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A look back to when Shug’s team dominated the field

The Auburn Plainsman


published by


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What you need to know about this week’s rival before kick off

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Who’s starting for the Tigers and the Bears page 4

SCHEDULE 1 p.m. Tiger Walk

Tigers vs. Bears

1:40 p.m. Spirit March

Sept. 16 vs. Mercer

2:07 p.m. Four Corners Pep Rally


2:48 p.m. Eagle Flies

3 p.m. CT

2:51 p.m. AUMB Pregame



The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017



‘57 TIGERS... Bennett Page SPORTS WRITER

On Sept. 28, 1957, head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan led the unranked Auburn Tigers onto the field in Knoxville, Tennessee, to take on the No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers. The 1956 Tigers had an acceptable season the previous year, going 7-3 with a four-game win streak to end the season. Those Tigers never entered the AP Poll in that season and were looking to avenge a 35-7 loss to Tennessee from the previous season. The Volunteers, who had gone 10-0 in the 1956 regular season, were hoping for a run at the title after losing to Baylor in the Sugar Bowl and finishing No. 2 in the AP Poll behind Oklahoma. Led by third-year coach Bowden Wyatt, the Vols saw Auburn as an easy opponent on the road to a championship trophy. Coach Jordan had other plans. The Tigers were banned from postseason play in 1957 due to recruiting violations, but they were still determined to improve upon their previous season. In a huge upset to open the season, the Tigers shut out the Volunteers and left Knoxville with a 7-0 victory. Tennessee’s championship hopes were quickly put to rest, and Auburn’s hopes had just begun. Auburn’s defense is what held the Tigers in the game against Tennessee, as was the case for the rest of the season.

The Tigers went on to dominate Chattanooga, 40-7, before pulling out a close 6-0 victory over Kentucky, making Auburn 3-0 with a No. 9 ranking in the AP Poll. The closest victory for the Tigers came on Oct. 19, against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Georgia Tech, who was an SEC powerhouse at the time under head coach Bobby Dodd, had also finished the 1956 season with a 10-1 record and a No. 4 ranking in the AP Poll. The game was played at Grant Field in Atlanta, which is now named Bobby Dodd Stadium after the legendary head coach. It was a heavily defensive battle, with no touchdowns being scored. The Tigers were able to leave Atlanta with a 3-0 win, a 4-0 record and a No. 5 ranking in the AP Poll. After an easy 48-7 win over Houston, Jordan and his team looked ahead at a menacing schedule. The next two opponents were No. 19 Florida and No. 17 Mississippi State. In a close matchup in Cliff Hare Stadium, Auburn’s strong defense shut out another opponent in Florida and jumped to No. 3 in the rankings after a 13-0 victory. The following week, the Mississippi State Bulldogs travelled to Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama to try and derail Jordan. While the Bulldogs were able to score a touchdown against the Tigers, which was unusual for the 1957 season, Auburn was able to put up 15 points and keep their undefeated record.

Up next was The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Georgia was a struggling program in the 1950s, finishing no higher than fifth in the SEC until 1959. The Bulldogs entered the Auburn game with a 2-6 record, but Jordan entered cautiously, realizing that a rivalry game carries emotions and passion that tosses the previous wins and losses out the window. The game was played in the neutral location of A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Georgia, the site of the rivalry from 1916 until 1958. The Bulldogs made a strong defensive effort, holding Auburn to only six points, but they were unable to score any points themselves, like many of Auburns opponents. With a 6-0 victory, the Tigers were No. 2 in the nation with a trip to Tallahassee, Florida ahead of them. Auburn left Doak Campbell Stadium with a 29-7 win over head coach Tom Nugent’s Seminoles. Jordan found his Tigers ranked at the top of the AP Poll with a 9-0 record. Being banned from any postseason play, the Tigers had only one game left in their magical season. On Nov. 30, Auburn would make the road trip to Legion Field in Birmingham for the 22nd Iron Bowl. Auburn had defeated Alabama the previous three seasons and hoped to continue that streak. Alabama hoped to derail Auburn from their championship run, being the team to put a mark in the loss column for the Tigers. Those hopes of the Tide did not last very

long. After only one half, Auburn led the game 34-0. The defense continued to be lights out, as they had all season, while the offense put on a great performance to go along with it. The game ended in a 40-0 victory for the Tigers, polishing off a perfect season for Shug’s football team. The only competition the Tigers had for the national championship trophy was Ohio State. The Buckeyes had lost their opening game to TCU, 18-14, but had won every game since and defeated Oregon in the Rose Bowl for a 9-1 record. The Coaches’ Poll named Ohio State the national champion, but the Associated Press chose to recognize Auburn as the national champion. It was the first time a team had been named AP National Champion after being banned from the postseason. This situation has happened only one other time, when Oklahoma was named the AP National Champion in 1974. The defensive dominance by the Tigers in 1957 was unlike any other defense Auburn has ever seen. They did not allow a single rushing touchdown all season, thanks to the talent in Auburn’s front seven. Future Outland award winner Zeke Smith led the defensive line, while Jackie Burkett set the tone for the linebackers. The Tiger defense allowed an average of 65.6 passing yards per game and 67.4 rushing yards per game. Average of

» See 1957, 4

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER3


Offense looks to bounce back against Mercer Nathan King ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR

ADAM SPARKS / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Kamryn Pettway (36) runs the ball in the first half.Auburn vs. Clemson on Saturday, Sep. 9, in Clemson, SC.

