The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Tigers Vs. Bulldogs

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UGA's inaugural football team in 1892. UGA Athletic Department.

American history is stuffed with feuds, grudge matches, and vendettas. Among the more friendly (and less bloody) are found in American sports, college football specifically. And in the Deep South, the oldest and most colorful rivalry is between Auburn University and University of Georgia. 

1892

The deep south’s oldest rivalry stretches back to the nineteenth century, where, in 1892, Auburn (then known as the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Alabama) met University of Georgia in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. Three thousand fans arrived by train, carriage, buggy and horseback for the afternoon kickoff. Georgia Tech, without its own football team, sent students from the Atlanta school wearing UGA colors as a form of state pride. The match was the brainchild of Dr. Charles Herty and Dr. George Petrie who had witnessed football’s popularity when both were at Johns Hopkins University. Auburn scored all ten of the game’s points in the second half. Georgia fans were so humiliated that they barbecued their own mascot, the goat named Sir William. And a rivalry was born.


“One hundred and fifty students from the technological school are on their way to the grounds on foot. Every one of them wears the crimson and black of Athens. They are carrying cowbells.” — The Atlanta Journal

Monk Gafford (25) runs past Georgia’s defense in 1942. Auburn University Library Special Collections. Image sourced from The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia.

1942

Upsets have always been the most thrilling things to witness on the gridiron, and 1942 delivered one of the biggest. Even though the hearts and minds of young men were focused on World War II, Georgia was in the middle of its greatest season. Heisman Trophy winner Frank Sinkwich led the Bulldogs to fifteen straight wins and the No. 1 rank. Auburn, however, was showing up with an unremarkable 4-4-1. During the match-up, Auburn limited Georgia to thirty-seven rushing yards, and only twelve of Georgia’s thirty-four passes were completed. Auburn never completed a pass, but compiled 355 rushing yards, beating Georgia, 27-13, and dumbfounding every sports journalist in the country

A Christmas card from Auburn’s athletic department after the Tigers were crowned national champions in 1957. Auburn University Library Special Collections. Image sourced from The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia.

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1957

By the time Auburn reached 1957’s annual grudge match, they had a 7-0 record and hadn’t lost to Georgia since 1952. In ten games in 1957, Auburn’s defense never allowed a rushing touchdown. Georgia was playing for former head coach General William Alexander Cunningham, who was critically ill. The Bulldogs almost beat the undefeated Tigers, but Georgia only came within three yards of victory. Auburn was simply unstoppable, going on to a 10-0 record, and winning the national championship.

Tommy Lowry carries the ball against UGA in 1971. Auburn University Library Special Collections. Image sourced from The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry: Auburn vs. Georgia.

1971

Easily the best match-up between Auburn and Georgia happened in 1971, when both met as undefeated teams, and the loser would be eliminated from SEC title contention. And adding to the stakes, it was the first time since 1920 that both teams met without a loss. Auburn’s quarterback Pat Sullivan passed for 248 yards and four touchdowns, but Georgia quarterback Andy Johnson kept the game close. In the fourth quarter, Georgia got within one point. As Georgia attempted to tie the game at 21, Roger Mitchell blocked the extra point. On Auburn’s first play after receiving the kickoff, Pat Sullivan connected with his receiver who ran seventy yards to the end zone. In the blink of an eye, Auburn was up, 28–20, and didn’t stop there, winning the game, 35–20.

Lynch-Young Memorial Trophy

Since 1954, the Lynch-Young Memorial Trophy was presented to the MVP of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Check out these winners who would also go on to receive intercollegiate football’s highest honor, the Heisman Trophy: 1971, Pat Sullivan, Auburn. 1982, Herschel Walker, Georgia. 1985, Bo Jackson, Georgia. 2010, Cam Newton, Auburn.

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