"The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979
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    "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    Note: Please bring any errors of fact to my attention - some may be in the original sources as well.



    Imagine for a moment that you were transported back four decades to 1979. And to give you an idea of how long ago that really was – 1979 is just as close to 1939, and the beginning of World War Two, as it is to 2019. What was life like in 1979? There was an oil crisis that forced gas rationing. There was no interleague play in baseball, and the first mid-season strike was still two years away. A push button phone was considered a luxury as was a color television. Muhammad Ali retired from boxing (the first time). A radiation leak at Three Mile Island served as a reminder of the risks of nuclear power. It is probable that a building near you has a yellow and black sign with the designation “Fallout Shelter.” Most businesses are not easily accessible for those in wheelchairs. And your favorite college football team plays – at most – three games per year on television, and the third broadcast requires selection to one of the major bowl games since not even the minor bowls are always telecast nationally. The minor bowls are instead syndicated through a provider such as Mizlou and purchased by a local affiliate. If your affiliate doesn’t purchase the bowl game, you don’t get to see it. Your main sources of information are television and the local daily newspaper – and, of course, your friend whose views and opinions are based on anecdotes and what he heard from a friend who heard from a friend who heard from another who was messing around.

    But many other things have not changed all that much. In both 1979 and today, one of the most popular shows on television is “60 Minutes” (#6 in 1978-79, #12 in 2017-18), the nation is being led by an executive who seems more incompetent and disliked with each passing day, gas prices are too high, and college football has an ongoing argument regarding the best way to determine the national champion.

    And stop me if you’ve heard this one. LSU fires one of the most successful coaches in their history because he cannot beat Alabama and replaces him with a Louisiana-born mediocrity whose prime criteria for the job were his service as an assistant to the head coach they’d just fired, and the fact that LSU coaching search committee is several fries short of a Happy Meal.

    And what else has not changed? There are complaints about Alabama’s regular season schedule, “too many bowl games”, questions about the validity of the polls, cries about the need for a playoff, musings about when the legendary Alabama coach would be retiring, coaches named Saban and Kiffin making news, Ohio State fans commiserating over whether the new head coach could be as successful as the one who recently departed under a cloud of the word “assault”, Georgia blowing the game that would have won them the SEC title, and a Tide assistant taking a head coaching job and hinting he would be taking some assistants with him. Alabama was favored to win every game in 1979, most of them by double digits. Come to think of it, 1979 even featured a football story about a guy named Bill Belichick (one of the first).

    Oh, and did I mention that Alabama is also fielding a pretty damn good football team?

    1979 was my first full season as an Alabama football fan, the first time I was minimally aware of what was transpiring. It was my first season with some firsthand memories (the first Tide game I ever saw – fittingly perhaps – was the 1979 Sugar Bowl against Penn State). I have combed through literally thousands of newspapers to find as much as I could to capture and share the memories of the 1979 season. You will find (as I did) that there’s a lot that has changed (the defense could not advance a fumble and the QB could not stop the clock with a spike in 1979), but you will likewise find even more that has either modified only slightly or not at all.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

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    BamaNation Hall of Fame selmaborntidefan's Avatar
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    A PLAYOFF PROPOSAL

    The final year of the 1970s began on an anxious note for college football fans in Alabama. Despite having knocked off number one Penn State in one of the greatest games ever played, Alabama’s championship remained in limbo following USC’s win over Big Ten champion Michigan. The source of contention concerned whether or not the pollsters would look back in time and decide that USC’s September win over Alabama in Birmingham was sufficient grounds for leapfrogging USC over the Tide. At 630 am on January 3 – a good forty hours after the Sugar Bowl had ended – the Associated Press announced that Alabama had won the AP national championship after receiving 38 first-place votes to only 19 for USC. The coaches poll – then called the UPI national championship as it was named for United Press International – announced that USC had won their national championship by a narrow margin of five total votes over #2 Alabama, a point made all the more enraging when it became clear that Alabama had lost on the basis of USC getting more second-place votes when Oklahoma was named #1 on five UPI ballots. While the narrative has come to suggest that the coaches favored USC’s win over Alabama more so than the AP, the fact both teams got the same number of first-place votes (15) suggests head-to-head may not have had much to do with anything. It was the five coaches that voted Oklahoma first and USC second that cost the Tide an undisputed championship.

    There was much handwringing and animosity from Alabama quarters because the final UPI vote made absolutely no sense at all. Going into the bowl games, Alabama was ranked #2 in the UPI poll behind #1 Penn State. Since the Tide got the same 15 votes from Penn State as USC did, how could they have fallen to #3 on any of the ballots after beating the top-ranked team? Furthermore, how did Oklahoma go from zero votes to five as number one when their Orange Bowl win that avenged their sole loss to Nebraska left them at 1-1 on the season? The controversy as well as some interviews Bryant gave after the 1978 season concluded dominated the college football news in January 1979. Bryant was up first with the news that he had come very close to retiring at the end of the trying 1976 season, a year that saw Alabama lose two SEC games, three overall, and wind up in the Liberty Bowl. A few days after the Bryant revelation, Miami Hurricanes Coach Lou Saban announced he was heading to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point to take over Army, who had just fired offensive guru Homer Smith after Smith had accused the school of recruiting violations. Miami looked for a Bryant pupil and chose Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Howard Schnellenberger to replace Saban. And then came the first pebble in the avalanche: January 8, 1979, the first time college football seriously considered the format of a college football playoff.

    The initial proposal was both innovative and – by 1979 standards – radical. All 28 teams that played in bowl games would be eligible for the playoff. At the conclusion of the bowl games, a selection committee would choose four of the 14 winners to compete in a three-game tournament to determine the national champion, the title game to be played on the weekend between the NFL conference championship games and the Super Bowl. One immediate obstacle was the fact that several of the bowls had long-term deals with conferences, an arrangement that the committee agreed to keep intact. A second immediate obstacle was the fact there were fifteen bowl games that would enlarge the field to thirty possible participants, but this was not considered an overwhelming problem.

    Dave Strack, the Arizona AD, announced that the eight-member NCAA Extra Events Committee was unanimously in favor of such a playoff while the committee’s most vocal member, Arkansas AD Frank Broyles, excitedly suggested that the playoff might possibly determine the champion following the 1980 season. Dan Devine, the Notre Dame coach who had benefited from the poll fiasco of 1977, exuberantly endorsed the idea. Paul Bryant stated that he favored a limited playoff that included the bowl games, a notion seconded by Joe Paterno of Penn State. Johnny Majors, the Tennessee coach who had won the 1976 title with Pitt, said that such a playoff would add pressure on the coaches, but that he would love to have that kind of pressure. Of course, Majors’s idea was used by outgoing LSU Coach Charles McClendon (aka “Cholly Mac”) to decry of a playoff and would result in “only one winner” at the end of the season rather than the 14 happy teams under the bowl arrangement.

    Not surprisingly, the arguments of those opposing the playoff were almost entirely the same as would be verbalized for the next 35 years until college football finally approved one. Basically, they boiled down to: it would make the season too long (ignoring the multiplicity of January All-Star games), the bowl games did not want to be seen as quarter-final games for “real” games, and the “disputes about championships adds to the excitement of the sport” nonsense. USC Coach John Robinson mused that a playoff would “not necessarily solve the problem,” presuming he meant that the selection process might not produce the desired result. Robinson – with an “Amen” from Bryant – then pointed out that it should to be remembered that college football or any other sport was to be secondary to the primacy of a good education. Four conferences – Big 8, Big 10, Pac 10, and ACC – opposed the playoff on financial grounds. The Rose Bowl had a long-term guaranteed deal with two of those conferences that guaranteed at least $2 million per year, a fact of life that resulted in the playoff getting voted down in the spring of 1980.

    In another interview on January 18, Bryant said that the universities in financial trouble would support a playoff regardless because they needed the money they could obtain with the extra playoff games. Nine days later, Bryant narrowly lost the closest Coach of the Year vote in history to Joe Paterno, 59-53. And then as sure as death and taxes, the health and long-term viability of the Alabama coach was called into question when Bryant slipped in the shower and spent four days having trouble breathing. He was admitted to West Alabama General Hospital on February 10, where X-rays determined his fall had broken three of his ribs. During Bryant’s stay, Mississippi State hired wishbone architect Emory Bellard as their new head coach, and the whispers began yet again: “Who will replace Coach Bryant when he leaves?” In just 16 months’ time, the presumed successor had moved from Ole Miss Coach Steve Sloan to Maryland head coach Jerry Claiborne, who had likewise played for Bryant (at Kentucky). Bryant spent ten full days in the hospital, and the day after he left, Alabama announced their finalized 1979 schedule, which drew national ridicule to put it mildly. Gone were 1978 combatants Nebraska, USC, Washington, and Missouri, replaced by Georgia Tech, Wichita State, and Baylor. The addition of the overmatched Wichita State Shockers was the result of an August 13, 1978 cancellation of the return game with Southern Methodist. The Mustangs begged out of the series after a dispute arose over the venue, and Bryant calmly informed SMU that if he could get a replacement game at such a late date with someone, he’d relinquish the SMU contest. Bryant found a willing masochist when Wichita State, coached by a former Bryant player named Jim Wright (Texas A/M), volunteered to come to Alabama and take the beating and the money. Unfortunately, Wright was fired after the 1978 season, and Bryant was stuck with the game. Later that same week, Bryant’s assistant AD, Charlie Thornton, took over as Schnellenberger’s boss as the new AD at Miami. In a still busy week, former Bryant player Ray Perkins was hired as the newest coach of the New York Giants, beating out Dan Reeves in large part due to Perkins’s longtime friendship with Giants GM George Young. (Reeves, of course, would coach the Giants some 15 years later). Two days onto the job and Perkins made a mammoth hire, Air Force Academy Coach Bill Parcells. Just over a week later – on March 8, 1979 – Perkins made a seemingly innocuous hire that would change the course of NFL history when he brought in 26-year old special teams coach and defensive assistant Bill Belichick from the Denver Broncos. Perkins had hired two coaches that would combine to dominate the NFL for most of the next four decades and capture at least eight Super Bowl championships in twelve appearances. As it turned out, however, Parcells never even made it to the beginning of the season as he quit just months into the job and spent an entire year doing nothing but watching the games from his home in Colorado.

    On March 21, Bryant gave his first spring report on the team, and it was not good at all. He noted the team had no depth and was the thinnest (attrition-wise) he’d had since 1964, Steadman Shealy’s health was questionable, and behind Shealy he didn’t even have anything resembling a quarterback. Bryant’s disgust continued through the A-Day game two weeks later when the Reds beat the Whites, 21-0, in a game that saw backup QB Alan Gray lead two long scoring drives. Shealy did not participate.

    But Bryant was not exactly missing the star quality, either. The starting offense -as much as any existed at Alabama where Bryant was not one to name starters - was filled with nine seniors and two juniors who were battle tested. The potential superstar was junior halfback Major Ogilvie, but he was hardly alone. A bruising junior fullback named Steve Whitman was capable of blowing open holes for Ogilvie and could carry it just fine on his own. If Ogilvie and Whitman were the power then junior Billy Jackson was the speed out of backfield that would line up in triple option formation many times during the year. The receiving corps consisted of split end Keith Pugh (senior) and tight end Tim Travis, also a senior. Even the backup running backs were not slouches. Mark Nix, Joe Jones, Jeff Fagan, and Charley Williams would all make substantial contributions to the team.

    The offensive line was one of the greatest ever assembled in the history of college football, anchored by future Pro Football Hall of Famer Dwight Stephenson at center. Each end of the line was in good hands with tackles Buddy Aydelette and Jim Bunch, and running up the middle would be a delight behind the capable blocking of guards Mike Brock and Vince Boothe. The offense had a lot of big-game experience to accompany its talent.

    It seems bizarre in retrospect, but the Alabama defense was the larger question coming into 1979, in large part due to the departures of Barry Krauss, Marty Lyons, and Rich Wingo (among others). Wayne Hamilton, Byron Braggs, E J Junior, Warren Lyles, and Curtis McGriff formed the nucleus of a solid defensive line while linebackers Thomas Boyd and Randy Scott were capable of pass rush or dropping into coverage. The perceived weakness was perhaps the secondary, but the talents of Don McNeal, Tommy Wilcox, Jim Bob Harris, and Ricky Tucker combined to make the Tide defense as good as any in the nation entering the season.
    Last edited by selmaborntidefan; July 13th, 2019 at 04:33 PM.
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    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

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    After reading all the horrible things drinking will do to you....I gave up reading.

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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    WHAT ABOUT THE REST OF THE SEC?

    The big news concerned the pending departure of long-time LSU head coach Charles McClendon, who entered the 1979 season as the lamest of lame ducks. A few days after the 1978 loss to Alabama, McClendon – who a year earlier had had two years lopped off the end of his contract to set him up for the inevitable dismissal – was seemingly fired by one LSU AD (Carl Maddox) on the way out and then retained for one last year by the new AD, former LSU national championship winning coach Paul Dietzel. In a move that could only happen at LSU, Dietzel basically said that they wanted McClendon gone, but he was being retained for the last year of his contract because LSU was getting “bad publicity” over their handling of one of the SEC’s most successful coaches NOT named Paul Bryant. To this day, in fact, McClendon is the winningest coach in the history of LSU.

    Maddox had left LSU for the land of lower expectations in Starkville, and he brought in the man generally considered the architect of the modern wishbone, Emory Bellard, to replace Bob Tyler, who had resigned as both coach and AD after an NCAA investigation resulted in some rather excessive penalties commensurate to the actual crimes. Stop me if this sounds familiar. A defensive tackle named Larry Gillard was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because (I’m not making this up) he received the same student discount at a local clothing store that every other Mississippi State student received. Gillard paid $50 for $62 worth of clothing, and the NCAA declared him ineligible. MSU retaliated by taking the case to court and winning a temporary reprieve. The mistake was that after winning in court, they permitted Gillard to compete in games in 1976 and 1977 so that when the NCAA eventually won the case, they forced MSU to forfeit all wins from those seasons. Tyler warned in February 1978 that the NCAA was a loose canon that didn’t follow due process, but his protests were written off as the whining of the guilty. MSU had two of their best years in history, back to back nine win seasons, removed from the record books.

