College Football Retro Review: 1987 Tennessee Vs. Auburn

Michael ShibleySenior Analyst IJune 2, 2008

1987 SEC Football
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Auburn Tigers
Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, Tennessee
September 26, 1987
TBS Sports

Background: Tennessee started the 1987 season coming from behind in the 4th quarter to beat Iowa in the 1987 Kickoff Classic and came into this game 3-0 and ranked #11 in the polls. Auburn was 2-0, ranked #3 in the polls, and had easily defeated Texas and Kansas to open the year. Before the SEC expanded to 12 teams in 1992, Tennessee played Auburn every year along with Alabama, Kentucky, and Vanderbilt. So until the split, the Auburn Tigers were one of the Vols big rivals. The stage was set for a battle between two big SEC rivals to see who would get the early leg up in the fight for the conference crown.

The Game: This was the kind of slug fest that Neyland and Shug Jordan would have loved. It was a back and forth game as both teams battled for momentum. Auburn's Freshman Kicker Wynn Lyle kicked two 50+ yard field goals while Tennessee's kicker Phil Reich missed two very badly, as in wide left by about 20 yards (I blame the holder, Randy Sanders). With Auburn leading 6-0 at the half, the Volunteers came out of the dressing room and took the lead on a Reggie Cobb plunge into the end zone. However, Auburn used two long and time consuming drives to take a 20-10 lead with seven minutes to go in the game. However, just like in the Iowa game, the Vols put on a 4th Quarter rally and tied the game on a Reggie Cobb Touchdown with 1:30 left. Auburn's poor clock management made sure the game ended in a 20-20 tie (no overtime yet).

The Big Play: On 4th Down and 1 from the Auburn 7 With 1:37 left in the 4th Quarter and the Big Orange down 20-13, Freshman Running Back Reggie Cobb took the toss and not only got the First Down but the Touchdown as well to help tie the game. Great blocking by the line and clutch running by Cobb made the comeback complete.

MVP: Reggie Cobb did not have his best day, only 66 yards on 20 carries but he got the yards when they mattered and scored both Tennessee touchdowns.

Randomness: When TBS did these SEC games they had a very neat introduction. They had a cartoon of all the SEC Mascots playing football (once I can find a good video editing software for windows I will try and put it up). It is very weird now to see Neyland Stadium back then when it had artificial turf, no upper deck on the North end, and the band sitting in section E. During the pre-game news they talked about this Freshman running back from Florida named Emmitt Smith, I wonder what happened to him?

Impact: Many questioned Tennessee's Head Coach Johnny Majors' decision to go for the tie instead of the win. However, he figured he had a good chance to win the SEC as long as they did not lose the game. That decision almost worked, but it also helped Auburn as they won the SEC Title and finished 9-1-2, losing to Florida State and tied with Syracuse in the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee lost to Alabama and Boston College to finish the season 9-2-1 and had a chance for ten wins in the Peach Bowl against Indiana, the next game on my list.

Rating: Well the saying goes, A tie is like kissing your sister. While not a great game, 4th Quarter rallies are always fun to watch so a mild thumbs up in my book: ***

Next Game: 1987 Peach Bowl: Tennessee vs. Indiana