have the tooth fixed until after the Tennessee game, perhaps not until the end of the season. "The doctor said he'd have to give me Darvon or something," said the chunky redhead. "I said no. You take anything like that, even an aspirin, and it'll slow you down. And nobody ever accused me of being good-looking anyway."
But at halftime the kid with the broken tooth was just waking up and discovering that his team was behind 6--0. And that he had this terrible headache. When he tried to walk, he found out he had injured his left big toe. He didn't know how, just that it was swollen and painful. About then across the room Sullivan, as team captain, stood up. "I just want to tell the defense," he said, "that if they continue to hold them, we'll get the points we need." Beasley stood up, decided his head felt fine and that his toe didn't hurt. With the team, he limped out onto the field.
The second-half kickoff was more like old times. Tennessee fumbled, and Auburn's Miles Jones recovered on the Vols' 13. Auburn gained just two yards in three plays. Gardner Jett, the placekicker, came in. He had tried a field goal in the first half, but it had been blocked by linebacker Jackie Walker. Given a second chance when Tennessee was called offside, Jett had kicked again, and Walker got a hand on it again. "I don't think he knew how quick I am," Walker said. This time Jett knew. He made the short field goal, cutting Tennessee's lead to 6--3. "He was quicker," said Walker.
Near the end of the third quarter Auburn fumbled, and Tennessee's Ken Lambert recovered near midfield. Tennessee turned that into a 50-yard field goal by Hunt and took a 9--3 lead with less than 15 minutes to play.
Then Sullivan and Beasley started Auburn moving. No more was the ball slipping. It went to Beasley for eight. To Schmalz for 18. To Beasley for 11. When Tennessee's Conrad Graham was red-flagged for pass interference against Beasley, Auburn had the ball at the two. And, of course, it fumbled into the end zone on the first play. Tennessee's Tim Townes recovered for a touchback.
Sparked, Tennessee began to move. In 13 plays the Vols drove to the Auburn 14. Overhead, the rain clouds were gathering. At third-and-two with a possible touchdown or easy field goal coming up, Tennessee followed the game plan. Fumble. Auburn's Bill Luka fell on the ball with 195 pounds of happy muscle. "We can move now," said Sullivan. "Let's go." So here came the Auburn offense. Zap. To Beasley for six. Tennessee shifted into a prevent defense. "We changed our coverage," said Majors. "And their receivers ran deep posts in between our zone. They hit us in the seams."
Sullivan told Schmalz to run a curl. It started that way, but seeing he was well covered, he broke his route, cutting inside. Sullivan hit him with a line drive for 23 yards. Sullivan then called the same play, same pattern. Schmalz broke his route again, cutting inside. Sullivan hit him for 22 yards to the Tennessee 35.