    Tyler had been running the wishbone for years so Bellard’s hiring was seen primarily as continuing on what Tyler had attempted to build. Bellard had been somewhat successful as the head coach at Texas A/M, where he succeeded the fired Gene Stallings and – after beginning 8-14 in his first two years – reeled off two 10-win and two 8-win seasons that included an SWC title and a Sun Bowl victory over Florida. Bellard left after some of the meddling of the higher-ups at A/M, who advised him to resign as head coach and stay on as AD. For good measure, Bellard departed after losing consecutive games to drop to 4-2. Florida had hired former Bryant player Charley Pell, who fled Clemson two steps ahead of an NCAA investigation (just as he would do at Florida in 1984). Ole Miss OC George MacIntyre moved on as head coach at Vanderbilt. Doug Barfield had lost William Andrews to the Atlanta Falcons, but he had two NFL level running backs at Auburn in Joe Cribbs and James Brooks, who would lead the Tigers to an 8-3 record and average over 300 yards rushing per game. Johnny Majors was entering his third year at Tennessee trying to restore glory to the once proud program. Fran Curci was humming along at Kentucky, Steve Sloan was in his third year trying to pull Ole Miss out of the doldrums, and Vince Dooley and Georgia were considered the primary contenders to Alabama for the SEC title. The Bulldogs had quarterback Buck Belue and one of the SEC’s best-ever kickers, Rex Robinson, back from a 9-2-1 year. Auburn was ineligible for the conference title due to NCAA probation, but they would have a lot of say regarding the eventual champion.

    BEFORE THE SEASON
    The week after the A-Day game, the country’s top high school recruit, Eric Dickerson, declared his school choice to be Southern Methodist, although he did keep the nice sports car the Aggies used as recruiting bait. And the SEC got a dose of 1970s-style coach rumormongering as the lead candidate for the LSU job – in the press anyway – was a then little-known coach at little-known Florida State named Bobby Bowden. The NFL draft saw five Alabama players drafted as Barry Krauss went at #6 to the Baltimore Colts while teammate Marty Lyons was the #14 overall pick of the NY Jets. Rich Wingo, Tony Nathan, and Jeff Rutledge were all drafted as well. June 11 brought the death of the most famous USC lineman of all-time, John Wayne, who very few fans knew (or recalled) as a football player named Duke Morrison back in the days before TV and Beano Cook.

    Bryant also suffered a personal loss when his college roommate, Frank Moseley, passed away at the age of 68 on July 31. This would not have much relevance except for the fact that not only had Moseley been an assistant to Bryant at both Maryland and Kentucky, but he was the Athletic Director at Virginia Tech – which is why VT was on the Tide schedule in 1979. In fact, Alabama had played Va Tech seven times (six in the state of Alabama) over the course of the previous decade largely because of Moseley’s relationship with Bryant. Moseley had also been the one who hired Jerry Claiborne for his first head coaching job at Va Tech.

    On August 4, 1979, Bryant’s press conference featured an observation that is amusing in retrospect. Whether it was a motivational tool, one of many instances of his poor mouthing prior to games, or something else, Bryant said he was happy to have a team with a lot of returning seniors (16) and lettermen (38) as well as what he called “schedule luck.” But he then observed, “The defense will be weak this season mainly because of inexperience" and "the offense is strong, but the lack of speed will kill us."

    Just prior to the start of the season, the polls were released:

    AP POLL
    USC (47)
    Alabama (11)
    Oklahoma (4)
    Texas (1)
    Penn St

    UPI POll
    USC (22)
    Oklahoma (2)
    Alabama (4)
    Texas (1)
    Penn St (1)
    8. Purdue (1)

    (Yes, one dweeb actually picked Purdue as the pre-season number one).

    And then the shoe dropped on August 24, when Bryant signed a five-year pact that would take him through the end of the 1983 season and announced he would not fight the state’s mandatory retirement age law of 70, an age he would reach on September 11, 1983. (Of course, he would not be alive for such legalities to matter). The date of Bryant’s retirement was now pretty much set in stone, barring a legal challenge. One pundit also made his prediction with less than accurate precision: “"On paper, the University of Southern California should have no trouble winning the national championship." He also observed, "Alabama isn't that awesome, but the schedule is soft as a pillow." Thus was the groundwork laid for how to interpret the season results – before the first leaf fell or the first whistle blew. Three teams were considered a cut above all others, the same three had finished in the top 3 spots in 1978: USC, Alabama, and Oklahoma – and generally in that order.

    On Friday, September 7, 1979, a development that would change sports viewing in America forever sprouted as the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) as it was called then launched on satellite from Bristol, CT. The company was proposed as a 24-hour sports channel, a radical idea in the world of 1979 (and it should be noted preceding CNN’s launch of a similar idea with news by a good nine months). ESPN was going to be permitted to show sports that were NOT picked up by the networks and did not have exclusivity agreements. Long story short, this meant that ESPN could show college football games not broadcast on the major networks but with the caveat that the game could not be shown live. Their solution was to do an entire broadcast as if it was a live program and then run the tape back through to show the games in their entirety, INCLUDING distinctive ESPN commercials. Because those early days of ESPN did not yet have much sports programming lined up, they would wind up filling three-hour blocks with repeat viewings of college football games that first autumn on the air. The company was receiving financial backing through Getty Oil and hoped to have four million subscribers by the end of the year. On the second day of their existence, ESPN showed their first college football game via tape delay, Colorado vs Oregon. Though it would take awhile to get better (including fourteen years before the idea of taking Game Day on the road), this decision along with the 1984 decision against limiting broadcasts had more to do with the expansion and availability of games than any other two things in the last four decades. And though the season technically opened on September 1, the good teams didn’t start rolling until September 8.

    SEPTEMBER
    Alabama opened with an old rival that they hadn’t seen in fifteen years, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Tech’s departure from the SEC after the 1963 season had ended the rivalry with Alabama, although the two teams had played in Tech’s first year as an Independent in 1964. Bobby Dodd was long gone, and Tech was on their third head coach since his departure, Pepper Rodgers. Alabama entered the game as a 15-point favorite in a game broadcast live on ABC from Grant Field in Atlanta. The game began as a typical first game of the year, wishbone versus wishbone and little movement until E.J. Junior picked off a late first quarter Mike Kelley pass and raced 59 yards for the Tide’s first touchdown of the game and the season. A failed two-point conversion left the Tide with a 6-0 lead. Alabama looked a little rusty, but the Tide got their first offensive TD when backup Don Jacobs came on and led a 66-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard run by Major Ogilvie. A second missed two-point conversion gave the Tide a 12-0 lead at the half. The dominant Tide defense had surrendered only 41 yards and one first down in the first thirty minutes. And then the Tide rolled in after the break.

    On the first drive of the second half, the reinserted Steadman Shealy led a 54-yard drive that ended with a Steve Whitman touchdown and PAT kick that gave the Tide a 19-0 lead, and the game was as good as over. Shealy later scored from the 11, and a McElroy field goal gave the Tide a 30-0 lead. Only a Tech TD against the backups with 12 seconds remaining kept the Jackets from a shutout. Alabama finished surrendering only 11 first downs, 225 yards, and six points in a game where they turned the ball over three times. Of course, they were helped by picking off four Tech passes, including Junior’s pick six. The post-game press conference was typical Bryant, expressing his disappointment that Tech had scored in the final seconds and his displeasure that the Tide offense had not scored every time they had the ball despite holding it for an incredible 42:36.

    USC, the #1 team in the country and presumed to be Alabama’s primary competition for the national title, had a rough game against Texas Tech, a game that saw them lose future NFL Hall of Famers Anthony Munoz and Ronnie Lott as well as 1979 Heisman winner Charles White and the talented Chris Foote to injury. USC still prevailed easily while Ohio State debuted their first new head coach since 1951 in Earle Bruce, who won an easy 31-8 victory over Syracuse. Because Oklahoma didn’t play, the Sooners as well as the Tide lost first-place votes to USC, but the Tide moved up to #2 in the UPI poll.

    On September 11, Bryant turned 66 years old.

    Alabama had their bye week after the first game, another unintended consequence of the SMU cancellation, but the Tide were obviously affected by other contests. Ohio State scraped by a mediocre Minnesota. Danny Ford suffered his first loss as Clemson’s new head coach, a 19-0 upset in which they were held to 87 yards of total offense. The #12 Georgia Bulldogs lost a stunning upset, 22-21, to Wake Forest, coming off a 1-10 season. The Dawgs surrendered 570 yards and despite having the SEC’s best kicker in Rex Robinson, missed a game-winning field goal from 58 yards on the final play. Oklahoma beat Iowa, 21-6, and Billy Sims began his attempt at a repeat Heisman with 106 yards and 2 TDs, a performance considered disappointing. And #8 Purdue – with that lone first-place vote in the poll – didn’t even make it out of September unbeaten when they lost by ten at UCLA.

    Baylor came to town on September 22, and the entire state of Alabama was under a tornado watch thanks to the recent landfall of Hurricane Frederic, a category 4 storm that followed close on the heels of Hurricane David, a category 5. Baylor didn’t have any trouble with a tornado, they just got hit by an onrushing Tide. Baylor, in fact, had more turnovers (8) than first downs (6) or times in Tide territory (2), and the Bears never advanced closer than the Alabama 38-yard line. After the Tide took an early lead with two McElroy field goals, Major Ogilvie scored from the one on a rush TD set up by Shealy’s 54-yard dash. A successful two-point conversion gave the Tide a 14-0 lead at halftime. Entering the fourth quarter, the Tide had the game in hand, but they only had a 17-0 lead. And that’s when the explosion began, a four-touchdown deluge – two by backup RB Mark Nix – that cemented a 45-0 rout and extended Alabama’s nation leading unbeaten streak to 11 games. On the same day, USC extended their streak to 11 games as well, with a smashing 48-14 rout of the same Minnesota team that nearly beat Ohio State. But it was also a day of major upsets that would determine the season’s outcome. Texas A/M shocked Penn State, Army stunned Stanford, and validating their one first-place preseason vote, Purdue knocked off Notre Dame, 28-22. Clemson showed Wake Forest’s upset win over Georgia was no fluke, beating the Bulldogs, 12-7, to avenge their sole loss in 1978. Oklahoma thumped Tulsa, 49-13, and the Big Three kept right on rolling. In fact, the biggest game of the season thus far was awaiting the Trojans in Baton Rouge just one week later.

    Despite knowing Charley McClendon was a lame duck, LSU was trying to send him out with an SEC title. The Tigers had throttled their first two opponents by a combined 91-3, although they were admittedly overmatched Colorado and Rice. Cholly Mac alternated quarterbacks, using starter David Woodley for some series and then replacing Woodley with Steve Ensminger. And while USC’s dazzling tailback Charles White accumulated 155 yards on the ground, he wasn’t able to inflict any damage. The Tigers led, 9-3, at the half, courtesy of Ensminger’s 13-yard pass to LeRoid Jones. The Tigers then led, 12-3, entering the fourth quarter, the first time USC had trailed in the 1979 season. The Trojans then mixed it up, handing the ball not to Heisman candidate White but to sophomore Marcus Allen. White finally got the touchdown with 9:54 left, but the Trojans still trailed, 12-10. With less than seven minutes left, LSU punted and recovered Allen’s fumble to improve their field position. It was an incredible recovery for LSU given the fact that USC tight end Vic Rakshani emerged from the pile holding the football. That wasn’t even the officials’ biggest faux pas of the evening as the LSU coaching staff discovered when watching the film and learning that USC RB Rickey Johnson, apparently too full of USC or something, had come off the bench during a play to help tackle David Woodley. LSU went to the air after the fumble, but an offensive pass interference and two sacks gave USC the ball at their own 22 with 4:16 left. Just when USC seemed to be out of gas, a face guarding penalty kept the drive going and Paul McDonald hit Kevin Williams for the game-winning score from eight yards out with only 33 seconds left. USC’s winning streak was up to 12.

    And so, too, was Alabama’s. In a game witnessed from the press box by former President (and Michigan football MVP) Gerald Ford, the Tide rolled up 601 yards of total offense – an insane total forty years ago – and smashed the Vanderbilt Commodores, 66-3, in the fourth biggest blowout in Alabama history. On the second play of the game, Shealy kept the ball and dashed 65 yards for a touchdown. The Tide used 53 players and surrendered but a field goal to a team that had not won an SEC game since 1975. After the game, Bryant gave one of his best poor mouth comments ever, saying, “Our offense never established much consistency.” At the end of the contest, the Tide was averaging nearly 500 yards and 47 points per game while surrendering 188 yards and an average of a field goal per game. Nebraska unloaded on Penn State in a 42-17 rout, and Ohio State scored a final minute TD to edge UCLA on the road, 17-13. Not to be outdone, Oklahoma punched in 66 points against Rice, but the AP poll clearly saw USC and Alabama as the two best teams at the end of September. Alabama gained a few UPI votes from USC, but the season was far from over.
    Last edited by selmaborntidefan; July 13th, 2019 at 04:35 PM.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

    Butch Jones has richly earned his title, The Archbishop of Talentbury

    After reading all the horrible things drinking will do to you....I gave up reading.

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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    OCTOBER
    On October 6, Alabama squared off against grotesquely undermanned Wichita State in Tuscaloosa. Despite giving up only 8 yards passing and scoring 38 points, Alabama didn’t even cover. The 130 pm kickoff saw the Tide enter the game as 42-point favorites and after holding the Shockers to a three and out, it took only four plays on a 67-yard drive to give the Tide a quick 7-0 lead on Shealy’s 27-yard TD pass to Keith Pugh. After a Don McNeal interception put the Tide at the Wichita State 11, it was Whitman for 8 and Shealy for the last 3 and a touchdown that had Alabama ahead, 14-0, less than nine minutes into the game. It never got better for Wichita State, as they took the check and the beating to the tune of 38-0. The most memorable drive of the game occurred when Wichita State got set up with first and goal at the Alabama one-yard line in the third quarter. Bryant reinserted his defensive starters in a 35-0 game, and the result was -3 yards and a fumble recovered by Ricky Turner on fourth down.

