DALLAS — The last time Texas A&M and Auburn got together, Bo Jackson hadn't been born yet. Neither had Jackie Sherrill or Pat Dye. Neither, for that matter, had the Cotton Bowl.
The Aggies won that first and only meeting, 16-0, back in 1911. They meet again New Year's Day in the 50th Cotton Bowl, the Aggies acting as Southwest Conference host for the first time since they bounced Alabama 20-16 in 1967, the Auburn Tigers of the Southeast Conference making their inaugural appearance.
Giving the bowl added spice is the fact that Sherrill, the Texas A&M coach, used to play for Dye, now the Auburn coach, when Sherrill was a linebacker and Dye an assistant at Alabama.
"Pat put many a knot on my head," Sherrill said. "He taught me to be tough. It's ironic that I started the season coaching against one of my old Alabama teammates (Ray Perkins) of Alabama and now I'm going against one of my former coaches."
Alabama is the only team both the Aggies and Tigers have faced this season. The Crimson Tide beat each of them--23-10 over Texas A&M in their season opener and 25-23 over Auburn on a 52-yard field goal with the clock showing 0:00 in the final game of the season.
The Aggies prefer to remember their 1967 Cotton Bowl victory over 'Bama, when the late Paul "Bear" Bryant of Alabama gave his protege, A&M Coach Gene Stallings, a victory ride on his shoulders, the Bear's famed houndstooth hat falling off in the process.
The Tigers have a 9-7-1 bowl record and are 3-2 against SWC teams, including a 21-15 victory over Arkansas in last December's Liberty Bowl. Auburn has had four New Year's Day bowl appearances, two in the Orange Bowl and two in the Sugar Bowl.
The Aggies were 9-2 with a closing 42-10 victory arch-rival Texas on Thanksgiving night. The Aggies' only other loss was 20-15 to Baylor. Auburn's other losses were 38-20 to Tennessee and 14-10 to Florida.
The Golden Anniversary game shapes up as an assault by Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner, on a tenacious Aggie defense led by All-American linebacker Johnny Holland.
But the Tigers have proved they are capable of salty defense, and the Aggies can move the ball behind SWC Offensive Player of the Year Kevin Murray.