College Football Retro Review: 1989 Tennessee vs. Auburn

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College Football Retro Review: 1989 Tennessee vs. Auburn

SEC Football: No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers vs. No. 4 Auburn Tigers

Neyland Stadium, Knoxville, TN

September 30, 1989

CBS Sports: Jim Nantz and Pat Hayden

 

Background

1988 was not a good year for the Big Orange.  After an exciting 1987 season where the Big Orange won 10 games for the first time since 1972, expectations were up as always for the next year.  However, the Vols started the season a school worst 0-6.

Not surprisingly, people were calling for Head Coach Johnny Major's head.  They were appeased some after pretty much all of the defensive staff was fired before the Alabama game.

The Vols were able to rally and win their last five games to finish the season 5-6.  The late season rally brought hope for things to turn around in 1989, and they did.

The 1989 season started with a tough win over Colorado State, but then they took No. 6 UCLA apart at the Rose Bowl, 24-6, and had an easy win over Duke.  This set up a big game against defending SEC Champion Auburn in the pouring rain at Knoxville.

 

The Game

In the 1980s Auburn was known for their tough defense.  No one was able to run on Auburn—until this day on Rocky Top, as the Big Orange combo of Reggie Cobb and Chuck Webb ran for 354 yards in the rain.

The weather was a big factor on the Auburn side, as two long snaps sailed over the Auburn punter's head for safeties in the first half.  The Vols also got a field goal and a wonderful 79-yard TD run from Reggie Cobb to take a 14-3 lead at the half.

With 11:30 left in the fourth quarter, Auburn quarterback Reggie Slack connected with Alexander Wright for an 83-yard TD.  A two-point conversion cut the Vols' lead to a field goal, 14-11.

The Vols got the momentum back after a Shazzon Bradley INT, and a nine-yard TD run by Chuck Webb put the Vols up 21-11 with 5:50 left.

Auburn kept fighting.  The Tigers got a field goal and then an onside kick with 2:45 left to get one more chance, but the Vols' defense got the turnover on downs to seal the win, 21-14, as the goalposts came down in Knoxville.

 

The Big Play

Cobb's 79-yard touchdown run was the highlight of a 225-yard performance, which would end up being his swan song as he got kicked off the team for drug use after the Georgia game the next week.

 

MVP

It would be easy to give the MVP to Reggie Cobb for his great game.  Instead, I am going to give out two.  The first goes to the Tennessee offensive line for paving the way for Cobb and Webb to run for 354 yards. 

The second MVP goes to Vol defensive end Marion Hobby for batting down five Auburn passes, three of those coming in the fourth quarter.

 

Randomness

With seven seconds left in the game and the Vols taking a knee, Auburn head coach Pat Dye called their last timeout to force Tennessee to have to run a play on forth down.  However, the students, thinking the game was over, had already started tearing down the goalposts.

Dye, realizing the Volunteers were probably going to just run the clock out anyway, decided in a touch of class to come across the field and shake Johnny Majors' hand, calling it a day.

 

Impact

This match proved that the Volunteers were all the way back after the dismal 1988 season.  The only black mark on the season's record was a loss to Alabama, the first game after Cobb was kicked off the team.  However, Webb picked up the slack and ran for 1,236 yards this season, including a 294-yard performance against Ole Miss.

The Volunteers finished the regular season 10-1, won a share of the SEC Championship with Auburn and Alabama, and earned a Cotton Bowl bid against Southwest Conference champ Arkansas.

 

Rating

The Vols were able to run all over War Eagle, something few could do in the '80s.  When the Tigers got close, the Vols were always able to counter punch and get the win: ****

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