These are the three points that have cost Tommy Tuberville the respect that he built in the 2004-06 seasons.
Strike No. 1: Sept. 8, 2007—South Florida @ Auburn
With 49 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Auburn took over on offense on their own 36-yard line, tied 20-20 with the South Florida Bulls. Auburn had one more opportunity to win the game and get into range of Wes Byrum’s magic freshman leg.
Wes had already kicked two field goals in two tries that game. The first one was a monstrous 49=yarder in the middle of the first quarter. The second was from 46 yards and came with 2:54 left to play in the game. Both of them could have easily been good from 55 yards out.
Now all Auburn had to do was drive the ball 32 yards, from their own 36 to USF’s 32, to get to the same distance kick that Wes Byrum had made early in the game. They also had two timeouts to work with.
The first play of the drive was an eight-yard out route just off the fingers of Tommy Trott. After the crowd exhaled in disappointment, it was time to run the next play.
In that next moment, the Auburn family was stunned. Auburn was in the victory formation about to take a knee. They were looking at each other wondering what Tommy Tuberville was doing taking a knee with 44 seconds left and two timeouts.
He wasn’t even going to try to win the game in regulation. He was giving up.
Nobody could believe it. The Riverboat gambler had finally docked. The Auburn family quickly showed their disagreement with a deafening blast of boos.
Tuberville’s head shot up from looking down at the grass as if he was shocked that the Auburn faithful were disagreeing with him. His facial expression was saying, “How dare you second-guess me after all I have done for this program.”
Even the players behind him were looking at each other with hands and forearms parallel to the ground, asking each other, “Why aren’t we trying to get into field goal range?” The same look of puzzlement was on the face of Wes Byrum.
Auburn later went on to lose in overtime 26-23, where Byrum kicked a 39-yard field goal.
That is when Tommy Tuberville’s stock began to drop. The following week Auburn lost to Mississippi State, the reason yet again being poor coaching decisions.
Things were looking grim for the Auburn Tiger football season as they were about to travel to the Swamp to face the fourth-ranked Gators. Auburn QB Brandon Cox played the game of his career that night, and none other Wes Byrum kicked the game-winning field goal...TWICE, from 43 yards out with four seconds left. (Note: The drive was 35 yards.)
Strike No. 2: Dec. 12, 2007—The Spread
One day after Tommy Tuberville publicized the resignation of four-year OC Al Borges, Auburn announced Tony Franklin as the new OC.
The reaction by most Auburn fans was, “Oh yeah, the spread. We are going to put up some major numbers next year.”
The fans that knew football, though, said, “Auburn is going to run the spread, but they are Running back U.”
When someone says Auburn, people think of Bo Jackson, Joe Cribbs, Stephen Davis, Rudi Johnson, Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Kenny Irons. They think of the great culture that Auburn has had running the football over the years.
To put in the spread was just madness from the get-go. Auburn has five running backs that would contend for a starting job at every other SEC school.
Tony Franklin wanted to bring his own staff to coach and teach the spread. Tuberville said no and to just teach the techniques to his staff to teach to the players. The Auburn staff had no experience in running the spread...at all.
Hugh Nall knows how to coach out of the three-point stance, not the two-point holding hand stance. Eddie Gran knows north and south, not east and west. Greg Knox knows how to recruits and nothing else. Steve Ensminger knows how to teach tight ends, and there are no tight ends in the spread.
How was this offense supposed to work without the proper coaching?!?
Then when it doesn’t work, Tubby fires Franklin.
Strike No. 3: Oct. 11, 2008: Arkansas @ Auburn
Tony Franklin is gone. Steve Ensminger is calling the plays. Auburn is a 17-point favorite. Arkansas has the worst rushing defense in the SEC and has lost its last three games by a total of 108 points.
Auburn runs for 33 times for 56 yards. Arkansas’ rushing defense was allowing 208.4 rushing yards a game. Auburn never got into the I-formation to run the ball with power.
The play calling was given away every time by the O-line. When Auburn would rush the ball, the line would be in a three-point stance, and when the play was to pass, they would be in a two-point. A JV middle school coach could have picked up on it, much less Bobby Petrino.
Tuberville was outcoached in every aspect of the game by his Jet-Gate nemesis.
Auburn went on to lose the game 25-22 after missing a first and goal opportunity late in fourth quarter and one last chance with 1:21 left on the clock, only to turn the ball over again.