The latter half of the 1970s and the first two years of the 1980s were part of a long dry spell for the Auburn Tigers against their in-state rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Since last losing to Auburn in 1972 in the so-called "Punt Bama Punt game," Alabama under head coach Paul "Bear" Bryant had been on a tear, winning at least a share of three national championships and eight SEC conference titles.
Except for a 10-2 1974 season, Auburn, on the other hand, had gone in the opposite direction. The bulk of the 1970s had been something of a lost decade for the Tigers, with the departure of long-time head coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan on the heels of a 3-6-2 1975 season. His successor Doug Barfield continued the downward spiral and left a hole for his successor Pat Dye to climb out of in his first season as coach in 1981.
After a lackluster 5-6 first season on the Plains, Dye's Auburn Tigers looked to be on the upswing. The 1982 season would prove to be that.
The Tigers had a loaded backfield with junior Lionel James and freshman phenom Bo Jackson.
By November, Tigers fans were wondering if 1982 would be the year the long-suffering Tigers finally ended its losing streak against the Tide.
As Jeff Pearlman points out in his recently released excellent book "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson," Dye and offensive coordinator Jack Crowe installed a play utilizing Jackson's high jump skills in short-yardage situations just days earlier.
"The following afternoon, the entire offense practiced the play without pads," Pearlman wrote. "This time, Jackson would take the handoff and pretend to leap as the offensive line collapsed toward the ground. 'If you saw us running that in practice,' Jackson said, 'you would have thought, 'What in the hell are they doing? They've lost their minds. They'll never run this goofy play.''"
With 2:30 left on the clock, Auburn was in a fourth-and-goal situation with the end zone a foot-and-a-half away.
After the snap, then-Auburn quarterback Randy Campbell handed the ball off to Jackson at the 2-yard-line. Up went Jackson over his offensive lineman, crossing the goal line to give Auburn a 23-22 lead with 2:26 left in the game.
After a failed two-point conversion, Auburn would hold on to win that year's Iron Bowl, which would be remembered as the "Bo Over the Top" game.
Jackson would play all four years for Auburn and win the Heisman Trophy in 1985. He would also go on to have professional careers in the National Football League for the Raiders and Major League Baseball for the Royals, White Sox and Angels.
Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.
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