How Florida State and Auburn Met in the 1989 Sugar Bowl
Two games – each determined by a single point – colored the entire 1988 season, as well as the complexion of the bowl pairings and, eventually, the final polls.
Fourth-ranked Auburn was 4-0 and seemed to be a clear step above the rest of the SEC with a suffocating defense that would finish as the nation’s best, when it visited unranked LSU (2-2) on Oct. 8.
Auburn’s formidable defense pinned down the Bayou Bengals most of the night, so much so that LSU saw the far side of the field just once before the fourth quarter.
Still, the LSU defense was playing as well as Auburn’s, keeping the home-standing Tigers behind just 6-0, within hailing distance. And LSU was able to pull itself together for one memorable late drive – and a very memorable 7-6 victory.
The Bayou Bengals lurched to life in the final minutes, made two unforgettable fourth-down plays – including the only touchdown of the evening with 1:41 to play – to stun an Auburn team that had legitimate national championship aspirations.
LSU gained but 28 yards rushing, and fullback Eddie Fuller, who caught the winning 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tommy Hodson, was the Bengals’ leading runner with 15 yards.
Assessed Hodson: “We didn’t get a lot of first downs (13), a lot of completions (19-of-42) or a lot of yards rushing. But we got the most points.”
A week later, resurgent Notre Dame, unbeaten under wisecracking third-year coach Lou Holtz, took on No. 1-ranked Miami.
In a game that wasn’t determined until a two-point conversion attempt by Miami with 45 seconds remaining was knocked away, the Fightin’ Irish nipped the Hurricanes 31-30.
Notre Dame ascended to No. 1, where the Irish remained the rest of the season.
The point is, had Auburn found a way to keep LSU out of the end zone in their game, Auburn and Notre Dame would have both been undefeated and would likely have met in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.
As it was, Auburn was to face Florida State, which also finished with just one loss. But it was a whopper, 31-0 to Miami in the season opener.
Recap excerpted from the book “Sugar Bowl Classic: A History” by Marty Mulé, who covered the game and the organization for decades for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.