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Bill Newton and David Langner---
What to say about the most famous Auburn victory ever that everyone here doesn't already know? ...just to set the stage...in 1971 the Auburn -Alabama games was as big as it could be. Both teams were undefeated, both were headed to New Years games against monster opponents, both were looking at a National Championship neither would win. Pat Sullivan had just won the Heisman Trophy and ..........the bottom fell out. Whether it was the Hiesman hype or something else, Auburn's senior heavy team was embarrassed on national television. Oklahoma then dominated AU in the Sugar Bowl. Auburn was then picked to finish no better than 8th in the conference in 1972.
Eight wins and one loss later the Tigers went into Legion Field a 16 point underdog to the mighty #2 Tide and history was made.
I found an interview with Bill Newton in a 2004 article on ESPN and pulled some of it below, but everyone knows that story. The play by play is also there; but there are some lesser known things about the game that also contriibuted to the victory.
The 42 yard Gardner Jett field goal that got Auburn on the board before the blocked punts was a career long.
Bill Newton, who wasn't good enough to play college football, had over 20 tackles that day before he blocked the punts.
There was another blocked kick, by another former walk-on in the first half. Roger Mitchell blocked an extra point in the first half that eventually became the margin of victory.
After scoring the two touchdowns, David Langner intercepted a pass in the last minute to quell any thoughts of an Alabama comeback.
And 12 year old Batjac, who doesn't claim to have been in the stadium that day like 200K people do, left a Boy Scout meeting early to listen to the game with Dad in the garage. I thought I was going to die of a heart attack before it was over, and then ran block after block in west Homewood yelling War Eagle as loud as I could for everyone to hear. And from that day on, whenever my beloved Tigers are underdogs, especially big underdogs, I think of Bill Newton, David Langner, Roger Mitchell, and Gardner Jett. Maybe we won't win this Saturday, but don't tell this Auburn fan we can't.
From the 2004 Pat Forde article: More than half of Bill Newton's life has gone by since that fateful day at Legion Field, when he hit Bear Bryant and all Crimson Tide fans where it hurt most. It's been 32 years since perhaps the most famous Iron Bowl of them all -- the Punt, Bama, Punt game, as it is known in state lore -- and they're not tired of talking about it yet."It comes up this time every year," says Newton's wife, Sarah. "Without fail." Newton remembers the game as if it were played last week."They were undefeated, No. 2 in the nation," he says. "We shouldn't have been able to stand in their way. We were a 16-point underdog, and that was very respectable, considering what Alabama had done to its opponents that year."Only LSU had come within a touchdown of the Tide all season -- and LSU beat Auburn by four touchdowns in October. The Tigers hadn't lost before or since, but this seemed like Mission Impossible. Nevertheless, Auburn's defense kept it in the game, while the offense couldn't finish a drive. Finally, it became necessary for the Tigers' special teams to win it on their own. On the first fateful fourth down, Newton took the signal from the sidelines: outside punt block. He lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard -- and when the Tide overcompensated to handle the rush from the outside, he shot in cleanly up the middle. Thump, the ball hit punter Greg Gantt's foot. Thump, the ball hit Newton's outstretched arms."It was like slow motion," Newton says. "I just gauged it where I could take the ball off his foot. It got an incredible bounce, and David Langner returned it about 35 yards. I've always said I was thankful it was him and not a defensive lineman, who probably would have just fallen on it."
And the play by play call: Gary Sanders was the radio play-by-play announcer for Auburn football in the early 1970s, and his call of the blocked punts, particularly the last one, is familiar to many Auburn fans and has been available on several audio tapes and CD's sold in Auburn University bookstores down through the years. The call of the first blocked punt was rather subdued, possibly because Alabama had dominated the game to that point. The call went as follows:
“ Greg Gantt is in to punt, Johnny Simmons is going back as a single safety, Mitchell and Langner on the...uh...line of scrimmage coming from either side to try to block the kick. Auburn trying to go after it, here's the snap, they got it! Blocked kick! Ball's back to the 25, picked up on the bounce at the 25-yard-line, and in for a touchdown is David Langner! ”
The call of the second blocked punt is heard more often, and was delivered with much more enthusiasm from Sanders. Additionally, others in the broadcast booth and press box can be heard screaming and yelling over Sanders call. It should be noted that Sanders, possibly due to being caught up in the moment, identified Roger Mitchell as the player who blocked the kick, when Bill Newton (who had blocked the first one) actually blocked it:
“ Greg Gantt standing on his own 30, Auburn will try to block it. Auburn going after it, here's the good snap...it is blocked!!! It is blocked!!! It's caught on the run!!! It's caught on the run and he's gonna score!!! David Langner!!! David Langner has scored and Auburn has tied the game!!! Roger Mitchell blocked the kick! And it's 16 to 16!