In 121 years of football, Auburn has had six perfect seasons. Despite that, the Tigers claim just two national championships.
On this day 65 years ago, their first national championship season came to a close. It culminated in a 40-0 shutout of rival Alabama.
Setting the Stage
A perfect 9-0, Auburn was ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll as it arrived at Legion Field in Birmingham on Nov. 30, 1957. Led by seventh-year head coach Ralph Jordan, the Tigers weren’t exactly known for their high-flying offense, but only four of their first nine opponents managed to score.
In what would be the third and final season under Jennings Whitworth, Alabama was in the midst of a fourth straight losing campaign. At 2-6-1, Alabama was looking to avoid a fourth straight loss to Auburn.
As the records and statistics indicated, Alabama was in for a rude awakening. The Crimson Tide committed seven turnovers and finished with less than 200 yards of offense.
By halftime, Auburn held a 34-0 lead. Billy Atkins scored the first two touchdowns for the Tigers before quarterback Lloyd Nix scored the third on a keeper. The next two touchdowns came defensively as Tommy Lorino and Jackie Burkett each returned interceptions from Alabama quarterback Bobby Smith for touchdowns.
The lone touchdown of the second half also came on a pass, but this time, it was the Auburn quarterback throwing it. Nix’s 27-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Phillips sent many of those remaining in crimson toward the exits. Auburn finished with 343 yards of offense in the victory.
Auburn hasn’t beat Alabama by more than it did during the 40-point beating since, but for the Crimson Tide, it wasn’t all bad. Following the loss, Whitworth was fired and Alabama hired legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant retired as college football’s all-time wins leader and went 19-6 against the Tigers as Alabama head coach.
Auburn claimed the top spot in the final AP Poll while Woody Hayes’ Ohio State team, despite a loss, claimed the national championship in the Coaches Poll. It would be 53 years later before Auburn won another national championship despite perfect seasons in 1993 and 2004. Its first title culminated in a 40-point win in the Iron Bowl on this day 65 years ago.
Photo courtesy of Auburn athletics