Bo Over the Top
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|1982 Iron Bowl|
"Bo Over the Top"
|Date||November 27, 1982|
|United States TV coverage|
|Announcers||Keith Jackson and Frank Broyles|
Bo Over the Top was an iconic collegiate football play in the 1982 Iron Bowl. The play involved famous Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson and proved to be the deciding factor in the game between the Auburn Tigers and Alabama Crimson Tide. The "Over the Top" refers to the nature of the play. Jackson, a state champion high jumper in high school, jumped over the Alabama defensive line on a critical 4th down play from the 1-yard line.
Auburn was in the middle of a 9 year losing streak versus Alabama. The last time Auburn defeated Alabama was in 1972, when Auburn beat Alabama by a 17–16 score in one of the rivalry's most famous games. The Tide, coached by the legendary Paul "Bear" Bryant, had captured numerous conference and national titles over that time frame. At the conclusion of the disastrous 1980 season, Auburn fired coach Doug Barfield after he failed to defeat Alabama for the 5th consecutive year.
Auburn officials then hired coach Pat Dye from Wyoming. Dye had played college football at Georgia, an old rival of Auburn's. Also, Dye was an assistant under Bryant at Alabama from 1965-73. Despite coaching a team that is very low on talent, Dye instilled a "tough" attitude in his new team. Although his first season ended in a 5-6 record, the same 5-6 record from a year ago, the outcomes were very different. Auburn's 0-6 winless conference record against SEC opponents in 1980 became a 2-4 conference record in 1981, by defeating LSU and Florida. The 1980 Auburn defense allowed an average of 21.6 points per game, but in 1981, they allowed an average of 15.1 points per game. The 42-0 loss to Tennessee in 1980 became a 10-7 loss in 1981. The 21-17 loss to LSU in 1980 became a 19-7 triumph in 1981. The 17-14 win over Georgia Tech in 1980 became a 31-7 triumph in 1981. Also, in the four games where Auburn lost, Auburn was leading against Mississippi State, Tennessee, and Wake Forest in the final few minutes, and against Nebraska at halftime. However, costly penalties and turnovers against Auburn prevented them from winning these four games. And most importantly, the Tigers were 2 minutes away from knocking off #4 Alabama. Underdog Auburn held a 17-14 lead late, but the Tide rallied for two quick touchdown scores in the final 2 minutes, giving Bryant at that time the most victories for a Division 1-A college football coach in history, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg to 1st place with his 315th victory.
Despite the heartbreaking loss, the future remained bright for Dye and his Auburn Tigers. His 1982 squad proved to make even greater strides than his first team. They jumped out to a 7-3 record and nearly knocked off #1 Georgia, falling 19-14. Alabama was also 7-3, but was in the midst of a two-game losing streak to #11 LSU and to Southern Miss made Auburn a rare favorite in the 47th edition of the Iron Bowl.
The key player in the game proved to be true freshman sensation, Bo "Big Train" Jackson. Jackson was a tri-sport phenom in high school, hailing from Bessemer, Alabama. The only two schools Jackson was considering were in-state foes Alabama and Auburn. But after Tide recruiters told Jackson that he wouldn't see the field until his junior year, Bo immediately committed to Auburn. Pat Dye had promised Jackson that he'd get playing time as a true freshman.
Dye kept his promise. Jackson was the opening day starter in 1982, sharing the backfield with undersized scat back Lionel "Little Train" James and hefty fullback Ron O'Neal. Bo impressed with 829 yards on the year, averaging 6.5 yards a carry.
Alabama struck first on a 22 yard TD pass from QB Walter Lewis to WR Joey Jones. The Tide forced a punt on Auburn's next possession and appeared on their way to another score when Auburn safety Mark Dorminey hit Alabama RB Joe Carter at the Auburn 25 and forced a fumble. Auburn's Tim Drinkard recovered the fumble and returned it 62 yards to the Alabama 13. On third down, Auburn QB Randy Campbell handed off to RB Lionel James on a draw play and he scored on a 13-yard run to tie it at 7-7.
