AUBURN, Ala. – It’s the iron bowl. Robby Ashford grew up wanting to play in it. Carnell Williams played in it and created a memory that has become part of the lore. want friend played it for one side and now practices it for the other.
There is no rivalry like it.
On Saturday, Auburn and Alabama meet for the 87th time on the gridiron.
“It’s Iron Bowl week,” Ashford said. “There’s a different level of excitement. It’s something you mark on your calendar. When I came (to Auburn) the Iron Bowl was something I marked on my calendar. They’re not looking past the other games, they’re out of that state and what this game means, it’s always going to mean a little bit more.”
Ashford, who grew up in Hoover, Alabama, will make his Iron Bowl debut on Saturday. He already hears from the Alabama fans in his family, but the Auburn quarterback has always drawn for the Tigers. He still remembers wearing his Bo Jackson jersey as a kid.
“Auburn just always felt different and special to me,” Ashford said.
The Iron Bowl was the origin of “Go crazy, Cadillac”. In 2003, Williams picked up the game’s first carry, going 80 yards for an Auburn touchdown.
“It was a lead draw,” Williams recalled. “It was a great block from Brandon Johnson on the (linebacker). The offensive line did a good job putting a hole in the defense and they got me to safety. The least I can do is make sure that safety is missed and the rest is history.”
Now, 19 years later, Williams will once again take part in the iconic rivalry. This time he will be on the sidelines as interim head coach for the Tigers.
“Hopefully we can have some long runs like this at Bryant Denny Stadium,” he said.
On Saturday the pieces for Auburn will be worked out want friend, the team’s offensive line coach who was named co-offensive coordinator when Williams took over. Friend played at the Iron Bowl in Alabama, where he was twice named All-SEC selection. Now he’s on the other side and would love to tear down his alma mater.
“I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of both sides, but it means so much to so many people,” Friend said. “Really, you just want to do your best to honor what this game is about – the past players, the past coaches, the fan bases. You want to show respect and honor to the game and do your best.
“It’s always been important to me. I grew up wanting to play in it and want to train in it. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do both.”
This year’s game kicks off at 2:30 pm CT at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. It will be televised on CBS with Brad Nessler, Gary Danielson and Jenny Dell. You can also hear Andy Burcham, Stan White and Ronnie Brown who will have the radio call on 93.9 Tiger FM and online at AuburnTigers.com.
Three questions with RB Panzer Bigsby
Q: How have the last three weeks been with the Coach Cadillac acquisition?
A: It was really good. Just seeing Coach Cadillac take that leadership role and lead us the way we need to be led, trusting us and just showing positivity – no stopping.
Q: Auburn goes old school and runs the ball. You gotta love that, right?
A: We run with the ball a lot. But it’s also about finding ways to give our playmakers the ball. That’s what (Carnell Williams) tells us all the time. I have a feeling he’s doing it really well.
Q: I know you’re a Georgia guy, but what does this Iron Bowl rivalry mean to you?
A: Deep down, it means a lot to me. Just knowing the guys who made it before us and fought in that game is just amazing. And the background behind this game. If you’re an Auburn or Alabama player, you should take this game personally because of the people who played it before you.
(BONUS) Q: What’s your favorite Thanksgiving meal?
A: I like sweet potato pie very much. I’ll probably eat some chitlins every now and then.
Within the series: Alabama
In this 87th Iron Bowl, Auburn and Alabama will meet for the 75th consecutive year dating back to 1948. Auburn is behind in the overall series, 37-48-1, but the Tigers lead 17-12 when the game is played on campus and are 7-6 in games played in Tuscaloosa. Prior to 1989, the series was primarily played in Birmingham (Alabama leads 36-20-1) and Montgomery (tie 2-2).
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the 1982 Iron Bowl and the famous “Bo Over The Top” play. Trailing 22-17 in the final minutes, Auburn faced the 4th goal from the 1-yard line. Bo Jackson, then a freshman, took the handoff and vaulted over the defensive line and into the end zone for the winning touchdown. The Tigers prevailed with 23:22.