    Naturally, this impressive display cost Alabama 3 votes in the UPI poll and 3 more in the AP poll. That’s because USC crushed Washington State, 50-21, and despite the fact Wazzu had just been thumped by Syracuse by nearly the same score, this was obviously proof of the superiority of USC over Alabama. Oklahoma didn’t manage to benefit from the fact they played Colorado and won by four TDs. Ohio State edged Northwestern by nine early in what would eventually be a then-record NCAA losing streak. And Stanford beat UCLA when a freshman QB named John Elway performed the very first of his many comeback miracles, driving the Cardinal close enough for a game-winning field goal off the left upright that stunned UCLA. But the stage was now set for Saturday the 13th, the most important day of college football in the 1979 regular season.

    LSU visited Georgia for the first time since the Korean War, and the Bulldogs held on for victory when LSU fumbled away the game on the final drive at the Georgia 22. Ohio State pasted Lee Corso’s Indiana team with an impressive 47-6 win. Although not a totally shocking upset, Oklahoma fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in the Red River Shootout against Texas when they managed 158 yards, 6 first downs, and 7 points that they got thanks to a Texas turnover at their own 16. Future Congresscritter JC Watts hit future felon Stanley Wilson for the only Oklahoma TD. And the stunner of the day came in Los Angeles, where USC blew a 21-0 halftime lead over Stanford and left the field with a 21-21 tie. It was a phenomenal performance by the up and coming Elway, who was 9 for 16 for 118 yards – and never on the field for any of Stanford’s three touchdowns that tied the game. It was Turk Schonert who led Stanford to the comeback that tied USC. After Stanford missed what would have been the second game-winning field goal in two weeks, USC got the chance – and botched the snap. The winning streak and number one ranking were gone, smoldering in the ashes of one bad half.

    Two of the Big Three were now gone. Alabama, however, continued to rumble along, entering the Florida game as 19-point favorites. Bryant was facing his former pupil and player, Charley Pell, and the old man entered the game with a 23-game winning streak against his former mates as well as an overall record of 33-5. On the first possession, the Tide went 52 yards in eight plays and took a 7-0 lead. The second drive, extended by two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, saw Whitman go over from the five to make it 14-0 with 18 seconds left in the first quarter. The Tide closed the half with a 47-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard McElroy field goal that made it 17-0. When Billy Jackson went 73 yards on the first play of the second half, fans started making plans for the next week’s TSIO game against the Volunteers. Alabama got Bryant’s 88th shutout – including his 55th at Alabama – and won their 14th in a row, 40-0. The nation’s longest unbeaten streak and the new number one were now in sole possession of Alabama.

    Unfortunately, the Florida game also left the Tide with a plethora of injuries – a total of six players were hurt, including four starters (among them Mike Brock and Keith Pugh). Despite the fact that bowl berths could not be extended until November 17, rumors of which bowl Alabama would play in began percolating after the game. The situation was far more tense – and ridiculous – than most fans can imagine today (as will be discussed in detail later).

    Alabama was the nation’s new number one, adding 17 votes to their total. But Texas and Nebraska both got a chunk of UPI votes as they were now 2-3 with USC falling thanks to the tie to number four. (I can’t help but wonder what Ara Parseghian was thinking after a team that played to a tie dropped three spots in the rankings). Alabama was also on top in the more prestigious AP poll, with 58 of the 60 votes split 42-26 between the Tide and Texas. Alabama was the new number one, and the bullseye on the back had just gotten increased tenfold.

    Would ABC pick up the Alabama-Tennessee game for national telecast? They probably would have except two weeks earlier the Vols had lost a stunning upset to Mississippi State. They instead chose to air the Texas-Arkansas top ten clash of two unbeatens and were rewarded when a great game saw Arkansas outlast the Longhorns on a late Ish Ordonez field goal, 17-14. There was some additional comedy to this particular contest thanks to a lawsuit filed by the city of Texarkana against ABC, an attempt to force the affiliate to show the game, which was blacked out in Texarkana. A federal judge in Little Rock dismissed the suit the morning of the game.

    USC, no doubt angry over the Stanford tie, bludgeoned Notre Dame, 42-23, in a game that saw 51 total points scored in the second half and a whopping 1,126 total yards. And here came Nebraska as well, their scoreless streak reaching 16 quarters when they shut out Oklahoma State, 36-0. Alabama-Tennessee, meanwhile, was relegated to tape delay on ESPN, the first time Alabama ever played on the new network with the legendary Jim Simpson calling the action alongside Mike Ward. There was a moment of silence at Legion Field in honor of former Tide coach Harold “Red” Drew, who had passed away the morning of the contest. Alabama entered as 20-point favorites.

    Tennessee won the toss and promptly fumbled the opening kickoff at their own 18, but they recovered it, converted one first down, and then punted after the Tide sacked QB James Streater to end the first possession. On the first Tide drive, Shealy fumbled the ball away at his own 48, but the defense survived the faux pas. On the second drive, Shealy and Whitman botched the exchange – it appeared for all the world Shealy was trying to fake the handoff but messed up – and the Vols recovered at the Alabama 11, starting in the red zone. Streater hit Phil Ingram from 11, and the Vols had a 7-0 lead midway through the first. On the Vols next drive, they went 63 yards until Streater went over from the 3 to go ahead, 14-0, with 1:49 left in the first quarter. The Vols then put together a 7-play, 53-yard drive and nailed a 45-yard field goal to take a 17-0 lead with 12:58 left in the first half.

    Bryant responded by inserting Don Jacobs at quarterback in place of Steadman Shealy. Strangely enough, Major Ogilvie had not even touched the ball yet. Jacobs fixed that on his first play when he took the snap, faked right, went left on a counter option and at the last possible second pitched to Major, who went 26 yards and brought the depressed crowd right back into the game. Two plays later, he picked up 14 more yards that put the Tide in Vols territory. A power run by Steve Whitman gained seven, and Billy Jackson ran the same play for two. On third and one, Ogilvie broke left and got his third carry – and his third first down. Jacobs fumbled the snap on the next play but recovered. On the very next play, Jacobs and Whitman mishandled the transfer, and the Vols recovered at their own 25. It was the third lost fumble for Alabama in just 20 minutes of game time.

    James Berry picked up four on first down and Streater overthrew the receiver on second. On third and six, Streater dropped back to pass, but the ferocious rush of Warren Lyles blocked the pass, which ricocheted into the air and into the awaiting arms of Robbie Jones for a Tide interception. Nobody knew it at the time, but the momentum had just turned. Tennessee stacked the box anticipating a run, so Shealy ran play action and unloaded a bomb to Tim Travis, who didn’t have a Vol within 15 yards of him when he made the catch. He rumbled the last few steps into the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown that brought the Tide within ten, 17-7. The rest of the first half was pretty mundane.

    Shealy began the second half by going deep on the second play from his own 20, but Danny Martin picked off the pass at the Tennessee 40 and returned it back to the Tide 33-yard line. Ten points ahead and with the ball starting in Tide territory, the Vols had to feel good about themselves - for all of one play, which is all it took for Alabama to force a fumble and get the ball back at their own 31. After short gains on the first two plays, Steve Whitman fumbled at the Tide 38, but the Tide recovery prevented further damage. Alabama punted, but the five turnovers were keeping the Vols ahead. On the Vols next possession, Streater threw an interception directly to Ricky Tucker. Turnovers were also keeping Alabama within striking distance, and Jacobs led a short drive that culminated with Ogilvie over the top for a touchdown that brought the Tide within three with 9:40 left in the third.

    After forcing a punt, the Tide took over at their own 20 and drove inside the Tennessee thirty, where they faced fourth and one. Despite having a capable kicker, Bryant opted to go for it, Jacobs through the middle to retain possession. Ogilvie went over from the six for his eighth touchdown of the season, and with five seconds left in the third quarter, Alabama had their first lead of the game, 21-17. The Tide then put the game away with a 14- play, 80-yard drive that consumed much of the fourth quarter and gave Alabama a 27-17 win. The amazing defense held the Vols to only 71 yards in the second half, and 23 of that came on one play. It was Alabama’s 20th straight SEC win, which tied the record held by the 1937-40 Vols as well as the 1973-75 Crimson Tide. Bryant wasted no time praising his team, saying it was “the most terrific comeback I’ve ever seen” and expressing the view, “I think we’re a champion, I think we can beat anybody.” The pollsters, however, divided their votes after the Texas loss. In the AP poll, Alabama picked up six first-place votes, but USC got nine and Ohio State one. The nation’s new #2 was Nebraska, who nobody thought could beat either Alabama or USC but still had six first-place votes. And then came another issue that should remind the reader this was the 1970s.

    As the feminist movement made gains in the 1970s, one troublesome issue was whether female sportswriters had the right to interview nearly naked male athletes after an athletic competition. It was a classic case of right to do your job versus right to privacy. Bryant deftly solved the situation immediately, announcing on October 24 that the school would set aside a separate room for reporters to ask questions. This was in response to a complaint by the ACLU filed on behalf of Melody Simmons of “The Birmingham News” and Yvonne Terry of “The Huntsville Times.” Bryant was defiant in two directions: nobody, male or female, would be going into the locker room, but he was likewise not going to prevent anyone from doing their jobs. Bryant was generally praised for this action.

    The Tide hosted Virginia Tech one last time on October 27. Injuries were decimating the Tide as Major Ogilvie, Billy Jackson, and Mike Brock all sat out the contest. After a scoreless first quarter, the Tide scored on a Don Jacobs to Keith Marks pass play. Later, Shealy scored on a keeper set up by the recovery of a fumbled punt. The Tide cruised into halftime up 14-0. Tech drove and Don McNeal appeared to have ended the drive with an interception, but it was negated by a twelve men on the field penalty against the Tide. Va Tech kept a drive going with a costly Tide penalty (personal foul) that got them the first score to narrow it to 21-7, but the game was never in doubt. The final score was 31-7, and it was Bryant’s 200th win as the Alabama head coach. The winning streak was at 16, and more Alabama joy was found in what happened to Auburn on the same day. Facing the same Wake Forest that had already nipped Georgia, Auburn ran all over the field and pumped in 38 points. Then they left for the halftime break and blew their 38-20 lead, losing, 42-38, thanks in large part to turnovers on their final two attempts to win the game. Florida State, headed by LSU’s “maybe our next coach” Bobby Bowden, beat LSU – in Baton Rouge, no less – by a 24-19 final score. Bowden in later years would point to this game as proof that he could build a solid program at Florida State and did not need to go to LSU. Arkansas fell from the ranks of the unbeaten as the Houston Cougars took control of the SWC race with a 13-10 win. Alabama and USC lost AP poll votes that suddenly went to Nebraska and Ohio State as October ended with Alabama firmly in control of their own destiny. Or so it seemed.

    NOVEMBER

    On November 1, 1979, Alabama announced they would play a home and home series with Memphis State during the 1983 and 1985 campaigns. Sportswriter Herschel Nissenson then observed that the 1979 season appeared headed for a season-ending car crash in the polls, noting that that there were a couple of “flies in the ointment.” He (sort of) defended Alabama, noting, “A lot of teams in the top ten don’t play anybody. Alabama is one of them.” The Tide was beginning to get a lot of grief for their “soft schedule,” a schedule made even softer after the University of Tennessee paper ran a column asking, “What’s a Rutgers?” only to see the Vols lose to the Scarlet Knights in a shocking upset. Another barn burner took place in Jackson, Mississippi, where Ole Miss blew a 24-7 lead over LSU and lost, 28-24. Clemson showed that unlike Georgia or Auburn, they could handle Wake Forest, pounding the Demon Deacons, 31-0. Virginia, a 5-3 mediocrity, thumped Georgia, 31-0, to drop the Dawgs to 4-4. Georgia was 4-0 in the SEC and 0-4 outside the conference.

    The other SEC Bulldogs were gradually getting better under new coach Emory Bellard. Not that Vegas paid any attention as the Tide entered the game as 23-point favorites. Alabama’s failure to cover the point spread would be their only failure. A complete sellout crowd of 60,210 filled Bryant-Denny Stadium. State won toss and elected to defer. The teams exchanged a pair of possessions and on the third, Steadman Shealy led the Tide all the way to the MSU 10, covering 56 yards in just two rushes. The Tide had first and goal at the eleven and lost 11 yards on an errant pitch. Alan McElroy's chip shot turned 40-yard field goal attempt missed, so the first quarter ended scoreless. On the first play of second quarter, the Tide recovered a Michael Haddix fumble at the MSU 30. Shealy took it 13 yards on a fake handoff for the TD. MSU QB Tony Black was injured on the next play from scrimmage. At this point, MSU had a total of 17 yards from 11 scrimmage-based plays. Backup Dwayne Brown then took MSU on 17-play drive that consumed 8:35 and - in typical MSU fashion - ended in a botched snap on the 35-yard field goal attempt that snuffed out the rally attempt. A bad pitch but recovered fumble forced the Tide to punt, and MSU went 52 yards in only 6 plays to score a TD on an 18-yard pass across the middle with only 25 seconds left in the half. The two teams went in tied at 7.

    The Tide began the second half with a drive that ended with a just barely good McElroy field goal from 41 that made it 10-7. On the ensuing kickoff, MSU's Glenn Young fumbled and John Mauro recovered to put Alabama in business at the MSU 18. Shealy faked a handoff to Whitman and then followed the big back all the way into the end zone for a 17-7 lead. On the next Tide possession, Don Jacobs took UA on their only extended drive of the day, a masterpiece of nine plays and 89 yards that erased virtually the entire third quarter and ended with a 24-7 Tide lead on Billy Jackson's 23-yard screen pass reception for a TD. The game was all over except on the clock. The offense was impressive with 462 yards, 384 yards rushing, and Shealy set a Tide QB record with 100 yards rushing on 30 carries. The defense likewise sparkled as Wayne Hamilton had ten tackles and Robbie Jones eight. The defending national champs had now won 17 in a row and set an SEC record with 21 straight conference wins. Naturally, the politicking began in other corners of the nation.

