Invading the Plains

Heading to Jordan-Hare On September 3, 2005, Georgia Tech will travel to Auburn for the first time in 19 years. While Georgia and Auburn rightfully own the title of the “Oldest Rivalry in the Deep South” having met 108 times since 1892, Georgia Tech and Auburn have a pretty longstanding rivalry of their own, having met 91 times since their first meeting in 1892 also.

Georgia Tech and Auburn first met at Brisbine Park in Atlanta in 1892, with Auburn winning 26-0.

Auburn began their “Wreck Tech” pajama parade tradition in 1896. Some Auburn ROTC students, still in their nightshirts, greased the tracks of the railroad from Atlanta into Auburn on the evening before the Tech game. Legend has it that the train carrying Tech’s players slid five miles past the station before stopping and the Tech players were forced to walk back into Auburn where they were routed. Since then, Auburn students haven’t messed with the train tracks, but every year before the Georgia Tech game, the Auburn students would don their flannels and parade through town before the game.

During the first years of the rivalry, Tech was generally unsuccessful against Auburn, going 1-15-1 against the Tigers until 1915. Now, Georgia and Georgia Tech meet annually during Thanksgiving weekend, but between 1915 and 1929, Georgia Tech and Auburn met on Thanksgiving Day each year. For each of those games, Auburn travelled up to Grant Field and Tech enjoyed the home-field advantage going 12-1-2 over those years. Playing in Grant Field was the norm for this series as Tech hosted Auburn for 53 straight games between 1906 and 1959. It’s no surprise that Tech had the upper-hand in this series, winning 31-20-2 over this time, including a 12 year winning streak.

Tech and Auburn alternated playing in Atlanta and Legion Field in Birmingham from 1960 to 1969. It wasn’t until 1970 that Georgia Tech played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, then called Cliff Hare Stadium. The rise of Ralph “Shug” Jordan and later Pat Dye had turned the tables and Auburn starting winning year after year over Tech.

Georgia Tech left the SEC in 1963, but kept SEC foe Auburn on their yearly schedule. In the down years of Georgia Tech football in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the Auburn game along with the Georgia game was one of the few games that sold out badly aging Grant Field. Auburn went on a run against some woeful Tech teams, winning nine straight times from 1979 to 1987. By 1987, Georgia Tech was interested in scaling back their athletics program and playing a less demanding schedule. Auburn was no longer interested in playing in a game where they had little to gain. As a result, the grand series quietly ended.

With Tech football getting a little color in their cheeks in the late 90’s and Auburn churning along strong under Tommy Tuberville, the teams renewed the series for a couple of games. Orignally, the series was to be a home and home game, plus a game at the Georgia Dome (I think the game at the Dome has since been nixed.) Georgia Tech had renovated and expanded Bobby Dodd Stadium and the Auburn game was to be the dedication game for the newly remodeled stadium. On September 6, 2003, the Auburn fans arrived in droves, swaggering and confident in their highly-touted team, sure of certain victory over the lowly Jackets. In fact, so many Auburn fans came to the game that the newly built upper deck in the endzone was awash in orange to the point that I remarked that it could be called “Little Jordan-Hare.”

Something funny happened though…. Auburn didn’t dominate the game. On Tech’s first offensive play of the game, Reggie Ball slinged the ball 54 yards down the field to find Nate Curry behind the defense to open up the game on a field goal 3-0. Quarterback Jason Campbell appeared confused by Tech’s blitzing scheme and the deafening noise from the crowd and was repeatedly sacked. Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown were shut down, Williams only gaining 37 yards and Brown only gaining 47 yards and Auburn was totally unable to solve Tech’s blitz which dared them to throw it long all day.

Mark Logan's catch

Reggie Ball, playing in his first start at home ever as a freshman sealed the deal in the third quarter with a pass to Mark Logan for a touchdown to up the score to 17-3. I think I held my breath for just about the entire second half, waiting for the bottom to fall out. We stood in the crowd thinking, “this can’t be happening…. any minute Auburn is going to wake up and score two or three touchdowns before we can catch our breath”, but it never happened. At the end of the game, the students stormed the field and both goal posts came down. The Auburn Tigers had swaggered into Atlanta for a win and left with a black eye.

The crowd carries Reggie Ball off the field

Now, Georgia Tech returns the favor by visiting Jordan-Hare Stadium for the first time since 1986. Tech hasn’t won in Auburn since 1978. I don’t know if they’ll win this year, but hopefully it will be a lively game. I’m looking forward most to soaking in the Auburn traditions. With all the trips I’ve made to Auburn, I’ve never been there for a game day. I’m looking forward to seeing the “Tiger Walk”, the rolling of Toomer’s Square (well, hopefully it won’t get rolled, but let’s be realistic here.), and I have a feeling the frenzy of 80,000 fans all screaming “War Eagle” on kickoff might cause me to pass out.

I can’t wait.