The Iron Bowl doesn’t need an introduction. What it really needs is its own section in the College Football Hall of Fame with plenty room to grow. No other rivalry has the flair for the dramatic quite like when the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers meet on the gridiron, and play nicknames such as “Run in the Mud” have helped create heroes that day and legends for life.
The 1985 Iron Bowl at Legion Field in Birmingham was an all-time classic. Anyone alive for it remembers it vividly. A showdown for the ages featured star players such as Alabama quarterback Mike Shula and Auburn All-American running back Bo Jackson, and it came down to the wire.
At the end of the day, Alabama placekicker Van Tiffin’s 52-yard field goal as time expired was the crowning moment. Today, it’s known simply as “The Kick.”
Van Tiffin’s “The Kick” in 1985 Iron Bowl
Before getting to Van Tiffin’s triumphant moment for Crimson Tide football, know that so much leading up to it went Alabama’s way. Only 57 seconds remained on the clock, but it was plenty of time to get the job done.
Alabama, under head coach Ray Perkins, played in plenty of close games that season. They edged out Georgia and Texas A&M to begin the year, lost by four points total to Penn State and Tennessee, and tied LSU. By the time November 30 rolled around, the Tide were battle tested and ready for the moment.
Quarterback Mike Shula, running back Gene Jelks, and wide receivers Al Bell and Greg Richardson all made key plays, as AL.com recalls. Offensive coordinator George Henshaw was on point. The last play of the drive — a strike from Shula to Richardson and a desperation stretch to get to the sidelines and out of bounds — stopped the clock with six seconds remaining.
It was all up to Van Tiffin, and he blasted the 52-yarder through the uprights to give Alabama football the 25-23 victory.
“There is the snap… the kick… it is in the air… it has DISTANCE! IT’S GOOD! IT’S GOOD! IT’S GOOD! ALABAMA HAS BEATEN AUBURN! VAN KIFFIN HAS KICKED A 52-YARD FIELD GOAL AND THE STATE OF ALABAMA IS CRIMSON!”
The fourth quarter comeback was complete. The roars from the SEC football game could be heard all the way back at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It was a beautiful moment in the rivalry’s history and Tiffin cemented his name in Crimson Tide lore.
Tiffin set the school record for not missing an extra point in 135 attempts. It was a record that stood for over two decades until his son, Leigh Tiffin, broke that mark playing for head coach Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
After one season in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Van Tiffin returned to Red Bay, Alabama — where he played high school football — and went to work at the family business, Tiffin Motorhomes, Inc.
No matter where he goes, Van Tiffin is remembered for “The Kick” and is an Alabama legend forever.