    Missouri head coach Warren Powers, who had eschewed a tie and gone for the win only to lose by three, declared that his conqueror, Nebraska, was “the best team in the country.” Powers never bothered to mention that he was a Nebraska alum. As things turned out, Nebraska wasn’t even the best team in the Big Eight. Ohio State was gaining first-place votes as Nebraska was losing them. The Huskers had struggled against a 4-4 team and were lucky to win.
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    It was now LSU week. At his Monday press conference on November 5, Coach Bryant observed that his team was performing “like a malfunctioning car” and “not running smoothly.” He also took up for Charley McClendon, saying the man had been treated horribly by LSU and that he personally loved the guy. McClendon didn’t love Bryant enough to let the game be televised nationally, though. In the kind of thing that would never happen today, Cholly Mac turned down the TV money and exposure of an afternoon game in order to get Alabama in the tiger lair on Saturday night and – hopefully from his perspective – beat Alabama one final time. Alabama was hurting and hurting bad. Major Ogilvie had a strained ligament in the pelvic area, Keith Pugh was still out with a separated shoulder, and Don Jacobs was now hurt as well. This in addition to all the injuries affecting lesser-known players (e.g. not “starters”). And Bryant, who defended McClendon on the refusal to move the contest to daylight, was attempting to become the only coach in history (at the time) to win 100 games in a decade.

    Torrential rain and a slippery field with 55-degree temperatures greeted the teams for the last showdown between Bryant, the master, and McClendon, the student. It was only the third time during McClendon’s time as head coach that it rained during an LSU home game, and Alabama entered the game second in the nation in rushing with 371 yards and 37 ppg. Alabama won the toss and opted to force the Tigers to go into the wind. Hokie Gajan returned the opening kickoff to his own 25 to start the game. LSU punted after a three and out, and Alabama started at their own 45. Ogilvie, who was not supposed to play, picked up 7 on the first play from scrimmage to put the Tide in LSU territory. Shealy got the first down on the keeper. Ogilvie again got 7 on first down. Whitman then got the first down with a run up the middle to the LSU 35. A broken play saw Shealy sacked on first down with a loss of 3. Billy Jackson got back to the line of scrimmage, setting up 3rd and 13. Shealy then threw over the middle to Tim Travis at the first down marker, but he was inches short of the first down. Alabama lined up in a two tight end set, and Shealy made the first down with the QB sneak. Two short rushes set up another third and long. Shealy executed a perfect wishbone fake and kept the ball, reaching the LSU 13 with a new set of downs. The pitch to Ogilvie looked like a good one, but Major slipped in the backfield and lost a yard when he tried to cut back against the grain. Shealy then gave it to Whitman on an off tackle to again set up third and long at the LSU 11. Confusion during the substitution of players forced Shealy to call timeout. Shealy had to rush the throw, and he was nowhere close to the first down anyway, so Alan McElroy came out for a 28-yard chip shot, which he promptly missed wide left.

    LSU took over at their own 20 and Gajan got a couple of yards on first down. Second down gave the same result to put LSU in third and long. Woodley dropped back and threw a short pass that wasn’t even close to the first down, but a flagrant defensive pass interference on Robbie Jones gave LSU a first down. Woodley made a perfect pitch to Gajan, and the last man with a chance, Ricky Tucker, tripped him up and prevented a probable touchdown. An illegal motion penalty set up second and 8, and EJ Junior rushed through to tackle the ball carrier after a one-yard gain to set up third and long. Woodley then hit a wide open Carlos Carson, who turned up the field for what appeared to be a huge gainer. But Carson had hit the ground with his knee on the catch, a second blunder on the drive that kept LSU at bay. Two short carries set up another third and long at their own 46. Woodley again threw, this time to Gajan, who was well short of the marker. After the punt, Alabama started at their own 28.

    Nix came in for Ogilvie and lost one on the first carry. Mitch Ferguson, too, was hit at the line of scrimmage to set up yet another third and long. Shealy kept it but only got to the 34, so the Tide punted again. From the LSU 30, Gajan had a short gain on first down, but he got tackled for a four-yard loss by EJ Junior, his ninth tackle for loss of 1979. Woodley dropped back for a bomb but was hit just as he threw the ball, and it was now fourth down as the teams switched sides for the second quarter. This was smart strategy on the part of McClendon because it enabled LSU to punt with the wind at their backs.

    The Tigers launched a great punt, but Wilcox fielded a low line drive and had a 20-yard return that set the Tide at the 50-yard line. Shealy gained six on a keeper on first down, threw incomplete to Marks on second, and got the first down on a third and four just inside the LSU 40. After an incomplete pass, Whitman then powered inside the 35 to set up another third and four. The same play saw Whitman get the first down inside the 30. Shealy then got two on a keeper that shook him up. Alabama called timeout to give Shealy time to recover from the hit. LSU stacked the box, and Shealy – about to get blasted – tossed to Ogilvie at the last moment, Major taking it to the 22. On third and four, Shealy let fly for the end zone towards a wide open Ferguson inside the ten, who fell down before the ball reached him, forcing a second field goal attempt. Forty yards into the wind by McElroy missed yet again, and the game was still scoreless with 11:19 left in the half.

    LSU now sent in their better passing quarterback, Steve Ensminger. On first down, he handed to LeRoid Jones for no gain. Ensminger retreated to set up the screen, and the Tide’s furious pursuit left few tacklers up field. Ensminger hit Gajan at the 20, and he made it to the 38 for the first down. Another run up the middle gained nothing. On second down, he tossed to Gajan on a counter run, and when Gajan avoided the tackle by Thomas Boyd, he got within inches of the first down. Gajan then got the first down with a run up the middle. Gajan then took the toss for five yards, but an illegal motion negated it (the officials also missed a flagrant block in the back by the offensive lineman). Ensminger then dropped back to throw, and Tide over pursuit allowed him to escape with a five-yard gain. Ensminger then hit a wide open receiver at the line of scrimmage, who dropped it to set up third down. Ensminger then threw to Orlando McDaniel in triple coverage, who trapped the ball, resulting in fourth down. John Adams punted the Tide to their own 15. Shealy kept it with a counter move that picked up 11 and a first down. After a fake, Shealy kept it for a four-yard gain. Another short gain set them up with third and short, and Billy Jackson kept it for another set of downs. Shealy dropped back to pass but nobody was open, so he got back to the line of scrimmage on a carry. Then came a weird offsetting penalty – a false start on Alabama combined with offsides on LSU. Shealy got four to set up (wait for it) another third and long. Shealy then bobbled the snap but escaped, which was a bad thing when he retreated to throw and the LSU rush, led by Al Richardson, hit him for a nine-yard loss and fourth down. The punt into the wind put LSU at their own 37.

    Gajan picked up five on first down. On second down, he picked up 13 on a halfback delay that put LSU at the Tide 44. June Hernandez got three up the middle, but the handoff to Gajan saw him tackled for a loss to set up third and long. Ensminger unloaded long and had Carson at the one for what appeared to be a sensational TD bomb. But Ricky Tucker got enough of the ball to bat it away, and the Tide prevented the score. LSU punted, and the Tide got it at their own 20. Whitman busted up the middle for a second and short only to have a Tide false start on the next attempt. Whitman again took the run between the tackles to set up third and short. Ogilvie got the first down on the inside carry. Nearly 70 yards from paydirt, Bryant had Shealy keep the ball that ended the first half in a scoreless tie.

    The first half stats showed a tight contest. Alabama was leading in every category except passing yards, which is what happens when you’re 1 for 4 for 11 yards. Except for rushing yards and first downs, however, the game was statistically even. Shockingly, fullback Steve Whitman was Alabama’s leading rusher at the half.

    Given the second half option, Bryant again chose which goal to defend, a decision that meant Alabama would kick off both halves. Gajan caught it at the five and took it out to the 23. Woodley returned as quarterback and gave it to Danny Soileau for a 3-yard gain up the middle. Woodley then tried a play action bomb, but Byron Braggs nailed him quickly for the sack. Braggs then limped off with an injury. Woodley ran the counter run to Gajan that had worked so well in the first half. Not so well this time, as three Tide tacklers hit him for a loss. LSU punted into the wind, and the Tide took over at their own 45. Shealy then ran the wishbone and again at the last second tossed to Ogilvie, who cut through the defense for an 18-yard gain to the LSU 37. Whitman up the middle gained nine on first down. Ogilvie went left of center for a short carry but no gain. Jackson went to the right and got three for a new set of downs. Shealy faked to Whitman right and took off left, cutting into the secondary and setting up first and goal at the LSU 9. But, for the third time in the game, a false start cost the Tide five yards. Shealy got 3 on a keeper, but Whitman lost one on the next play. Shealy pitched to Ogilvie, who got all the way to the three, but a delay of game flag moved Alabama all the way back to the 16 for a replay of third down. Shealy opted to keep it and run left, getting to the nine to set up McElroy’s third field goal attempt, this one from 27 yards out. The kick was true, and with 8:49 left in the third, Alabama had finally put points on the board.

    Gajan took the ensuing kickoff at his own four and got out to the 17. Gajan picked up four on an off tackle run. Woodley fired incomplete, thanks in large part to Boyd. But a beautifully executed screen to Jeffrey Murphree – out of Birmingham no less – gave LSU a first down at the 28. Woodley fired incomplete on a down and out when the receiver fell down on the slick turf. Woodley kept in on an option play and picked up five. Woodley went deep across the middle, but the receiver again slipped as did the Tide defender, bringing up fourth down. The punt gave Alabama the ball at their own 38. Shealy pitched to Ogilvie left and got seven. Exact same play, exact same result, but Ogilvie slipped hard on the sideline as he went out of bounds. The Tide was again in LSU territory, so Shealy went back with Whitman up the middle for 3. Shealy then slipped on the snap, and the Tide was again in third and long. Shealy dropped back and threw incomplete well short of the first down. Wind behind his back, Woody Umphrey punted into the end zone beyond the intent. McClendon sent Ensminger out for the new set of downs. He attempted the Shealy to Ogilvie play to Gajan, but Alabama buried him for a loss, which was made worse by an illegal procedure penalty on the Tigers that Alabama declined. Ensminger set up another screen, but this time Alabama stayed home, so the gain was but one yard. Ensminger dropped back on third down, but nobody was open. Following the punt, Alabama took over at the LSU 48, and Shealy went for it all on first down. He unloaded deep down the middle, but Travis never even looked for the ball, and Willie Teal picked it off and returned it to the 32. LSU decided to run a misdirection and promptly fumbled the ball. They recovered it but lost three yards on the attempt. Gajan picked up one to set up another third and long. Ensminger threw right into the middle of triple coverage, but Carlos Carson couldn’t hang onto the pass, which would have put LSU at midfield with a first down. This time the Tide began at their own 43 following the punt.

    Whitman got two on first down, but LSU was now focusing on the fullback. Whitman then picked up six on second down with a power run up the middle. Everyone in the stadium knew which play was coming, but knowing it isn’t the same thing as stopping it. Whitman plunged through the middle again for a first down. Nix then slipped on first down, and the teams switched sides for the final frame. Shealy tossed to Ogilvie on a counter option, and he picked up 20 yards and put the Tide at the LSU 27. Whitman up the middle for five, followed by Ogilvie on a pitch left for a first down at the 17. Whitman got two up the middle. Shealy then darted right, got the first down inside the ten, faked the pitch – and fumbled the ball at the LSU 5, which James Britt recovered. LeRoid Jones got five yards right up the middle on first down. Ensminger then dropped back and hit Murphree on the sideline at the 18 for a first down. It was Jones on another run, and he got two before David Hannah, whom Jim Simpson kept calling John, tackled him. Ensminger then went play action bomb, and he wasn’t even close. Third and eight at their own 20, the pitch to Jones got nothing. Alabama declined the LSU holding penalty, forcing the punt. With the wind behind him, Adams kicked away from Tommy Wilcox, and the Tide took over at their own 34. Whitman got four on the same boring plunge he’d been making all night long. Ogilvie got three more, and Whitman again up the middle got seven for a first down. Whitman got five more, but Jackson slipped on second down. Whitman got three on third down, setting up Alabama with a fourth and two at the LSU 47. Bryant chose a punt, but even into the wind, it bounced into the end zone and gave LSU the ball at the 20.

    Ensminger went play action and hit Tracy Porter slicing across the middle at the 36 for a quick first down. He called a similar play and hit McDaniel inches short of the first down at the 46. On another play action, Ensminger got too clever and Mike Clements read the pass perfectly and picked it off at the LSU 48. Shealy then hit Tim Travis for a gain of 14. Whitman (again!) up the middle for two, Whitman for three, and then Shealy went for a play action short pass to Ogilvie, but he misfired, bringing up fourth and five at the LSU 28. Since McElroy had already missed two field goals and this kick was 45 yards into the wind – plus, a blocked field goal might go the other way for a touchdown, Bryant decided to go for it and try to finish the win. Shealy dropped back, faked his pass, and was planted all the way back at the LSU 40. The only thing that could have been worse was an LSU touchdown via turnover on the play. Ensminger went deep to Carson on first down, but the ball bounced off his chest. LSU’s best play was the screen, and they went back to it, a toss to Gajan after a play action that netted a first down at the 50. Ensminger then threw a pass to Lafleur that was tipped into the air and intercepted by Jim Bob Harris.

    Shealy kept it on first down and got five. He got five more on the next play, but the poor spot made it third and inches. Shealy’s plunge got the first down, and the Tide continued running with short gains. But with 1:52 left, Ogilvie was short of the first down. LSU fumbled the fair catch at the ten, but their recovery ensured the game was not yet over. With 100 seconds left, LSU needed 90 yards. Ensminger tried to hit his receiver in stride, but EJ Junior was right there with him to tip the ball away. He then hit Porter at the 26 for a first down. Ensminger then threw a poor pass that Carson, having his worst career game, couldn’t hold onto. Play action to Porter through the middle was underthrown, setting up third and ten. Finding nobody open, Ensminger tossed it across the middle harmlessly. On fourth and ten, Ensminger called timeout to bring in the go for broke play. The incomplete pass along the sidelines meant Alabama had won their 18th consecutive game, Bryant’s 100th in the decade, and their 22nd straight SEC win.

    With McClendon already the lamest of ducks, the LSU coaching search list was out on the Internet, er, I mean, in the newspapers. Their list was headed by 3 names: Navy’s George Welsh, Lou Holtz of Arkansas, or NC State coach and Holtz/Woody Hayes prodigy, Bo Rein. This would by no means be the last list.