No. 15 Auburn will look to get back on track this homecoming weekend, as the Tigers have a date with the Mercer Bears, a squad hailing from the FCS’s Southern Conference. Auburn hopes to escape the shadow of its own offense, which performed historically bad in a loss at Clemson on Sept. 9. Sophomore quarterback Jarett Stidham and company compiled just 117 total yards, a low for Malzahn as both a coordinator and head coach at Auburn. The defense, on the other hand, dominated the first half, pitching a shutout until Kelly Bryant orchestrated a two-minute drill before the half to put Clemson up 7-6. Auburn’s defense allowed another touchdown by Bryant in the third quarter before shutting the junior down until the final whistle. Even with the introduction of Stidham and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, the Auburn offense appears to be going in circles, with shades of 2015 and early 2016 occasionally flashing when the ball is snapped. Kevin Steele’s defense, on the other hand, is playing with helmets on fire. Senior defensive back Tray Matthews described the stark difference by claiming that, in practice, the defense’s attitude is “turned up,” while the offense appears more mellow. “I tried to pick up some of the guys on offense,” Matthews said following the loss. “I picked up Jarrett. It seemed like he was in good spirits. We’re a big family and nothing will ever divide us. We’re Auburn, we stick together and nothing will divide us.” Senior linebacker Tre’ Williams harped on Matthews’ point, assuring that the two squads are there to help each other and vice versa. “A lot of people are going to try to break us up between offense and defense,” Williams said. “But the thing is, we’re the Auburn Tigers. Not who played well and who didn’t. The Auburn Tigers lost this game.” A showdown with Mercer couldn’t have come at a better time for the struggling Auburn offense, seeing as Vegas oddsmakers didn’t bother to offer a spread for the contest. Last season, Auburn’s offense dismantled their annual FCS opponent, Alabama A&M to the tune of 55-0.

Auburn’s 2017 homecoming opponent boasts a talented young quarterback in Kaelan Riley, who accounted for five total touchdowns in the Bears’ season-opening win over Jacksonville University. Mercer will enter Jordan-Hare with an identical 1-1 record as the Tigers. In week two, the Bears fell at home to Wofford, a squad then ranked No. 10 in the FCS. In the conference opener, Mercer jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead thanks to a stellar first half from Riley, however. they were outscored 21-6 in the second half of play. Riley cooled off in the second half, as the redshirt freshman tossed a trio of interceptions following the break. The Mercer defense touts depth and experience, returning 10 of 11 defensive starters from the 2016 team. “We have talent at every position,” said senior safety Zach Jackson. “Everybody’s capable of making big-time plays. We have a lot of big-time playmakers on this defense. Not just one of us is capable of making a play. We’ve got ball hawks and big-time players all over the field.” Malzahn said in his weekly press conference that runningback Kamryn Pettway will see the field against the Bears, however, Pettway’s running mate Kerryon Johnson will remain sidelined. Auburn will look to third-stringer Kam Martin for much of the contest. Martin will look to find similar success as his Georgia Southern game, when the tailback carried the rock 14 times for 136 yards and a touchdown. Stidham should face a much lighter load in terms of pressure, as Clemson’s defensive line sacked the quarterback 11 times in Death Valley. Auburn has yet to find a go-to receiver, as the team is currently led by Will Hastings, who has snared six passes for 80 yards and a score. Following the homecoming game, Auburn will travel to Colombia, Missouri, for their conference opener against the Missouri Tigers. However, Malzahn recognizes that the first step to improvement is to take the remainder of the schedule one game at a time. “Our mind is on Mercer,” Malzahn said. “We’re going to play well, and we need to improve each week. We have the makings of a good football team.”

