Classic SEC Football: Tennessee Tops Auburn in the 1997 SEC Championship Game

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterAugust 24, 2012

6 Dec 1997:  Defensive back Terry Fair of the Tennessee Volunteers celebrates during a game against the Auburn Tigers at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, Georgia.  Tennessee won the game, 30-29. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons  /Allsport
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Tennessee rolled into the Georgia Dome in December 1997 sporting a 10-1 record under the leadership of senior quarterback Peyton Manning, while the Auburn Tigers came in at 9-2. 

The Vols got things started early, when Manning hit Peerless Price for a 40-yard touchdown at the beginning of the first quarter to give his team the 7-0 lead.

That lead didn't last long.

Auburn wasn't phased. The Tigers ripped off 20 straight points in the first half on the heels of a Brad Ware fumble return for a touchdown and a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dameyune Craig to Tyrone Goodson. 

The Vols kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 20-10 at the half.

After the break, the two teams traded touchdowns early in the third quarter. With 1:06 remaining in the third, Manning again hit Price, this time for a 46-yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked and returned by Auburn's Quinton Reese for the two-point conversion. 

Still, the Vols had cut the lead to 29-23.

Early in the fourth, Manning hit Marcus Nash for a 43-yard touchdown pass to complete the comeback and give the Vols a 30-29 lead. That lead would not be relinquished.

The win would catapult the Vols to the Orange Bowl to take on No. 2 Nebraska in the championship game of the Bowl Alliance. Tennessee would lose that matchup 42-17 to the Cornhuskers, who split the 1997 national championship with Rose Bowl champion Michigan.

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