In the second quarter, the Tide went up 10-7 on a Peter Kim field goal. With around 4 1/2 minutes left in the half, Lewis went back to throw from the Alabama 20, but his arm was hit by DT Doug Smith as he threw and safety Bob Harris intercepted the ball at the Auburn 25. Campbell then drove the Tigers 25 yards in seven plays, culminating in a 3-yard TD run by the QB and giving Auburn a 14-10 lead with 2:55 left. Alabama then took over at their own 20 and strangely trotted out Ken Coley at QB instead of the better passing Lewis. Coley had thrown only 7 passes all season and called primarily running plays which ate up most of the clock, but did hit WR Darryl White for a 16-yard completion to the Auburn 39 with 19 seconds left. Alabama coach Paul "Bear" Bryant then re-inserted Lewis in the game with 12 seconds left and Lewis hit White for another long gain to the 15, but missed a wide-open WR Jesse Bendross in the end zone on the play. Kim kicked another FG as time ran out to cut the halftime deficit to 14-13.
The Tide took the second-half kickoff and immediately mounted a scoring drive with Lewis back in the game. They drove 66 yards in 8 plays, capped off by an 8-yard TD run by RB Paul Ott Carruth. A two-point conversion attempt failed and the Tide now had the lead at 19-14. Alabama then forced Auburn to punt, and Lewis Colbert pinned the Tide back at their own 6. Undaunted, the Tide drove all the way to the 1-yard line in 15 plays eating up 8:27 of clock, but the drive stalled and Kim hit a chip-shot 18-yard field goal to increase the Tide lead to 22-14 with 1:19 left in the 3rd.
The two teams exchanged possessions as the 4th quarter began, then Lionel James got things rolling with around 11 minutes left with a 7-yard dash on 1st down to the Auburn 35. On the very next play, Bo Jackson rumbled 53 yards to the Tide 12. The drive stalled at the 6 and an Al Del Greco field goal cut the lead to 22-17. Auburn then forced a punt on the next Alabama possession and took over at their own 33 with 7:06 left.
Campbell began the winning drive by hitting Chris Woods for 12 yards on first down. Three plays later, Auburn faced a fourth and 1 from the Alabama 46, but Jackson got the first down easily to the 43. After a sack, Campbell faced a 3rd and 13 and coolly hit Mike Edwards for 15 yards to the 31 with 3:30 left. On 2nd and 10, Campbell's pass was intercepted by Jeremiah Castille, but Castille was flagged for pass interference. Auburn now had the ball first and goal at the Alabama 9. A false-start penalty by Ed West set them back to the 14. After an incomplete pass and a 4-yard run by Jackson, Auburn faced 3rd and goal. Campbell then hit Jackson on a crossing route, and he was stopped 18 inches from the goal line by Castille and Tommy Wilcox with 2:30 left.
In the huddle with Coach Dye, Jackson suggested a play. "Coach, I was a 7 foot high jumper in high school. Why don't we go over the top?" Dye complied with his running back and Auburn went with the play. Lead blockers on the play were running back Lionel James and fullback Ron O'Neal. Jackson plunged over the line and barely eclipsed the goal line, giving Auburn a 23-22 lead.
The Auburn faithful exploded into a frenzy following Bo's score, but 2:26 still remained. After the ensuing kickoff, Lewis almost had his first pass intercepted, completed a short screen, and had his third-down pass dropped by Bendross. On fourth down with 1:53 left, Lewis attempted another pass, but Bob Harris came up with his second interception at the Alabama 30. Auburn ran the ball twice, and on 3rd and 1, Jackson tried another over-the-top leap for a first down, but fumbled and the Tide recovered at their 22 with 1:04 left. Lewis then hit Bendross twice for 14 and 11 yards to near midfield with 42 seconds remaining. On second down, Lewis was hit by Ben Thomas and intentionally grounded the ball. On 3rd and 25 from the 32, Lewis completed a pass for a 3-yard loss, and on fourth down he overthrew a receiver with 20 seconds left. The victory was Auburn's, and Auburn fans stormed the field when it was over and Legion Field's goalposts were torn down and paraded around the stadium. Pat Dye himself was carried off the field on the shoulders of his players.
After recording their first win in the game since 1972, Auburn won consecutive Iron Bowls for the first time since the 1969-70 games when they topped Alabama in the next Iron Bowl in 1983, in which Auburn won the SEC Championship and captured the Sugar Bowl win over Michigan. Auburn won a total of six Iron Bowls in the 1980s and have won the game twelve additional times since then, including a streak of six consecutive wins from 2002 through 2007.