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER4

Mercer brings SoCon’s rich history to The Plains Tyler Roush SPORTS REPORTER

It would be easy to write off Mercer University this Saturday as another bottom-feeding meal for Auburn to devour. The Macon, Georgia, university returned to Division I football in 2013 following a 72-year hiatus stemming from the United State’s involvement in World War II. It had been 72 years since the Bears took any football field, but they did so as a member of the same conference with which they began: the Southern Conference. The Southern Conference was founded on Feb. 21, 1921, after half of the massive, 28-team Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association dissolved to form its own conference. It is one of the oldest collegiate conference in the United States. As an original member of the SIAA, Alabama Polytechnic Institute, now recognized as Auburn University, had to play Mercer before the start of the 20th century. Mercer had joined SIAA in 1896 after its establishment in 1895, and John Heisman’s team

routed the Bears in Auburn’s 1896 season-opening win, 46-0. Even after losing the Heisman to Georgia School of Technology, Auburn continued its winning streak against Mercer for the next 10 seasons. After the SIAA lost 14 teams, which include seven future members of the eventual Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference, Mercer remained loyal until 1937. They would move to the Dixie Conference before the start of World War II. While Mercer was away, the Southern Conference lived on as a prehistoric SEC-ACC predecessor. Had the conference remained intact through the years, it would have had no opposition in comparable success. Notable founding SoCon teams include the University of Alabama, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Kentucky University. Through basketball and football alone, the conference that could have been the most dominant league in any sport ever. But, even as its members fell away to form their own regional conferences, the SoCon still maintained its place in collegiate sports history.

In 1922, UNC-Chapel Hill won the first Southern Conference Men’s Basketball Championship. » See MERCER, 6

JENNA EASON / MERCER CLUSTER Mercer football players come out of the tunnel for their Homecoming game against East Tennessee State University on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016.


» From 2

2.8 points per game against the Tigers was the lowest in the country, with Auburn allowing only four touchdowns and no field goals over the span of ten games. After starting quarterback Jimmy Cooke was kicked off the team for breaking team rules, third-team halfback Lloyd Nix was called upon to fill the role. Nix only threw 60 passes the entire season, completing 33 for 542 yards, four touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ran the ball 82 times that season, gaining 261 yards and one touchdown on the ground. Auburn had multiple weapons capable of running the ball, led by Billy Atkins, who had 90 carries for 35 yards and 11 touchdowns. Auburn’s receivers were led by Jimmy Phillips, who had 15 receptions for 357 yards and four touchdowns. The offensive ground game and dominant defensive play were the perfect formula for a national ti-

tle run, and Shug Jordan solidified himself as one of the greatest to ever coach at Auburn. 60 years after the title run, Auburn has won one more national title after Cam Newton led the Tigers to a victory over Oregon in the 2010 BCS National Championship game. Another Auburn team, which was on probation, went undefeated in 1993, but did not win any championship due to the newly created Bowl Coalition system. This system required a national championship game between the top two teams to decide on a champion. Florida and Nebraska made the championship game, while Auburn had to stay at home under probation. In 2004, the Tigers went undefeated again under Tommy Tuberville. The team had four first round NFL draft picks in running backs Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown, quarterback Jason Campbell and defensive back Carlos Rogers. Auburn was one of five teams at

» See 1957, 7

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER5

MERCER » From 4

The Tar Heels were honored as the first recognized league champion in any sport, and the championship stands as the oldest collegiate tournament. While the NCAA was discussing the introduction of the 3-point shot, and, in turn, a 22-foot arc encircling the basket, they decided to test the waters by introducing the shot to just one conference. If they were to make a decision, if the shot could make collegiate basketball better, they had better see it happen in real time. On Nov. 29, 1980, Western Carolina University guard Ronnie Carr made NCAA’s first 3-point shot in a 77-70 win over then in-conference opponent Middle Tennessee State University. The 3-point shot would be immortalized in SoCon lore with the likes of Davidson College presenting Stephen Curry to the world in a definitive 2008 NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament. Curry would later become the first player in NBA history to tally 400 3-pointers in a single season. The basketball that Carr shot, along with parts of his uniform, are en-

shrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. For SoCon football, the story of notoriety is a bit different. Most will recognize the SoCon for introducing Appalachian State University to Division I football. The Mountaineers, who are now part of the Sun Belt Conference, upset No. 5 Michigan on a blocked field goal as a Football Championship Subdivision team in 2007. The Mountaineers won three straight FCS championships from 2005-07 and 12 SoCon titles over their 41-year involvement. More recently, Georgia Southern, who Auburn defeated in their home opener this season, upset the Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida, for the Gators’ first-ever loss to a lower division team. The Eagles moved up to Division I the following season. Now, 121 years after their first meeting, Auburn will play Mercer once again. However surreal it might sound, writing in an upset at Jordan-Hare would be a typical addition to the history of the Southern Conference.