    But Alabama was not unaffected by events that occurred elsewhere. Despite the fact they were never really in any danger of losing the game, and despite the fact the game was played in sloppy conditions at the toughest road venue in America, and despite the fact Alabama was plagued with injuries, including to their best receiver and best running back, Alabama lost 12 votes in the AP poll after the LSU game. Six of those votes fell into the column of the Ohio State Buckeyes, who had routed Iowa, USC picked up 5 after being a good Washington team by 7 on the road, but one of the votes fell from Alabama, because of their unimpressive win against a 5-3 team on the road, to Nebraska, who won unimpressively at home against the worst Division I program of the first century of college football, Kansas State. Nebraska forced eight turnovers and still needed a score in the final minutes to put away the Wildcats. They also got caught underinflating footballs early in the game on a cold day in Manhattan, but Bill and Tom were nowhere to be seen.

    And that wasn’t all of the bad news affecting Alabama. The SEC rules at the time stated that if two teams tied for the conference championship, the Sugar Bowl berth would go to the team that had not played in the Sugar Bowl most recently. Despite a record of 5-4, the Georgia Bulldogs had a simple task before them: beat Auburn and go to the Sugar Bowl. But the bigger problem affecting the SEC as a whole was what would happen if Auburn beat both Georgia and Alabama, and the Dawgs also lost to Georgia Tech. The SEC would be in the embarrassing position of having a 5-6 conference champion playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game while the best team in the conference – and possibly the nation – might be left out of the bowl picture entirely. Although bowl bids could not be made prior to November 17, the various bowls had representatives attending each game to assess their desired selections. The Orange Bowl was stuck with a dilemma: they didn’t want Florida State because not only were the Seminoles not a draw (at the time), but it would cost the city of Miami millions in hotel, travel, and consumer revenue having a team drive down the morning of the game from less than 500 miles away. But the Orange Bowl also let out that they didn’t really want Alabama, either. This grudge carried over from 1974, when Coach Bryant allegedly worked out a deal with the retiring Ara Parseghian of Notre Dame to put the two glorious programs in a rematch of the previous year’s Sugar Bowl. Keep in mind this was a bonanza at the time because many who were fans of neither time considered that Sugar Bowl the greatest college football game ever played. Of course, Alabama was a much larger draw in 1979 than Florida State, and there was the possibility of a showdown with Oklahoma. But the problem was that none of the bowl games wanted to wait, and Alabama didn’t play Auburn until December 1. The Tide was in very real danger of sitting home for the holidays. The Orange Bowl made a conditional invitation to the Tide, but Bryant asked them to wait a week to see whether Georgia could beat Auburn. This time it was the Orange Bowl basically telling Bryant to take a hike, choosing Florida State instead.

    Not that Bryant really cared as the Tide’s next game was the first-ever nationally televised game from Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Miami Hurricanes, with Bryant’s former pupil Howard Schnellenberger and future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, waltzed into Tuscaloosa for a 3 pm kickoff on ABC. Kelly was already on his way to legendary status thanks to an earlier win over Penn State. Bowl invitations were ready to go out after the game. Five minutes into the contest, Shealy hit Tim Jarvis with a 56-yard TD pass that was all the scoring Alabama would need. They picked off Kelly five times and held Miami to eight first downs and 140 yards. Ogilvie scored from the one, backup James Haney from the five, and McElroy hit three field goals to send the Canes back to Miami with a 30-0 defeat on their resume.

    Meanwhile, the SEC race got more interesting when Georgia went and Georgia’d. Just like in 1978, the Dawgs played Auburn needing just to win the game to go to New Orleans. In 1978, however, at least the Dawgs left with a tie. This time the game was over on virtually the first play in Athens when Georgia QB Buck Belue was tackled in the end zone for a safety and left with a dislocated ankle. Auburn took the free kick and drove for a TD behind Joe Cribbs to go up, 9-0. Georgia fought back behind new QB Jeff Pyburn, a long TD drive and a field goal following an Auburn missed FG that gave the Dawgs a 10-9 lead in the second quarter. The game stayed that way until midway through the third when Auburn suddenly unloaded 24 points in the final 22 minutes to turn a close game into a rout. Auburn rushed for over 400 yards, and the Bulldogs’ only hope for a Sugar Bowl was for Auburn to repeat that performance against Alabama two weeks later.

    The bowl picture began to clear that evening. The Sugar Bowl announced they were choosing the SWC runner-up, which was likely to be either Arkansas or Texas. Ohio State narrowly beat Michigan to earn the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl berth, a win that picked them up two more AP poll votes. The Cotton Bowl agreed to match the loser of the Oklahoma-Nebraska game against the SWC champion. And then SEC Commissioner Boyd McWhorter (who deep down wished his name was something simple like Joe Jones) announced that Georgia had petitioned the SEC to not invoke the “most recent appearance” rule if Georgia won the SEC but lost their other game to Georgia Tech. This would, as noted earlier, have seen a 5-6 conference champion in a major New Year’s Day bowl game.

    And then the Fiesta Bowl came calling. The Fiesta Bowl began in 1971 as the result of a series of Western Athletic Conference teams (WAC) compiling phenomenal records but not drawing any interest from the major bowl games. The most notable example was the 1970 Arizona State Sun Devils coached by Frank Kush, who went undefeated in the regular season and received no serious consideration from the major bowl games, choosing instead to go thump North Carolina in the Peach Bowl. A review of the record shows that a team from Arizona played in the Fiesta Bowl in 7 of the first 12 games. It was not perceived as a major bowl game in 1979; in fact, it was going to be played on Christmas Day. (The Fiesta Bowl as big-time bowl game did not occur until Miami and Penn State met for the 1986 national championship due, in large part, to the happy accident of neither belonging to a conference with a bowl tie-in). The Fiesta Bowl was willing to wait for Alabama, although contractually the bowl had to choose USC or BYU if they were available. That, however, appeared unlikely, so Bryant held the Fiesta Bowl in his back pocket in the event the Tide lost to Auburn.

    Of course, nobody expected Alabama to lose to Auburn, including Auburn.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

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  6. #6
    BamaNation Hall of Fame selmaborntidefan's Avatar
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    Georgia then thumped Georgia Tech to end the Pepper Rodgers era as well as clinch the Sugar Bowl if Auburn beat the Tide. Tulane stunned LSU in McClendon’s final regular season game as coach. USC moved above Ohio State in the polls, and John Feinstein wrote a column declaring that 15 bowl games were too many and that college football needed either a four-team or eight-team playoff. And Oklahoma ended Nebraska’s dream season by yet again beating Tom Osborne’s charges, 17-14.
    Auburn let known to the press their belief that their current probation issues were the result of Alabama turning them into the NCAA. (If all of the accusations are true then we have to admit Paul Bryant is the greatest coach who ever lived. Who else ever had time to go wreck other programs, spend countless hours on the phone with bowl games, and yet coach undefeated football teams?). Alabama entered the game as 15-point favorites, and Bryant was clear when he said that Auburn “is the best team we’ve played all year.” Of course, we’re still talking about SEC football so stop me if any of the following sounds familiar.

    On Monday, November 26, 1979, North Carolina State coach Bo Rein had to address rumors that broke after the LSU-Tulane game that claimed he was the new coach in Baton Rouge. Rein put all his money on one number on the roulette wheel when he said, “There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I have been hired by LSU. I am currently recruiting for NCSU, and I am upset that every year during the intense time of recruiting, my name is mentioned in the rumor mill.” Paul Dietzel, the LSU AD, then made the shell game more interesting by refusing to either confirm or deny whether Rein was the coach. Three days later, East Carolina Coach Pat Dye resigned – and immediately his name went to the top of the list as the rumored next head coach at LSU. Dye did not exactly deny the rumors. In fact, he said he was waiting to make his next move until he saw whom LSU hired. The list of “who will replace Cholly Mac” was one of the most amusing in the history of college football, even by LSU standards. At one point in time, the following names appeared as being on the LSU watch list: Rein, Bowden, Holtz, Don James, Grant Teaff, Ron Meyer, Lee Corso, Darryl Rogers, Pat Dye, and even McClendon himself. It would have surprised nobody if they had found the late Knute Rockne’s name on LSU’s dream list.

    The very next day, a New Orleans booster group called “The LSU Athletic Club” (aka the LSU Mafia in Bill Curry’s terminology) had a ceremony where Bo Rein was a “made man.” After the ceremony, which did not include omerta of any kind, Rein admitted he was the LSU coach, and now it was North Carolina State’s turn to be angry. This wasn’t all they would be mad about: as of this writing, 1979 NC State is the last eligible conference champion to not receive a bowl berth. In all the hubbub, they just fell below the radar until nothing was left.

    And speaking of mafia, Dye almost immediately got into hot water with perhaps the first of his many insanely stupid statements on December 3, when he said he left East Carolina because “they weren’t loyal to me.” The following day, he backtracked and apologized for the remark. Dye, the no longer loyal to ECU coach, wound up in the WAC coaching Wyoming, but as subsequent events show, he wasn’t very loyal to the Cowboys, either. In fact, the actions of Paul Bryant were going to have a lot to do with Dye’s future very soon, mostly because Bryant was treating Auburn like he owned them.

    Of course, there was still a game to be played.

    Alabama kicked off and because of a peculiar high bounce, Auburn fumbled it and Alabama recovered to start the game on offense inside the Auburn 30. Three plays later, the Tide punted into the end zone, and Auburn took over at the 20. After a short gain on first down, Auburn called for a draw play that picked up a first down at their own 33. On third and long, Auburn attempted a reverse that they fumbled but managed to recover, so they wound up punting from their own 30. The Tide took over for the second possession at their own 33.

    After Shealy got a quick three on a keeper, a toss to a less than healthy Major Ogilvie gained 19 yards and put the Tide back into Auburn territory. On third and long, Shealy dropped back to throw but finding nobody open, he scrambled and was tackled just short of the first down. Early in the game and Bryant opted to go for the first down, which was successful on a sneak by Shealy. Shealy then tossed left to Ogilvie, who got a first down inside the ten, and Shealy then ran a keeper that put the Tide at the Auburn 7. On second down, Shealy's wide right toss was a fumble that Alabama recovered but lost ten yards to set up third and goal from the Auburn 17. Shealy ran a shovel pass to Ogilvie that picked up four yards. Alan McElroy's 30-yard attempt sailed wide right, and the Tide had now come up empty twice.

    Auburn began a series of short runs that averaged picking up about three yards per play. After a first down, they tossed a pass on third and short and got a new set of downs at their own 40. A power run by James Brooks got Auburn into Tide territory, but the defense stiffened and forced a 47-yard field goal attempt at the end of the first quarter that Jorg Portella nailed to give Auburn a 3-0 lead after one.

    The touchback on the ensuing kickoff put Alabama on their own 20. Bryant spelled Shealy with Don Jacobs, whose first toss to Ogilvie gained five. Jacobs then hit Pugh for a pickup of 16 and a new set of downs. The teams switched ends and Jacobs picked up two on a first down keeper. Jacobs then faked a handoff and raced left to make the third down attempt manageable, but his knee buckled, so Shealy came in and gave the third down handoff to Ogilvie, whose six-yard scamper put the Tide in Auburn territory. An off tackle run gained four, and Shealy gained four more by darting left after a fake handoff. On fourth and one, the Tide went for it and made it again. At the Auburn 36, Alabama ran a halfback option pass to the left that misfired. A right pitch to Joe Jones narrowed the distance for third down, and Shealy then hit a wide open Keith Pugh, who dodged the only close tackler and strolled into the end zone for a 28-yard TD pass that put Alabama ahead, 7-3.

    After the debacle of fumbling the opening kickoff, Auburn opted for a fair catch on the next kickoff and began at their own sixteen. Two runs by Brooks netted a first down, and after a short carry by Cribbs for two, it was Brooks again, evading pursuit to set up third and short, which Cribbs converted into a first down by a run up the middle. On the next play, confusion in the Auburn backfield combined by an oncoming Alabama blitz registered a huge loss on first down. Auburn began to run on every play, pretty much daring the Tide to stop them. They'd get 3-4 yards a carry and then line up and run the ball again. Auburn wound up misfiring on a 52-yard field goal to end the drive.

    After a short gain by Joe Jones, Shealy faked a handoff and darted right as he moved the ball into Auburn territory with a first down. Shealy then hit tight end Keith Pugh for a 13-yard game that continued the drive. Bama switched to power football, and three runs netted another first down, and three more plays saw Shealy go in with a touchdown to give the Tide a 14-3 lead after the kick, which was the score as they went in for halftime.

    Alabama was seemingly in the driver's seat, and while the Auburn backs were impressive, it didn't seem as if it would matter so long as the offense kept functioning. But the third quarter of the 1979 Iron Bowl was to be the worst 15-minute segment of the entire season for Alabama, and it very nearly cost them a shot at a national title and an undefeated season.

    Auburn kicked off to start the second half, and Don McNeal muffed it but picked it up and scampered out to the Tide 18. It was a harbinger of things to come. Running the wishbone, Shealy simply fumbled the ball, and Auburn recovered it to set them up with first and ten in the Tide red zone. (Note: in 1979, fumbles could not be advanced by the defense beyond the spot of recovery). After a short gain, Auburn went for the pass. But Charlie Trotman collided with his own man and fumbled the ball. Unfortunately for Alabama, the Tigers recovered it, so they still had a chance although it was now third down. Auburn was stopped short of the first down and - just for good measure - penalized 15 yards, knocking them out of field goal range and forcing the Tigers to punt. Thanks to the short field and touchback, Alabama had improved field position and not paid any price for the fumble. Ogilvie ran a counter play for two, and Alabama ran the same play only to the left side of the center. This time Ogilvie gained three but lost the ball, and Auburn recovered again. Bama, knowing Auburn had two future NFL backs and not much of a passing game, stacked the box and after two runs, Auburn went for the touchdown on a pass play. Jim Bob Harris batted the ball away, so the Tigers were now back in field goal range. A good kick made it a one-score game of 14-6 just 3:27 into the 3rd qtr.

    Auburn held Alabama to a three and out on the next possession and took over at their own 42. On the first play, Trotman faked a counter option and then prepped to pass only to be pancaked by E.J. Junior for a loss. On 2nd and 14, they got back the four they'd lost to set up third and ten. Auburn went for the traditional dropback long bomb on third down, and the name of the truck that hit Trotman was - once again - E.J. Junior, for a ten-yard loss. Bryant decided to spell Shealy with Alan Gray - for just one play. After a short gain, Shealy returned and on his first play back, he darted around the right side of the line and weaved through traffic for a 27-yard gain. It was back to the power game with Billy Jackson for three followed by Steve Whitman for 13 yards and a first down at the Auburn 22. Shealy hit Pugh for ten, but on the next play Shealy fumbled and Auburn recovered at their own 16, their third fumble recovery in the third quarter. But on Auburn's second play of the new possession, Thomas Boyd knocked the ball loose and E.J. Junior recovered it. Auburn stiffened and held the Tide to a field goal, but with 2:07 left in the third, Alabama was ahead, 17-6, and Auburn had blown chance after chance.

