The lights went out and that familiar sound rang through the loudspeakers at Jordan Hare Stadium.
Go crazy, Cadillac! go crazy!
Auburn’s reimagined hype video opened with the iconic Cadillac Williams 80-yard touchdown run at the start of the 2003 Iron Bowl play, with the legendary call from the late Rod Bramblett. Jordan Hare Stadium was a powder keg waiting to explode.
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Nearly two weeks of reinforcement and anticipation led to this moment: Williams’ first home game as Auburn’s interim coach. He didn’t want this night to be around him, but there was no denying that he’s the man of the hour under the spotlight on Saturday. Flashing on the screen at the end of the hype video, he stared into the camera and delivered the same challenge he had given earlier in the week: “The Auburn Family—let’s. Go. Crazy.”
When Williams led his team out of the South End District Tunnel, rushing with his players – a tradition back from his days as a player – he had a huge crowd at home under his supervision. Auburn fans understood the task on Saturday night, and they provided an unforgettable vibe on a surreal night for the Williams and Tigers, as they cut their five-game losing streak in a row with a 13-10 victory over Texas A&M.
“This place is special,” Williams said. “And to see the support from the fans, like, they put a battery in my back, and they energized me.”
The environment at Jordan Hare Stadium on Saturday was fit for an ironclad championship, part of the oldest deep south competition or a top-10 match. Under normal circumstances, a confrontation between two last-placed teams – each on a five-game slide entering the game – wouldn’t have produced that kind of atmosphere. Of course, these conditions were not normal on the plains. Not by a long shot.
Amid a turbulent season for Auburn, which included the sacking of then coach Brian Harsin on Halloween, Williams’ promotion to interim coach provided optimism and solace. Auburn’s fan base rallied behind one of their own – a former All-American and one of the show’s greatest contestants. Williams’ message after his first game as head coach last week was that Auburn would be fine. On Saturday, Auburn fans chose to reciprocate the message.
Auburn announced his sale at Jordan Hare Stadium earlier in the week, and the players knew the tumultuous environment awaited them on Saturday night. If they had any doubts, they were immediately erased when team buses stopped to the intersection of Samford and Donahoe for Tiger Walk more than two hours before kick-off. The streets were lined with legions of enthusiastic fans to show their support. One of the women turned to her companions and remarked, “It hasn’t been this way in two years.”
For much longer, at least since before the pandemic.
But this day was different. This was Auburn’s day. In the past, with several of Williams’ former teammates in attendance to support their brother in his first home appearance. Nowadays there is the players’ locker room, many of whom have experienced two training changes during their time on the Plains, and were mired in a disastrous season, without a win since September 24, until Saturday night. As for her future, a group of recruits were lined up on the sidelines of the preliminary match, and Williams declared after the win that Auburn was “not dead; they’re coming.”
“When we got off the bus, man, we saw that tiger walking, man,” said Tank Bigsby as he ran back. “We said right away, when we got into the locker room, like, ‘Bro, she’s back. “This is the feeling we were looking for.”
This feeling continued as Auburn walked into the field after Tiger Walk. The student section was already full of nostrils. Williams turned around and admitted them with two fist pumps as he walked the field for the first time as head coach for his alma mater. At the end of the pre-match warm-up, Williams broke the crowd and triggered another roar from the crowd as Auburn returned to the locker room.
Then came the game itself. The noise at Jordan-Hare Stadium caused a false start at Texas A&M before the first shot of the night. The fans maintained their energy for 60 minutes, turning the 87,451 seat stadium into a crazy stadium. As Robbie Ashford got on his knees and the final seconds passed the clock, the Auburn players raced toward the student section to celebrate. They climbed on the edges and out of frustration for six weeks, enjoying the moment for themselves and their interim coach as they joined the crowd for a post-game surf as 2017 was again.
“It’s like a heavy weight on our shoulders,” defensive lineman Colby Wooden said. “We haven’t won that long. Like, it seems like forever. But, my God, it’s such a pleasure to win. It’s a deep breath—we breathe and say, ‘Okay.’ But we know we have to get back to work.”
Williams joined his team in the southeast corner of the stadium, but not before he was overwhelmed by a cooler from Gatorade on the sideline (team captain Derek Hall was one of the culprits responsible for Williams’ tepid win). Williams swirled a towel over his head as he trotted across the field, beaming with pride and overwhelmed by an array of emotions.
The scale of the moment was not wasted on him as he celebrated in front of the student department at Auburn University, pumping his arms up and down—to borrow a phrase from Bramblet 19 years ago—going crazy.
As Williams turned around and made his way toward the locker room, where Hall presented the game ball, the Auburn students sang a final hymn of appreciation before heading into the night: “CADDY! Cady!”
“These people love Coach Luck, and Coach Luck loves Auburn,” Hall said. “One thing I’ve heard a million times: If you love Auburn, Auburn will come back to you. That’s 100 percent true…. We knew this environment would be nothing short of amazing, and the Auburn family came and went.”
When Williams finally made his way to his post-match press conference, he grabbed the game ball in his hands before placing it neatly on the ground beside him in the podium. He tried so hard not to make this night about himself; He said he got a lot of credit.
For a brief moment before his emotional opening remarks, he couldn’t help himself. A reporter jokingly asked if the match ball was for the media. Williams smiled from ear to ear as he shook his head and took a sip of the water.
“Nah,” he said. “That’s me there. That’s me there.”
Ball and Night belong to Williams.
Tom Green is the Auburn Beat correspondent for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed
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