Let’s play two! A brief history of Southern football doubleheaders

In the 1960s and 1970s, it was not unusual for a handful of Southeastern Conference teams, most notably Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State, and Ole Miss, to play college football doubleheaders. That’s right folks! A twin-bill on the same Saturday in the same stadium.

As unfathomable as it seems in today’s college football world of kickoff times dictated by television, tailgating, and the total gameday experience, in those days a stadium was filled for one game in the morning, cleared out, and filled up again for another that night. In fact, the 1968 Auburn Tigers played in two such double dips in the same season and came away victorious in both matchups.

While there may been other instances spread out at venues across the SEC at various times, most seem to have taken place at Birmingham’s Legion Field and at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi. And they weren’t just gimme games, either. Most were SEC counters and quite a few involved ranked teams.

Here’s a look at five instances where fans got two for the money and enjoyed the show:

Sept., 28, 1968 – Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Jackson

Auburn vs. Mississippi State; Ole Miss vs. Kentucky

Auburn blasted MSU 26-0 in the day game, but it was the “home” debut of Ole Miss quarterback Archie Manning in the nightcap against Kentucky that was the highlight.

The Wildcats led 14-10 after three quarters, but Manning put the Rebels ahead for good with a 20-yard scramble with 13:39 to play. Perry King added the point after to make it 17-14. Safety Glenn Cannon returned an interception 25 yards for a TD, and Robert Bailey scored on a 14-yard run with King making one PAT and having one blocked to round out the scoring 30-14.

Ole Miss rolled up 237 yards rushing on 54 carries, but Manning’s passing numbers weren’t great, just 7-for-22 for 87 yards. Still they were good enough that most of the 40,102 fans went home happy.

 

 Nov. 9, 1968, Legion Field, Birmingham

Alabama vs. LSU; Auburn vs. Tennessee

Tide quarterback Scott Hunter threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns in the day game as Alabama downed LSU 16-7. In the nightcap, Auburn and the No.5-ranked Tennessee Volunteers met in the first night game ever played between the two schools. The Vols came into the game as an unbeaten but went home unhappy after AU halfback Mike Currier scored on three of his first four plays of the game to lead the Tigers to a 28-14 win.

 

Nov. 7, 1970, Legion Field, Birmingham

Alabama vs. LSU, Auburn vs. Mississippi State

Despite being outgained on offense 328 yard to 245 yards, LSU held off Alabama 14-9 before a crowd of 60,371 in the daytime and Auburn shellacked MSU 56-0 in the nightcap in what was technically a home game for the Bulldogs.

 

Oct. 30, 1971, Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium, Jackson

LSU vs. Ole Miss; Alabama vs. Mississippi State

Ranked No. 12 nationally, the LSU Tigers were heavy favorites over Ole Miss as they came into their annual matchup that fall morning. But the Rebels were still smarting from a 61-17 drubbing by the Bengal Tigers in 1970 in what was then the most lopsided defeat in series history. Ole Miss jumped out 21-0 then held off a furious LSU rally for a 24-22 win.

In the nightcap, Bama rushed for 329 yards to MSU’s 39 and quarterback Terry Davis threw for two TDs in a 41-10 Tide win before 40,500.

 

Sept. 15, 1973, Legion Field, Birmingham

Auburn vs. Oregon State; Alabama vs. California

In the day game, Auburn hosted the Oregon State Beavers in the season opener for both teams and won 18-9 before 45,000. Perhaps it was the heat and humidity down South, but both squads got a little hot under the collar with 4 minutes left in the game and one of the nastiest football brawls you’ll ever see ensued.

The Tigers came in a three-touchdown favorite but led just 10-9 when Roger Mitchell intercepted OSU’s Alvin White for the second time in the game and returned it to the Auburn 46-yard-line. Mitchell was tackled hard and that touched off a dustup that cleared both benches. When order was restored, AU turned the ball back over to OSU, but then got it back again on a David Langner interception and return to the OSU 17 with 2 minutes to play. Two plays later, second-string QB Wade Whatley dashed around left end for 15 yards and the winning score and starter Randy Walls added the two-point conversion to seal the AU victory.

That night, Bama wore out the Cal Bears 66-0. A team that featured future National Football League standouts Steve Bartkowski, Chuck Muncie, and Wesley Walker could do nothing against a Bama offense that piled up 667 total yards, including 405 on the ground. Richard Todd threw TD passes of 16 and 46 yards, Gary Rutledge had TD passes of 32 and 86 yards, and Willie Shelby scored on runs 32 and 5 yards to round it out.

It was reported that before the game, many on the Cal squad had been hit with a stomach virus, which hampered their effectiveness. But back then it probably wasn’t uncommon for lots of teams to get bad stomachaches on gameday when they had to face Paul “Bear” Bryant’s steamroller. H&A

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Cover photo: Legion Field, Birmingham. Photo by Al Blanton 

 

 

 

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