We've had a lot of firsts and seconds since Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC, and we'll almost certainly have some more before these two new teams are just another couple of conference programs instead of new additions. But the SEC Championship Game this weekend in Atlanta marks just the second time in the history of the two programs that Missouri and Auburn have ever played each other.
The first time the two teams met, in the 1973 Sun Bowl, was really not all that memorable, except perhaps for Missouri fans.
How Auburn even got into this game -- back in an era when bowl games actually meant something -- is a bit of a mystery, at least to me. The Tigers came in 6-5 and just 2-5 in the SEC, losers of three of their last four games. A season that began with a No. 12 ranking ended up in a 35-0 beatdown against Alabama in what would be one of Shug Jordan's worst games of the year.
Meanwhile, the Sun Bowl was a bit of a disappointment for Missouri as well. But Missouri showed up for the game despite their disappointment. For all intents and purposes, Auburn did not.
And so Missouri scored three straight touchdowns in the second quarter, then responded to an Auburn touchdown with an 84-yard kickoff return to make the halftime score 28-10. As you can imagine, the game was rather uneventful after that, with teams combining for 13 more points in the third quarter of what ended up a 34-17 game.
As you might imagine, that kind of a performance set some bowl records for Missouri. the 28 points was the most in a single quarter in the postseason. The five touchdowns in the game -- Mizzou missed an extra point -- tied with six other games for the most in a bowl. Missouri's 71 rushes were the most in a bowl game. (Mizzou had 295 yards rushing.) The four fumbles that Missouri took away from Auburn are tied with the 2008 Cotton Bowl against Arkansas for the highest total in the team's postseason history.
The win also played a large role in Missouri football in that era, as Rock M Nation recounts:
After the ineptitude of 1971's 1-10 campaign, followed by the up-and-down nature of the 1972 season ... Mizzou announced to a national television audience that they mattered once again in the world of college football.
As for Auburn? Jordan would have one more great year in 1974, when he went 10-2 and finished in the Top 10 in both polls, before retiring after a 4-6-1 season (after Mississippi State later forfeited a tie) the following year.