Alabama Falls To Auburn But Still Gets Sugar Bowl Berth

Posted: December 03, 1989

AUBURN, Ala. — Alabama's hopes for a national championship were virtually ended yesterday as Reggie Slack completed passes of 44, 58 and 60 yards to lead Auburn (No. 11 AP, No. 10 UPI) past the second-ranked Crimson Tide (No. 2 AP and UPI), 30-20, throwing the Southeastern Conference into a three-way championship deadlock.

The Crimson Tide, which had clinched its share of the championship earlier in the season, fell into the three-way tie with the Tigers and Tennessee, which beat Vanderbilt, 17-10, earlier in the day.

The SEC champion receives an automatic bid for the Sugar Bowl. Despite the loss, the Sugar Bowl committee decided to invite Alabama, which will play Miami (Fla.) on Jan. 1.

"The factors involved in the decision were the head-to-head competition (among the SEC champions), their overall records, and the last appearance rule," said Troy Mathieu, assistant to Sugar Bowl president Jim Flower.

Alabama also was invited because it had not been to the Sugar Bowl since 1980, Mathieu said. Tennessee's last Sugar Bowl appearance was in 1986 and Auburn played in 1988 and 1989.

Auburn (9-2 overall, 6-1 conference) will play in the Hall of Fame Bowl on Jan. 1 against Ohio State and Tennessee faces Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl, also Jan. 1.

Alabama (10-1, 6-1) had its 12-game winning streak - longest in the nation - snapped in the first meeting in history on the Auburn campus between these two cross-state rivals.

"We were pressing, struggling to do things that normally come easily," Bill Curry said of Alabama after seeing his coaching record against Auburn fall to 0-10, the last three at 'Bama and the first seven at Georgia Tech.

"I hate to lose," Curry said. "My job is to teach people how to win in football, and I especially detest losing to a team and a coach I've never been able to beat."

It was only the second three-way tie in SEC history, the last coming 50 years ago, when Tennessee and former members Georgia Tech and Tulane shared the crown.

"It was 50 years ago when they had the last tri-champion," Auburn coach Pat Dye said. "It was 50 years ago in '39 when this stadium was built and I was born. This 50th anniversary has tested us, but we've had fun."

James Joseph scored two of Auburn's touchdowns on runs of 1 and 2 yards, and Darrell Williams got the other on a 12-yard run as the Tigers gained a share of the conference title for the third year in a row.

Reggie Slack connected with Alexander Wright on a 44-yard pass to set up Joseph's first touchdown, one that capped an 68-yard drive on the first series of the game.

The Auburn quarterback had the other big plays in the third quarter, when the Tigers erased a 10-7 deficit. He hit Shayne Wasden on a 58-yard pass to set up Joseph's second score and came back five minutes later to hit Wright on a 60-yard play, setting up Win Lyle's 22-yard field goal.

Lyle also had a 31-yard field goal in the fourth quarter.

On the day, Slack was 14 of 26 for 276 yards.

"Slack was incredible," Curry said. "He was a great, great player today. Great players rise to the occasion, and Slack did that today."

Alabama forged its halftime lead on a 24-yard field goal by Philip Doyle following a fumble recovery in the first quarter and on Gary Hollingsworth's 18-yard pass to Marco Battle 1 minute, 49 seconds before the half ended.

After Auburn built its lead to 27-10, Hollingsworth capped a 73-yard drive by hitting Battle with a 15-yard touchdown pass with 7:51 remaining.

Doyle cut the lead to seven with 1:49 to play with a 23-yard field goal, but Auburn recovered an onside kick and drove to a matching field goal, a 34- yarder by Lyle.

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