    Auburn got the ball at their own 22 and once again got held to a three and out. But when Tommy Smith fumbled the punt - Alabama's fourth lost fumble in less than one quarter of play - Auburn was in business at the Tide 37. On third and nine, the Tide's ferocious pursuit wound up biting them big time. Just as Trotman appeared completely helpless, he flung a desperate but precise screen pass to Joe Cribbs, who had only one man to beat. It was no contest, and Auburn finally had a touchdown that made the score 17-12 when Auburn missed the two-point conversion. There were only eight seconds left in the quarter, but Auburn was now in striking distance.

    Bryant chose to rest some of his skill position starters on the next drive, something he had intended earlier but never gotten the chance thanks to the fumbles. Bryant wanted a five-minute rest for Shealy to refresh and go finish the game. He got his five minutes but not the way he wanted it. After subbing Alan Gray for Shealy, Alabama went three and out and punted to Auburn, who took over at their own 32. After a short rush by Cribbs, Trotman unloaded his best pass of the day, a textbook perfect bomb that beat Jim Bob Harris and was hauled in by Byron Franklin, a 55-yard gain where Harris was singularly inept in pass coverage and then made an incredible tackle that saved a touchdown at least momentarily. Trotman then hit Mark Robbins with an 11-yard TD and shockingly Auburn was in front, 18-17, with only 11:39 left in the game. Alabama was now trailing in the fourth quarter for the first time all year.

    It was now time to find out what the Tide was made of, a "gut check" if you will.
    On November 27, 2009, a scholarly Alabama quarterback of questionable passing skills trailed an (eventual) eight-win Auburn team by a single point with about eight minutes left in the game and drove his team 79 yards to a TD that kept alive a winning streak, an SEC title shot, and a national championship. Thirty years almost to the day earlier, a scholarly Alabama quarterback of questionable passing skills trailed an eight-win Auburn by a single point with about eleven minutes left in the game and drove his team 82 yards to a TD that kept alive a winning streak, an SEC title, and a national championship.

    Alabama got the ball at their own 18. Shealy later admitted saying a little prayer just before the drive. Shealy fumbled, and it could have been a disaster of biblical proportions. But this time the ball bounced on a straight hop to Major Ogilvie, who turned almost certain disaster into a three-yard gain. Shealy dropped back to pass and in an instant took off through the middle of the line. It was a first down, but Shealy wasted no time, lining up and keeping it again, this time around the left side of the line to pick up 15 more yards and another first down. Ogilvie gained a yard and then Shealy hit Keith Pugh on the same play that had worked twice already, this time for a 9-yard gain that had the Tide at the Auburn forty. Alabama would end the day passing 6 for 8 for 80 yards, five of the catches coming from Keith Pugh for 76 of those 80 yards. It was back to the power run with Whitman picking up nearly 30 yards to put the Tide at the Auburn nine. Shealy then faked a handoff and cut back slightly against the grain as he darted into the end zone for a touchdown. Shealy then faked out the entire Auburn defense as he strolled into the end zone for a two-point conversion that put the Tide ahead, 25-18, with 8:17 remaining.

    On the ensuing kickoff, every Tide fan of age nearly had a heart attack.

    James Brooks took in the kickoff at his own five and got all the way to the Alabama 31 before Jeremiah Castille and Don McNeal took him down, saving the day for Alabama. Auburn got seven yards and on fourth and three from the Tide 24, the fourth down pass to Mike Locklear was no good. Alabama couldn't move, however, so Auburn had yet another chance at their own 49 with over five minutes left. The Tide D held again on fourth down, and the subsequent possession ran the clock down until Auburn had only nine seconds to go 82 yards. The defense held, and Alabama had completed their fourth unbeaten regular season in the last nine years in what Coach Bryant called "the most exciting game I've ever been a part of." Alabama had taken care of business and would face one-loss Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl. There was a circus awaiting them in the Big Easy. As it turned out, the circus was a road show that began less than 72 hours after the Iron Bowl all across the nation.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

    Butch Jones has richly earned his title, The Archbishop of Talentbury

    After reading all the horrible things drinking will do to you....I gave up reading.

  7. #7
    BamaNation Hall of Fame selmaborntidefan's Avatar
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    WHO’S NUMBER ONE?

    On December 4, 1979, the state of Ohio was the lead story on the front page of both news and sports pages nationwide. The most horrific was the tragic death of 11 attendees at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, where concert goers heard the rock band The Who warming up and charged the doors in a concept then known as “festival seating” (e.g. first come, first served). The episode would result in a quick change of the law and a controversial episode of the CBS comedy “WKRP In Cincinnati.” The other story shocked college football fans nationwide: Ohio St moved past Alabama into the #1 spot in the AP poll. To say this was a stunning development in the state of Alabama is an understatement, but the month-long debate began along predictable or partisan geographic lines.

    What happened exactly will remain a mystery since voters maintain secret ballot. But what moved Ohio State into the #1 spot despite not having played a snap in two weeks was the fact that no less than eight voters had the Tide ranked third or lower. In fact, Ohio State took the top spot by 1.5 points because of the two voters that put the Tide as low as #4 and the single voter that had Alabama at #5. This kind of sudden drop gave rise to conspiracy theories and thoughts of dirty pool, and in the mind of a number of Tide fans, it brought up the painful memories of 1966 and an unbeaten but unrewarded season. Buckeyes first-year coach Earle Bruce now had some leverage, and he decided to use it. Bruce used the new ranking to say that he now held the view that “whoever wins the Rose Bowl will be the national champion.” Tide fans feared that very scenario. After all, if USC beat #1 Ohio State then it was likely the voters would pass over Alabama using the argument of the last two years: “the team that beats number one in the last game becomes number one.” But Alabama had their own defenders, namely, their upcoming opponents. Arkansas AD Frank Broyles and head coach Lou Holtz attempted to outdo each other in their praise of Alabama. Broyles, who was also an ABC television college football announcer (conflicts notwithstanding), lambasted the AP vote, charging that the voters had taken it upon themselves to create their own national championship playoff game. He went further, pointing out that anyone who did not think Alabama was one of the top three teams in the country didn’t know enough to be ranking teams. He asked rhetorically, “What did Alabama do wrong?” Of course, in the limited sports debate of the late 1970s, there were plenty of folks ready to pile on the Tide and not always with consistency. And the UPI vote also had Tide fans on edge as well because 13 coaches abstained from voting in the final regular season poll. In other words, it was entirely possible that Alabama could run the table, thump Arkansas, and still wind up without a national championship.

    The point of contention for a number of the polemicists was Alabama’s schedule. Compared to 1978 (for example), it has to be admitted that Alabama did not have a particularly challenging schedule. But then again, who did? Although it is an unreliable barometer of determining SOS, look at the pre-bowl game records of the opponents of the primary contenders in 1979. The records are based on their opponents going into the bowl game:

    1) Ohio State 52-70-2
    2) Alabama 49-73-2
    3) USC 56-64-5
    4) FSU 51-70-3
    5) Oklahoma 57-67-0
    6) Arkansas 62-59-4
    7) Nebraska 59-64
    8) Houston 55-64-5
    9) Pitt 66-58
    10) Texas 67-56

    In other words, using opponent records, Ohio State’s opponents were all of 3 games better than Alabama’s. And the only reason Alabama’s was so low is because Florida, Vandy, and Wichita State went a combined 2-30-1. Among the top ten, only three schools faced opponents with an overall winning record, the two SWC teams (Arkansas and Texas) and Pitt. But even that analysis fails when you remember that 20 of the wins Arkansas faced came from just two teams, Houston and Texas. Nearly half of the wins Texas faced came from those two opponents plus Oklahoma. One really good or one really bad team can skew the opponent record. And yet the analysis was sorely lacking and based more on desired outcome than reality.

    Pundits boasting Ohio State’s team would impugn Alabama’s schedule, note that the Buckeyes scored more ppg (a whopping 1.4 more), faced more bowl teams (4-3, but only because 8-win Auburn was on probation), and that Alabama had barely beaten 8-win Auburn. These same pundits would never mention Ohio State barely beating 1-10 Northwestern (16-7 at home no less) or the fact they needed a blocked punt in the 4th quarter against 8-win Michigan to win that rivalry game by fewer points than Alabama won their rivalry game. And the most damning point against the Buckeyes was that Alabama was a 9-point favorite over a 10-1 Arkansas team while Ohio State was a 7.5-point underdog to USC.

    The arguments in favor of USC were little better. In fact, they would boast how much better USC’s schedule was than Alabama (which it was) and cite going into LSU and winning by 5 as proof of being able to win the tough ones on the road. But these same analysts would dismiss Alabama’s win in a Baton Rouge quagmire as merely surviving, conveniently forgetting the massive number of injuries Alabama had to endure or the fact that USC was trailing LSU, 12-3, and never took the lead until the final 32 seconds of the game. And the main focus of everyone disparaging Alabama’s schedule was, of course, Wichita State, which was threatening to become the 1979 version of 1966 Louisiana Tech. Of course, there was a major problem with USC: the simple truth was that they had played to a tie with a 5-5-1 football team on their own field. It’s one thing to disparage a lightweight foe, but it’s another thing altogether to fail to beat a lightweight foe. USC was not tied by an 8-win team hoping for a better bowl game because of the tie, they were tied by a team that had lost to 2-8-1 Army and 1-10 Oregon State, both teams capable of doing what USC could not. And finally, if schedule really did not matter then why were unbeaten FSU and BYU getting a combined one first-place vote among them? Bryant said it best when he mused, “They’ve done it to us again.” Sports Illustrated summarized the “who played the tougher schedule” argument quite well in their November 12 issue: “Alabama isn't the only high-ranked team with a weak schedule. Ohio State's opponents are just marginally better, with a 28-40-2 record, which means the Buckeyes are playing only the 103rd hardest schedule in the country. Nebraska opponents are 28-30-1, and Devaney admits, ‘We can point to Alabama's schedule but we can't really defend ours.’” But it was Jim Bunch who had the best (and most prescient) take of all. Bunch said that Alabama was going to have to beat Arkansas in such a way as to leave no doubt who was the better team – not necessarily on the scoreboard but statistically, and the Tide would also need USC to barely beat Ohio State.

    As it turned out, Jim Bunch was better at prognosticating than most.

    One other thing happened during the month break between the Iron Bowl and the Sugar Bowl: Alabama assistant Bill Oliver was named head coach of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga Moccasins starting in 1980. Oliver even had the temerity to announce that he might take some Alabama assistants with him to Chattanooga. Otherwise, there was a calm before the storm as Alabama prepared to open a new decade by closing another.

    THE SUGAR BOWL
    The 1979 Arkansas Razorbacks were co-Southwest Conference champions, losing out on the Cotton Bowl only because of one bad quarter against Houston on October 27, where the Hawgs blew a 10-7 lead and lost when kicker Ish Ordonez, who had made 16 straight field goals, had a 42-yard tying FG blocked. They had a stout defense as well, having surrendered more than 14 points only once – to the same Baylor that was ranked #17 at the time and a “good win” for Arkansas but was proof of a “soft schedule” when routed 45-0 by Alabama. Ordonez was the best field goal kicker in America, but Arkansas had three good running backs – Roland Sales, Darryl Bowles, and Gary Anderson – and some excellent receivers that included Bob Farrell and future NFL receiver Bobby Duckworth. Mike Massey and Teddy Morriss were excellent linebackers, and a very good defensive line was anchored by Jim Elliott and Greg Kolenda. Historical revisionism has reduced Arkansas to just another creampuff on the Tide schedule, but the Hawgs entered the game surrendering only 9.8 ppg and scoring 24.1 ppg. Lou Holtz was, at the time, considered an up and coming coach that already had had Arkansas in the national discussion for championship honors. Oh, and then there was quarterback Kevin Scanlon. How good was Scanlon? He had attended the same high school as Joe Namath and broken all of the legend’s passing marks.

    The night before the Sugar Bowl – in the last college football game of the decade – Ohio State’s hopes received a boost and Alabama’s another hit when Purdue beat Tennessee, 27-22, in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

    The new decade dawned with overcast skies in Dixie. Keith Jackson called the Sugar Bowl, and his pregame comments summarized the poll situation as it had unfolded. Ara Parseghian was the color commentator and, as always, he had a nice tie. But the story of concern for Alabama (behind the polls) was the continuing bad luck of Steadman Shealy, who stepped on a pine cone and wound up having knee surgery – and then pulled a hamstring during one of the workouts. And the game didn’t exactly start off well for Alabama, either. Don McNeal took Steve Cox’s short kickoff and returned it only to fumble it away and give the Hawgs possession at the Tide 25. Scanlon threw a wide receiver screen to Gary Stiggers, who picked up nearly nothing on the first play, smothered by three Tide defenders. An inside handoff to Roland Sales put the ball at the Tide 18. On third and four, Scanlon fooled the TV camera but not the Tide, as Sales was stopped short of the first down. Ordonez kicked the field goal, and the Razorbacks had a 3-0 lead with only 2:06 gone. McNeal downed the ensuing kickoff, and on first down, Major Ogilvie went up the middle for 2. Whitman ran a power off tackle that set up third and short. Whitman left to get a new jersey, and his replacement, Charley Williams, was stopped short of a first down, sending in the punting unit. Umphrey bobbled the snap, but he got away a 27-yard punt that put the Hawgs at their own 44. An inside handoff to Darryl Bowles picked up nine into Tide territory. Scanlon went for it all, and he hit Jim Bob Harris right in the hands for an interception. Well, it would have been had Harris, a former high school quarterback, held onto the ball. On third and short, Arkansas went back to the inside handoff, and the defensive line blew right into Bowles, hitting him for a loss and forcing a punt. It was strong enough to get Jackson’s first reference to the Goal Line Stand of the previous year. Ogilvie called a fair catch at his own 18 and collided with his own man but held on.