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The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017

AUBURN DEPTH CHART Quarterback: Jarrett Stidham - 8 Sean White - 13 Malik Willis - 14 Running Back: Kamryn Pettway - 36 Kam Martin - 9 Malik Miller - 32 H-Back: Chandler Cox - 27 Tight End: Jalen Harris - 85 Tucker Brown - 86 Wide Receiver: Darius Slayton - 81 Kyle Davis - 11 Nate Craig-Myers - 3 Ryan Davis - 23 Will Hastings - 33 Eli Stove - 12

Left Tackle: Prince T. Wanogho - 76 Bailey Sharp - 66 Left Guard: Mike Horton - 66 Marquel Harrell - 77 Center: Austin Golson - 73 Casey Dunn - 50 Right Guard: Braden Smith - 71 Wilson Bell - 74 Right Tackle: Darius James - 78 Calvin Ashley - 70

Defensive End: Marlon Davidson - 3 Nick Coe - 91 OR Big Kat Bryant - 1 Defensive Tackle: Dontavius Russell - 95 Byron Cowart - 9 OR Tyrone Truesdell - 94 Defensive Tackle: Derrick Brown - 5 Andrew Williams - 79

Will Linebacker: Tre’ Williams - 30 Montavious Atkinson - 48 Sam Linebacker: Darrell Williams - 49 Richard McBryde - 51 Field Corner Jamel Dean - 12 OR Javaris Davis - 31 Field Safety: Stephen Roberts - 14 Daniel Thomas - 24

Buck: Jeff Holland - 4 Paul James III - 10 OR T.D. Moultry - 55

Boundary Safety: Tray Matthews - 28 Nick Ruffin - 19 OR Jeremiah Dinson - 20

Middle Linebacker: Deshaun Davis - 57 K.J. Britt - 33 OR Chandler Wooten - 17

Boundary Corner: Carlton Davis - 6 Traivon Leonard - 21 Nickel: Daniel Thomas - 24 OR Jeremiah Dinson - 20

Kicker: Daniel Carlson - 38 Anders Carlson - 26 OR Sage Ledbetter - 31 Punter: Ian Shannon - 43 Aidan Marshall - 41 Long Snapper: Ike Powell - 69 Bill Taylor - 60 Holder: Tyler Stovall - 29 Punt Returner: Ryan Davis - 23 Stephen Roberts - 14 Kick Returner: Javaris Davis - 31 Kerryon Johnson - 21 Devan Barrett - 6 Noah Igbinoghene - 4

MERCER DEPTH CHART Quarterback: Kaelen Riley Tanner Brumby

Left Tackle: Eric Allen Trey Iorillo

Defensive End: Isaiah Buehler Naji Abdulah

Sam Linebacker: Will Coneway Michael Freeman

Running Back: Tee Mitchell C.J. Leggett Alex Lakes

Left Guard: Jake Flath Ty McLemore

Defensive Tackle: Jack Raines Dorian Kithcart

Cornerback: Stephen Houzah Malique Fleming Harrison Poole

Center: Thomas Marchman Barron King

Defensive Tackle: Bailey Clark Brian Forrestal

Strong Safety: Eric Jackson Kam Lott

Holder: Tanner Brumby

Right Guard: Tucker Coody Mitch Mathes

Defensive End: Behr Cooper Austin Wysor

Free Safety: Danijah Gammage BJ Bohler Brandon Gurley

Punt Returner: C.J. Leggett Chandler Curtis

Right Tackle: Alex Comer Austin Sanders

Will Linebacker: Lee Bennett Sidney Otiwu

Cornerback: Luke Ward Brandon Coney Dylan Calhoun

Kick Returner: C.J. Leggett Chandler Curtis Avery Ward Eric Jackson

Tight End: Sam Walker Chris Ellington Wide Receiver: Avery Ward Camiel Grant Marquise Irvin Wide Receiver: Edmond Graham Chandler Curtis Rob Lake Ryan May

Middle Linebacker: Ahmad Arnold Lemarkus Bailey

Kicker: Cole Fisher Punter: Devin Orr Long Snapper: Mason Lawing

THURSDAY, SEPT. 14, 2017

The Auburn Plainsman: GAME DAY VS. MERCER7


Dr. Bobby Woodard VP for Student Affairs






» From 4 undefeated teams at the end of the 2004 season and was left out of the BCS National Championship as USC defeated Oklahoma. The 1957 team dominated the competition on the football field and, in spite of their probation, the team fought through to convince enough AP voters and be crowned national champions. The influence of this team is felt around Auburn still today, after Cliff Hare Stadium was renamed Jordan-Hare stadium in 1973 and Shug Jordan Parkway loops around the west side of Auburn. The title team cemented Auburn as a top program in the country, a tradition that still holds true for the Tigers in terms of recruiting, expectations and talent.

Will Sahlie (8-4) Sports Editor

Nathan King (10-2) Ast. Sports Editor

Tyler Roush (9-3) Sports Reporter

Sumner Martin (8-4) Sports Writer

Jake Wright (8-4) Sports Writer

Peter Santo (2-2) Sports Writer


09.14.2017 Mercer Homecoming Special Edition  
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