This was big-time college football at its best. No. 6 LSU at No. 10 Auburn. Tigers vs. Tigers.
Overcast skies threatened to mar the day as we headed south out of Birmingham Saturday afternoon. But by the time the Plains came into view, the sun smiled on Auburn and fluffy white clouds floated across the azure blue. With temperatures hovering in the low ’80s and a light breeze blowing, the pre-fall weather was picture-perfect.
You could feel the excitement too. My heart started to thump in earnest when sirens pierced the air, signaling the arrival of the referees and their eight-motorcycle police escort. Hot on their heels came the LSU team buses, also well guarded, which caused all those in purple-and-gold to rush to the curbs and cheer wildly. Meanwhile, just down the hill from where we stood, the Tiger Walk was well underway. Coach Tuberville and his boys strolled confidently through a tunnel of jubilant well-wishers on their way into the stadium.
The game itself was everything it was promised to be–dualing marching bands, tumbling cheerleaders, thousands of fans screaming loud enough to wake the dead. The Auburn faithful recited chants and sang along with crowd favorites "Eye of the Tiger" and "Living on a Prayer." Red-white-and-blue fireworks punctuated the National Anthem, then again when the two teams stormed onto the field. And when the smoke cleared, the game was underway.
Tit for tat, it went on into the night. When Auburn surged ahead 21-20 with 6:40 left in the game, a mighty roar went up and those wearing orange-and-blue began to hope they’d dodged a bullet. But LSU answered with a touchdown, making the score 21-26 with just over a minute to play. (This time, it was the LSU band playing "Living on a Prayer!") When AU failed to convert a 4th-and-25 on their last possession, that’s where the score stood.
Dispirited Auburn fans melted into the night, having discovered this truth (as LSU may in the near future): There’s only one problem with living on a prayer. Sometimes the answer is no.