    Alabama appeared to be exhibiting a lot of jitters, but the jitters soon disappeared. Billy Jackson got three on a halfback delay. Shealy got four on a keeper after a fake handoff to Whitman. A pitch to Jackson gained 11 and a first down. A middle screen to Jackson with a deep rush got eight, and Whitman up the middle put the Tide at midfield with a ten-yard rush. Just when Shealy appeared to be going down with a sack, Shealy tossed to Ogilvie, who turned the sure loss into a huge gain – with 15 yards tacked on for a facemask. Suddenly, the Tide was at the Arkansas 22. Another option left to Ogilvie, and Major split the defenders and ran right through them for a touchdown behind a great block by Vince Boothe. The PAT made it 7-3 with 6:37 left in the first quarter. Ara made sure to point out the Tide got away with a clip on the key block.

    Gary Anderson returned the kickoff to the 19. An inside handoff to Bowles got 3. Anderson got 7 for the first down on the next play. Scanlon retreated for a pass, and Wayne Hamilton sacked him for a huge loss at the 24. Scanlon then fumbled the snap that Thomas Boyd recovered at the Arkansas 21. On the first play, Jackson went off tackle for ten and a first down. On the same play, Jackson picked up eight more to the three, Ogilvie got two more, and after calling timeout while Ogilvie got a new shirt, he flew over the pile for a touchdown to make it 14-3, Alabama.

    The first quarter numbers aside from the time of possession were overwhelming in favor of the Tide, who had 96 rushing yards, 104 overall, and six first downs compared to Arkansas’ solitary first down and 29 yards overall, all but one on the ground.

    Starting the second quarter at their own 48, Scanlon handed off up the middle to Bowles. He got three more and a first down on the next carry. Scanlon then tossed wide left to Stiggers for a gain of two. Bowles got a pitch deep in the backfield for a gain of three. Hamilton then sacked Scanlon on third down that forced a punt from the Tide 41. The punt was excellent, and Arkansas put Alabama at their own one-yard line. Billy Jackson got three on a run left of center but an illegal motion penalty against Keith Pugh set the Tide back at the half-yard line. Jackson ran off tackle for a gain of four. On the next play, Shealy went for the home run on play action. Pugh beat both defenders and couldn’t have been stopped by Deion Sanders – except Shealy’s toss was a few yards too long, reducing the play to an incomplete pass resulting in third and long at the five. Bryant then decided to change the calculus. Shealy pitched to Major Ogilvie, who stunned everyone with a quick kick that gave Arkansas the ball 43 yards up the field at Tide 49 and released some of the Tide pressure. Scanlon’s toss to Anderson picked up 17 on first down. Sales got seven on the first down carry from the 32, but the next two plays netted nothing. On fourth and one at the Tide 23 trailing by 11 in the first half, Arkansas passed up a reasonable shot at a field goal and went for it. They weren’t even close, and Alabama took over. Ogilvie gained five on first down and then hit Keith Pugh for 22 yards and a first down. Charley Williams and Jeff Fagin had the next two carries as Bryant chose this drive to rest some of his seniors. On 2nd and ten at the Arkansas 28, Fagin was hit for a five-yard loss, and on 3rd and 15, Shealy simply got rid of the ball just before he got planted. Alabama downed Arkansas at their own five after an effective punt by Umphrey. Sales lost one on first down and then Scanlon, like Shealy, went play action from his own end zone. Unlike Shealy, his receiver, Bob Farrell, caught the ball and was tackled at his own 41. McNeal opted to play safe instead of go for the pick, which prevented a long play touchdown. A screen picked up two, but Scanlon retreated to pass and was buried for a loss of ten on the sack by Boyd, Scott, and Lyles. On 3rd and 17, Scanlon dropped and let fly. He hit Bobby Duckworth with a play that would have gained a first down, but on the way to the ground, Duckworth was nailed by Jim Bob Harris and lost possession of the ball. Lahey punted, but he outkicked his coverage. Ogilvie took the ball at his 18 and went left with plenty of room. The last guy with a chance to tackle Major (Steve Clyde) got him just inside the Arkansas 30, but the Tide was now in prime scoring position with two minutes left in the half. On the first snap, Major gained 14 yards on a right toss. Shealy stayed with Ogilvie in the double wing formation, tossing left and gaining two. Nix replaced Ogilvie for a rest and gained one on the same play. Shealy then came out for a new jersey, so the Tide stayed with the running game to Nix. Fourth and short, but Bryant opted to put points on the board and make it a two-score game. McElroy’s kick was true, and the Tide went into the half leading, 17-3.

    The halftime interview with Bryant was, as usual, a treat, with Bryant responding to Bill Fleming’s observation that the offensive line looked spectacular with the trite and amusing comment, “Well, they’re supposed to, they’re all seniors.” The return interview by Holtz, not yet polished as a speaker, was entertaining as well: “Well, they’re a good football team, they keep the pressure on you all the time, ya know, offenth, defenth, kickin’ game. We knew that. We’ve been inthide their territory five times, had third or fourth down and two yardth or leth and didn’t make it, and you can’t do that againth their football team.” Asked about the questionable ruling on the Duckworth drop, Holtz said, “I can’t thee anything, thath why I wear glathes.”

    Alabama kicked off into the end zone to start the second half at the 20. Scanlon hit a quick first down on a ten-yard toss to Stiggers. A toss left to Anderson picked up three. Scanlon then faked the pitch and ran a draw up the middle that appeared for all the world to be a broken play. Broken play perhaps, but it gained 20 yards. Scanlon then dropped back and fired to Mason, hitting him for a 17-yard pickup with five tacked on because of a facemask on the tackle by Ricky Tucker. At the Tide 15, Arkansas went back to the run and lost a yard on the toss to Anderson. Scanlon then rolled right and appeared to have Steve Clyde open for the touchdown, but Don McNeal leaped and got just enough of a fingertip to prevent the score. Then Scanlon hit a wide open Bob Farrell on the slant route to put Arkansas in a first and goal at the Tide four. A run up the middle gained one. Then Scanlon attempted what anachronistically might be called the Tebow jump pass and damn near had the ball picked off by Thomas Boyd. Scanlon went right on an option and was buried at the line of scrimmage by Wayne Hamilton to set up fourth and goal from the three. Holtz called a timeout to contemplate whether to try the field goal or go for the six. From a two-back set, Scanlon took the snap and when Don McNeal tripped over his own two feet, Bob Farrell was wide open, and the Hawgs finally had a touchdown. Though the subsequent two-point conversion failed, Arkansas trailed by one score just one possession into the first half, and the outcome was by no means certain. To make it worse, Byron Braggs was shaken up on the play. The Tide was up, 17-9, but Arkansas had moved 80 yards on the drive and quite successfully. Color commentator Ara Parseghian noted that Holtz’s choice to play for the two signaled he was playing for the win and not just a tie.

    The man had zero sense of irony to put it mildly.

    Maybe Alabama was vulnerable to an aerial attack after all. Eleven plays, 80 yards in just 3:26 was the best drive any team had made all year on Alabama. The ensuing kick went through the end zone, and Alabama took over at the 20. Jackson got three on a run up the middle to the left, Ogilvie got four up the middle to the right, and then Shealy went to the air. Arkansas went blitz and appeared for all the world to have Shealy dead to rights. Steadman escaped the rush, stepped forward and then fired upfield to a wide open Keith Pugh for a 26-yard gain that was promptly wiped out on a clipping call against Jim Bunch. Now the Tide was in a third and 19 at their own 11. Shealy then took the snap, pitched pack to Joe Jones – and Jones let fly another quick kick that was downed by Alabama at the Arkansas 40. Parseghian realized what was coming before the snap based on the alignment, but Arkansas didn’t notice it at field level. Still, the Hawgs had momentum and the ball, and they had shown they could move against the Tide’s stout defense. Scanlon evaded the rush of two linebackers and made a quick toss to Darryl Mason for six yards on first down. A run up the middle to Bowles netted two more and on third down called the same run which was just good enough for a first down just inside Tide territory.

    Scanlon went back to the air, rolling right with a sideline toss to Farrell that was a tad too high and bobbled out of bounds. Scanlon went back for the quick middle toss and Bama made him pay when freshman Tommy Wilcox picked off the pass and headed for paydirt. Well, he would have – and might have made it – but in his excitement he dropped the football, making it just another noisy incompletion. This didn’t get in Scanlon’s head, however, as he came right back with a slant pass across the middle to Mason that was just short of first down at the Tide 41. With momentum in their favor, Arkansas decided to play it cautious and punt the Tide deep. Wilcox made the fair catch at his own 14. The Tide drove well into Arkansas territory and then on 3rd and 7 at the Arkansas 30, Shealy got planted on a sack that resulted in an Umphrey punt that put the ball at the Arkansas 5. The Hawgs went up the middle with Bowles on first down for five yards, and Scanlon pumped one to Stiggers at the 20 to clear out from the shadow of the end zone. The handoff to Bowles gained two and Scanlon went back to the short pass to Anderson, who fell just short of the first down. Scanlon then ran a QB keeper to get the first down. Then he went deep over the middle and threw to Clyde in triple coverage but nobody came down with the ball. Clyde caught it and got hit from three directions, dropping the ball for an incompletion. Scanlon was cutting the Tide defense with his bullets, and he went back to a 13-yard toss to Stiggers. Scanlon now went for the bomb to Stiggers but Don McNeal reached over Stiggers and knocked the pass away without interfering. Scanlon then ran a QB option to the 49, and the third quarter was over.
    Although Arkansas had pretty much owned the quarter, they wound up punting the ball to the Alabama 2.

    And Alabama began its drive to a championship just six feet outside their own goal line.

    Whitman up the middle for six followed by Ogilvie on a toss for six more and first down. Shealy then faked to Whitman, who was pancaked, darted left and flung backwards to Jackson just as Shealy was hit. Jackson hauled it in on the nine and cut back across the grain, running all the way to the 50. Jackson then went off tackle right for fourteen more yards, and it was becoming clear that the Arkansas D was tiring. The carry put Jackson at 117 yards on only 11 carries. Ogilvie then went up the middle for three and then Shealy faked a perfect handoff to Whitman and took off left, picking up 22 yards with Major Ogilvie trailing the play and drawing attention. Alabama was now at the Arkansas 11. A pitch left to Major got four yards and then Shealy went right and made an ill-advised pitch to Jackson, who had enough wits to make sure he held onto the ball, but the Tide lost a yard. A penalty flag for a false start moved the Tide back to the 13. Third and long, and Shealy handed it to Whitman, who tore through the blocks and right into the end zone, running over the defender for good measure for the touchdown that sealed the Sugar Bowl win for Alabama, 24-9. Arkansas had more possessions, but the game was as good as over. On their late drive, Arkansas did convert a fourth down with a tip catch by Mason to keep their dying hopes alive, but Tommy Wilcox picked off the very next pass and ran it all the way back to the 48. In an effort to impress the pollsters, Shealy threw a bomb to Pugh on first down that was just barely tipped else the Tide would have made another touchdown. At this point, however, Bryant pulled his starters. Ara Parseghian began defending Bryant’s effort for the touchdown because of the necessity of impressing the pollsters. This is the same Ara Parseghian that six years later would decry Miami running up the score against Notre Dame in an effort to get into the national championship game.

    Let’s just say Ara was not known for consistency of thought.

    Alabama, whose schedule had been derided in national media, had knocked off a top ten conference co-champion decisively. They’d won 21 in a row and completed what appeared to be a successful defense of their national championship. But now Alabama and their fans – for the third consecutive year – had to sit through the belaboring misery of awaiting a vote while rooting for USC to narrowly beat Ohio State.

    THE ROSE BOWL
    NBC televised the Rose Bowl with Dick Enberg (his first ever) and Merlin Olsen. Frank Sinatra was the grand marshal. O J Simpson proceeded to murder color commentary by using weak analogies that made every single player in the game a reminder of someone somewhere else. (Baseball analyst Joe Morgan would later adopt this juvenile level of commentary). The day before the game, John Robinson signed an extension guaranteed to keep him at USC for five more years or until the NFL came calling, which they did in 1983. USC drove to midfield and promptly threw an interception to Ray Ellis. Had Ellis not tipped the ball, he would have gone the distance with a pick six. On the Buckeye’s very first play, Ohio State’s Art Schlichster fired across the middle and was intercepted by Herb Ward. Two turnovers less than two minutes into the contest. The Trojans marched right down the field. Inside the Buckeye ten, USC passed up a field goal on fourth and one and went for the touchdown. Their biggest reason for passing up a 23-yard field goal was certainly the fact their field goal kicker, Eric Hipp, was only 5 of 13 for the year. A play action fake to White with a rollout left and Paul McDonald flung it to Vic Rakshani but Mike Guess knocked it out of his hands, and the Trojans came away empty-handed. A three and out followed by a punt gave USC their third possession at midfield. Hipp kicked a somewhat surprising 41-yard field goal to give USC a 3-0 lead. On the ensuing drive, USC intercepted a pass that was ruled a Buckeye reception. Schlischster threw a bomb to Perry, and on the final play of the first quarter, USC had their own goal line stand. OSU went for it on fourth and goal and was stopped on the first play of the second quarter. Ronnie Lott. Indeed, this encounter was as important as the previous year’s Sugar Bowl – but since it did not occur in the fourth quarter, it is barely remembered save by the fans of the teams.

    After forcing a punt, Ohio State hit Ty Hicks on an excellent pass, and he fumbled it over to USC. On third and long, McDonald unloaded a bomb to Kevin Williams, who beat the defender and scored a 53-yard touchdown that gave the Trojans a 10-0 lead. Kievsky hit a 35-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to narrow the lead to 10-3. Just before the half, Heisman winner Charles White made a sensational cutback run that brought the Trojans in field goal range, but Todd Bell stripped the ball from White, and Ohio State recovered. Schlichster then rolled the dice and hit a bomb to Gary Williams behind the defense, and he went 77 yards for the touchdown. The PAT tied it with 21 seconds left in the half. USC had owned the half and had a tie to show for it.

