The Iron Bowl … Mother, Okra and Dad Out Back

Lyn Scarbrough

November 27, 2017 at 11:35 am.

Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Jarrett Stidham (8) looks to pass during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Photo Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Not long ago, I came across one of the favorite family photos from my youth.

Actually, not much of that is right.

It was not a family photo … It was just my mother.

It was not from my youth … It was taken long after I had graduated from college and had my own family, but it could have been from any time in my childhood.

I didn’t just come across it … I’ve known where that photo was kept for a long time.

But, it probably is my favorite. It’s a photo of my mother, Hilda Ferne, standing at the stove in her small Rock Creek kitchen, wearing her apron, frying okra in the big, black cast iron skillet that had been her mother’s.

Her uncle – Uncle Luna, but everybody called him Uncle Lune – and his sons built the two-bedroom ranch style house for her and my dad, Ray Scarbrough, in 1952, a few years before I started keeping up much with football.

In the press box on Saturday afternoon just before the kickoff of the Iron Bowl, I thought about them and that photo. Football Saturdays were big days at their house and this was their kind of football day. Cool, crisp and clear with Auburn and Alabama playing a game that meant something.

It was also the kind of day where my dad couldn’t listen to the game, much less watch it on television. He took it seriously, so as he got older and his coronary issues increased, his doctor told him not to even listen. Leave the house if he had to, but don’t keep up with the game, especially if it was intense.

What happened in Jordan-Hare on Saturday certainly was that. No. 1 Alabama, winner of 30 consecutive regular season games, against No. 6 Auburn, the last team except Alabama to win the SEC championship. The winner would head to Atlanta, playing Georgia for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Few previous Iron Bowls had this much on the line and for the most part, both teams played that way in the first half. Auburn took an early 7-0 lead on a scoring pass from Kerryon Johnson to Nate Craig-Myers. Alabama responded with a Jalen Hurts to Jerry Jeudy 36-yard touchdown pass to knot the score. Just before intermission, Tiger senior placekicker Daniel Carlson kicked a 33-yard field goal, giving the home team a 10-7 lead. Auburn comfortably led the statistics, but Alabama would receive the second half kickoff. A scoring drive then and the Crimson Tide would take the lead, claim the momentum and quiet the boisterous, standing room only crowd.

Five plays into the third quarter, Bama running back Bo Scarbrough scored on a 21-yard run, giving Alabama it first, and only, lead. The scoring drive happened, but not much else good did for the visitors. The lead didn’t last. Auburn reclaimed the momentum and the jumping, screaming crowd only got louder.

The Tigers responded with a 44-yard Carlson field goal. Then with 3:02 left in the quarter, a 1-yard touchdown run by Johnson and the Carlson extra point made it 20-14. Auburn’s final touchdown came on a 16-yard run by Stidham, finishing a 74-yard drive. The two-point conversion pass was incomplete, but it hardly mattered.

Alabama never threatened again to take the lead and when Johnson left the game with a potential serious injury in the fourth quarter, the Tiger offense pretty much shut it down. Again, it hardly mattered. The final score … Auburn 26, Alabama 14 … was the Tigers’ largest margin of victory against Bama in 48 years.

It was a dominating performance.

Auburn had the ball for more than 36 minutes, ran 17 more plays, had 25 first downs and gained 408 yards total offense against what had been considered the nation’s No. 1 defense. Stidham completed 21 of 28 passes for 237 yards with no interceptions. He ran for 51 yards, including the 16-yard touchdown. Before the injury, Johnson ran for 104 yards, the highest total gained against the Tide this season.

The Tiger defense was equally dominant. Alabama converted only 3 of 11 third downs and just 1 of 4 fourth downs. Two weeks after holding Georgia runners Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to 46 rushing yards combined, Damien Harris and Scarbrough were held to a combined 97 yards, seven fewer than Johnson got alone. Hurts did pass for 177 yards, but 65 of those were on the meaningless last play of the game.

And, Carlson closed out a stellar career against his cross-state rival. In four games (2014-2017), he was good on 13 of 14 field goal attempts and kicked all six extra points.

After dominating wins over the nation’s No. 1 teams twice in three weeks, television analysts after the game were forced to acknowledge that the best team in the country might have two losses.

Still, both teams could be included in the final playoff quartet. It’s a simple path for Auburn. Just defeat Georgia again. But, with injuries to Johnson and 2016 SEC rushing leader Kam Pettway, that hurdle could be difficult to get over.

Alabama will need help, but it can happen. If TCU defeats Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game and/or Ohio State wins over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game that could reopen the door for Bama.

But at least for a while on Saturday night, looking ahead wasn’t the most important thing. It was time to celebrate.

Long after the game had ended and Auburn fans had left the stadium, the intersection of College and Magnolia streets downtown was still crowded with revelers yelling, dancing around and throwing toilet paper.

I wish Hilda Ferne and Ray had still been here. Cool, crisp and clear. It was their kind of football day.

Mother almost certainly would have been at the stove in the late afternoon, getting things ready for dinner, probably using her mother’s cast iron skillet to fry okra that she had breaded and frozen earlier. Dad would have been out back, maybe burning trash or raking pine straw or repairing something that didn’t need fixing. Anything to distract from what was happening at Jordan-Hare.

And, at some point, probably not long after Stidham’s touchdown run increased the lead to where an Auburn win was likely, she would have stepped onto the back porch, called to my dad, and told him that it was safe to come inside.

They would have smiled and hugged and had fried okra.

It would have been a big day in Rock Creek.