EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third story in a series on the 15 most memorable SEC football games beat writer David Paschall has covered since joining the newspaper in 1990. The games are being presented in chronological order.
The most exciting Southeastern Conference football game of the 1993 season was Auburn's 38-35 upset of Florida, which was witnessed by 85,214 fans inside Jordan-Hare Stadium.
Not a soul outside the stadium saw it.
The Tigers were banned from television by the NCAA as a result of sanctions stemming from the Pat Dye regime. The punishment, which wouldn't be possible now given today's lucrative media rights contracts, wasn't expected to impact Terry Bowden's first season on the Plains, as the ineligible-for-postseason Tigers were projected to resemble the 5-5-1 team from the year before.
Auburn bucked those predictions, however, jumping out to a 6-0 start and a No. 19 ranking before hosting 6-0 and No. 4 Florida. The Gators had defeated the Tigers handily the previous three years and were well on their way to a fourth such performance with a 10-0 lead and with the ball at Auburn's 10-yard line late in the first quarter.
Florida's dominating day was abruptly halted when a Danny Wuerffel pass to Willie Jackson at the goal line was intercepted by Auburn cornerback Calvin Jackson, who stepped in front of the receiver, snagged the ball and raced 96 yards for a touchdown that turned a potential 17-0 blowout into a 10-7 game.
"The coaches kept saying we need a big play," Jackson said afterward. "I just stepped in front of the receiver, made the catch and saw green in front of me."
Auburn did not take its first lead until James Bostic scored on a 4-yard run with 13:40 remaining to make it 28-27. The Tigers then got another long interception return, this one by Chris Shelling for 65 yards, to set up a 9-yard reverse by Frank Sanders for a 35-27 lead.
Wuerffel impressively guided Florida to a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie the game at 35, but a personal-foul penalty on the Gators helped the Tigers move into Florida territory and win the contest on Scott Etheridge's 41-yard field goal with 1:21 remaining. Florida somehow lost a game in which its offense racked up 560 yards.
"I'm still trying to figure out what happened," Gators fifth-year senior running back Errict Rhett said after rushing 22 times for 196 yards.
Auburn improved to 7-0 and became known as "the best team on radio," completing an 11-0 run with wins over Arkansas, 31-21, New Mexico State, 55-14, Georgia, 42-28, and Alabama, 22-14. The triumph over the Crimson Tide in the second Iron Bowl staged inside Jordan-Hare resulted in an awkward SEC title game between Alabama and Florida, with each having lost to an undefeated Auburn team on probation.
Even Bowden admitted the NCAA sanctions took on a heightened feel after the stunning of Florida.
"The positive is that we've been able to relax a little," he said. "The negative is that the closer you get to having a good season, the more you realize what they have taken away from you."
Auburn would win its first 20 games under Bowden, including a 36-33 upset of top-ranked Florida inside the Swamp in 1994. The 1994 Tigers had their games televised but were ineligible for postseason play for a second straight year.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.
READ MORE STORIES IN THE SERIES
Thirty years of SEC memories began with dominance of Pat Dye, Johnny Majors
Florida 48, Auburn 7 (1990): Spurrier's Gators arrived while ushering out Dye's Tigers
Alabama 28, Florida 21 (1992): Steve Spurrier on SEC title game: 'I didn't even know it was legal'
Alabama 29, Georgia 28 (1994): The night Jay Barker had to outlast Eric Zeier
Tennessee 28, Arkansas 24 (1998): Billy Ratliff's play arguably the most memorable in Vols history
Georgia 26, Tennessee 24 (2001): When a 'hobnail boot' described an instant classic
Georgia 24, Auburn 21 (2002): The fourth-and-15 play that turned a Florida-Auburn SEC title matchup into Georgia-Arkansas
LSU 17, Georgia 10 (2003): Nick Saban gets LSU back among the national elite
Florida 31, Alabama 20 (2008): Turning the SEC title game into a national semifinal
Alabama 12, Tennessee 10 (2009): The day 'Mount Cody' spoiled Tennessee's upset bid
Auburn 28, Alabama 27 (2010): The surreal day when Nick Saban lost a 24-point lead at home
Alabama 32, Georgia 28 (2012): Time runs out on Georgia in the most thrilling SEC title game played to date
Georgia 44, LSU 41 (2013): Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger meet again to provide a classic
Auburn 34, Alabama 28 (2013): Navigating thousands to interview 'Kick Six' components quite the task
Alabama 26, Georgia 23, OT (2017 season): Crimson Tide win walk-off national title over Bulldogs