    Ohio State took the second half opening kickoff and wound up with a 37-yard field goal that gave the Buckeyes their first lead of the game. USC countered with an excellent drive but missed a 42-yard field goal wide left. But the Trojans then got a reprieve thanks to a roughing the kicker penalty. First down in the red zone, and USC drove close but came up short and lost everything thanks to an offensive pass interference on fourth down that gave Ohio State the ball at the 20. Heading back upfield, Schlichster was a high roller who had thrown for 212 yards on only 9 completions out of 15 attempts. OSU reached midfield and then punted into the end zone. USC’s next drive reached just into Buckeye territory trailing, 13-10, as the fourth quarter began.

    After two misfires into the end zone from the 22, USC attempted yet another field goal and was very wide left. Ohio State drove quickly back downfield, but USC stiffened and turned first and goal into a third and goal from the 26. The Buckeyes wound up with another field goal, but #1 Ohio State led, 16-10, with 9:42 left in the game. On the next drive, McDonald hit Williams open in the middle of the field, and as he turned upfield, he was hit from behind and fumbled forward. USC gained about eight yards from the fumble when they recovered. The drive continued, and an incompletion left USC with fourth and 5 at the Ohio State 24. With an unreliable kicker and needing a touchdown to tie or take the lead, USC went for it. But McDonald overthrew Garcia in the end zone, and a TD for Ohio State with only 7 minutes left was likely to net the Buckeyes the national title. OSU went to the running game to kill time. On third and six at midfield, USC rose up and sacked Schlichster, forcing a punt that enabled USC to take over on their own 17.

    On first down, White darted through the Buckeye defense for 23 yards to put the Trojans at midfield. On the next play, White picked up another 27 yards, a carry that pushed him over 200 yards for the day. On first down with White resting, Michael Hayes picked up five yards followed by Marcus Allen picking up enough for the first down at the 12. White came back into the game and got four on first down, five on second, and though stopped short of a score, he picked up the first down at the one to keep the clock moving and the ball out of Ohio State’s hands. With 98 seconds left in the game, this failure to score early worked in USC’s favor. White vaulted over the pile into the end zone for a touchdown to tie the game at 16 and set up the most important kick of Hipp’s lackluster career. It is debatable what Alabama fans must have been thinking at this point. A tie would surely eliminate USC, but it might also keep Ohio State on top (1966 all over again). A loss would eliminate Ohio State, but it might also give USC the national title (1977 and/or 1978 all over again). The kick was true, and Ohio State – with the nation’s best quarterback – had 92 seconds left to get their solid field goal kicker close enough for a game-winning attempt.

    The stakes had never been higher, but Schlichster quickly threw three incomplete passes to set up fourth and ten. His final pass was nearly picked off when he was flushed out of the pocket and threw into full house coverage, but it didn’t matter. White took the toss for first down, and the clock kept moving. Ohio State called timeout on third down with 17 seconds left, but White converted the first down and the clock ran out. It was a truly spectacular contest, and both team’s stars gave stellar efforts.

    John Robinson was classy after the game. Rather than making an unrestrained pitch for votes, he allowed that he would have to watch Alabama, noted the Tide had a great team, and said that maybe some people thought there were two number ones. Robinson’s “pitch,” if we want to call it that, was mild at best and lifted up the game and efforts of the Rose Bowl participants – AND college football – more than it campaigned for an outcome to his liking. O J Simpson, by contrast, may as well have been wearing a pair of cardinal and gold Bruno Magli shoes, as he lifted up Charles White and USC while stopping short of proclaiming them national champions. Enberg’s commentary that “OJ did a terrific job of restraining himself throughout the day” is a comment laced with both tragedy and irony when viewed four decades later. After the cameras were off and the pens and notebooks were present, Robinson expanded his politicking to saying USC “deserves consideration” as the national champion while Ohio State’s Earle Bruce endorsed USC as champion as well. But in a moment of preposterous candor, Bruce then said he had not even seen Alabama play in 1979. Jim Bunch, by contrast, said that maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers would beat Alabama, but he had no doubt who was number one in the land, and it wasn’t USC. Paul Bryant said he thought his team deserved it, and he was validated in this view by Lou Holtz.
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    SO WHO’S NUMBER ONE?
    The Cedar Rapids Gazette said the solution was an Alabama-USC game but lacking that reality, they chose USC based on the Trojans “playing a tougher schedule.” They were careful to say that while USC would be favored, they wouldn’t bet on the outcome. Joe Gross of the Annapolis Capital predicted a split championship simply because USC had knocked off number one, and the AP needed it to maintain credibility. He was clear, however, that Alabama was the lone unbeaten and untied team and should therefore win it.

    At 530 pm Tuscaloosa time on January 3, 1980, the AP released their poll that declared Alabama the 1979 national champions, and it wasn’t particularly close. Alabama got 44 first-place votes straight up and another two from voters who put both teams at the top. USC got 20 first-place votes plus the two additional votes. And that was all the votes to be had. Oklahoma wound up third after ending Florida State’s quest for an unbeaten season, Ohio State fell to fourth, Houston ended fifth after beating Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl, and FSU wound up sixth. Alabama also got 28 votes in the coaches poll to 9 for USC and 1 for Oklahoma. It was Bryant’s sixth national championship, although nobody knew it was to be his last.

    TOO MUCH TRAGEDY
    It appears that an unusually high number of participants in the 1980 Rose Bowl were victims – or at least involved – in a higher than usual number of tragic outcomes. Both Todd Bell and Larry McGrew died of heart attacks at the age of 46. Strangely enough, Bell missed out on a Super Bowl ring with the 1985 Chicago Bears when he and Al Harris jointly sat out the season in contract disputes, both missing the opportunity to be remembered as players on one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. (Tragedy also visited Bell’s replacement, Dave Duerson, who committed suicide secondary to CTE in 2011). McGrew’s Patriots lost to the Bears without Bell in Super Bowl XX, and McGrew’s NFL legacy is being the man Refrigerator Perry pancaked when he scored the Bears’ last touchdown in that game. Kevin Williams of USC worked on the railroad during the summers and was killed in a tragic fire while working on the railroad when he was only 38. O J Simpson, of course, would become the star of the most famous murder trial of the 20th century and later wind up in jail thanks to an attempted robbery. Art Schlichster, who looked like a future superstar of unlimited potential, would spend most of the rest of his years behind bars thanks to a gambling addiction he never seemed to be able to shake. At this writing, he has a release date of October 4, 2020 from FCI Williamsburg in South Carolina and suffers from Parkinson’s as well as dementia.

    Earle Bruce, the Ohio State coach, never again came within a point of a national championship. By all accounts a good coach, the reality was that his annual 9-3 record – he had six in a row followed by a 10-3 year in 1986 – was never acceptable in Columbus. He was also 0-2 in the Rose Bowl, but he was .500 against arch rival Michigan, which was all that was keeping him afloat. On Monday, November 16, 1987, with a record of 5-4-1 after three straight Big Ten losses, Ohio State put Earle Bruce out of his misery by firing him. Bruce was the top name in line for the job at Kansas, but contract disputes sent that job to Glen Mason instead. Bruce then spent one year at Northern Iowa and then had a four-year run in Fort Collins, Colorado with the Colorado State Rams. His Ram tenure was even more controversial than his Buckeye career as Bruce was suddenly fired on November 23, 1992 amid charges that he had physically and verbally abused players as well as created a “culture of fear.” Bruce had enabled CSU to win their first bowl game since 1948, but his tarnished reputation prevented Bruce from ever coaching in college again. However, he left a legacy still affecting Ohio State. Bruce’s grandson, Zach Smith, was the focal point of the allegations and crimes that resulted in the resignation of Buckeye coach Urban Meyer at the end of the 2018 college football season. And yet there is still one more Ohio State tragedy to address from the 1979 season.

    Robert Edward “Bo” Rein was a talented athlete from Niles, Ohio who had been a legend even back in high school. His leadership and play at shortstop and left field helped the Buckeyes win the 1966 College World Series, as Rein’s speed enabled him to lead the team in doubles and stolen bases. Bo later played minor league baseball and was even drafted by the Baltimore Colts, but he was small even by the standards of the day, and Rein never made the major leagues of either sport.
    In 1969, a position coach at Ohio State – Lou Holtz – took his first head coaching job at William and Mary and offered Rein a job as an assistant. Rein left Holtz for one year to assist at Purdue in 1971 and returned to Holtz’s side at North Carolina State in 1972. Frank Broyles then hired Rein as an offensive coordinator at Arkansas, and his guidance helped the Hawgs win the SWC as well as the 1976 Cotton Bowl. North Carolina State brought him back to replace Holtz when the latter went to his ill-fated career as New York Jets head coach. In four years, Rein took a mediocre program and won two bowl games using the combined philosophies of Woody Hayes and Lou Holtz and was an up and coming star among college football coaches. LSU hired Rein to replace the fired Charley McClendon and take the team into the 1980s. Rein’s youth and offensive coaching were hoped to be the antidote to the long LSU losing streak against Paul Bryant. As it turned out, Rein’s coaching career at LSU only lasted ten days into the 1980s. Tragically, his life only lasted that long as well.

    On January 11, 1980, Rein was returning from a recruiting trip to Shreveport when the airplane in which he was riding lost radio contact while attempting to avoid a storm. The plane continued eastward across the United States, alarming the government enough to send and F-106 to intercept the flight over North Carolina. The plane eventually ran out of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean and crashed. As neither the aircraft nor the bodies of Rein or the pilot were ever recovered, the best theory is that cabin depressurization resulted in hypoxia that killed both men.

    Bo Rein was only 34 years old.

    EPILOGUE TO A SEASON AND A DECADE – AND THE JOKE KNOWN AS POLLS

    Alabama’s win over Arkansas and their triumph in the final national championship vote put an exclamation point of accomplishment on the coaching career of Paul William Bryant. All that was left now was to add to the legacy, which Bryant did when he temporarily became the winningest coach in college history on November 28, 1981 with a 28-17 triumph over Auburn to win what turned out to be his final SEC title.

    It is impossible to tell the story of college football in the 1970s without the realization of the critical role played by Paul Bryant and the University of Alabama. Surely no school in the country managed to flip perceptions so quickly, and it is generally conceded by everyone that Alabama has earned and will always wear the crown as “team of the decade.” On January 1, 1970, Paul Bryant was a man whom the game was supposedly passing. The teams were still lily white, he still didn’t play good teams outside of the SEC (other than bowl games), and he couldn’t even beat the members of his own conference now that he was playing LSU and Ole Miss every single year. The Vietnam War was in full rage, and the civil rights movement had advanced from the need to recognizing the reality of inequality and addressing by law to recognizing inequality and addressing it by opportunity. It needs to be remembered that without the vision and guidance of Bryant, the Alabama football program could very easily be what the Ole Miss program has been for the last fifty years. Johnny Vaught, the Ole Miss coach, went so far as to say that as long as he was the coach at Ole Miss, there would never be a black football player on that team. It is perhaps not such a coincidence that the first black player at Ole Miss was a freshman in 1971, the first year that Vaught was no longer the coach. While nobody will ever mistake Bryant for a civil rights trailblazer, he had been working at the margins to accept and benefit from the inevitable for several years when it finally happened. The critical divide in the flagship universities at both states – and their ultimate destiny – is that one school belatedly and begrudgingly accepted the new reality while another one continues to resist even incremental progress. The recruitment and acceptance of black players at the University of Alabama was the critical decision that turned Alabama from a mediocrity in 1970 to the cream of the crop in 1980. The other schools that won national titles in the 1970s – Nebraska, USC, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, and Pitt – had dealt with those issues years before, sometimes more than a decade earlier. The last all-white team to win the national championship, in fact, was the 1969 Texas Longhorns, who are best remembered as the choice of President Nixon (to the chagrin of Joe Paterno) and the tragedy of Freddie Steinmark. By the end of the decade, black running backs had won every Heisman Trophy since 1974, a streak that would continue until Doug Flutie won it in 1984.

    That decision was the most important personnel decision Bryant ever had to make. He could fight the new reality (as did Ole Miss) or he could benefit from it, and he wisely chose the latter. But another decision that Bryant made was strategic and was the other most important decision he made: Bryant decided prior to the 1971 season that he was going to either win or get fired using the wishbone offense. Alabama unveiled it on a Friday night against USC in 1971, and the results spoke for themselves: 97-11, three national championships, eight SEC titles, and lost another national championship via the vote and two more because of a loss in the last game of the season. In short, Alabama entered New Year’s Day during the final nine years of the decade with a chance to win the title no less than six times. In 1975, Bryant was being mocked for having not won a bowl game since 1966. Just five years later, Bryant had gone 5-0 in the bowls, winning 3 blowouts and an all-time classic in the process. There were, however, problems with that ode to the 1930s known as the polls. And it is here that we find a problem that took still another two decades to remedy.

    It needs to be pointed out very clearly without impugning anyone’s accomplishments that the polls of that time were by and large popularity contests that served as validation for vanity. And having “the bigger name” was everything in the world, quite frankly. A compelling argument can be made that Alabama’s 1961 team was, in fact, the best team in the country. Alabama began the year at #3 in the polls solely because they finished 1960 at #9 and had a lot of returning players. Iowa began the season on top because they’d finished third in 1960, and their only loss was to national champion Minnesota. How did Alabama become the top-ranked team in the nation in 1961? Well, Ole Miss moved up despite Iowa not losing. In fact, Ole Miss started the year at 9, jumped to 2 after knocking off #11 Arkansas. Then, the pollsters dropped unbeaten Ole Miss and replaced them with unbeaten Michigan State after the Spartans had – oh yeah, beaten an overrated Notre Dame team (3-0 at the time but ended the year at 5-5). Alabama, by contrast, dropped to 5 in the polls despite winning by huge margins every week. When Michigan State lost to Minnesota and Ole Miss lost to LSU, Texas – who began the year below Alabama at 4 – rose to the top spot. Texas only fell when they lost to TCU on November 18, and they were replaced in the top spot by Alabama. And why did Alabama suddenly replace them? Because they were the only unbeaten and untied team in all of college football – and for no other reason. Alabama had 39 first-place votes on November 20 in the AP poll. The Tide had one more game, a 34-0 thumping of 6-3 Auburn, and when the dust settled, Alabama had fallen in just two weeks from 39 first-place votes to 26 while Ohio State was going from 6 to 21. Had Ohio State not tied TCU in the first game of the season, Alabama fans would today be looking back at 1961 with the same jaundiced eye they view 1966.

    Once the Tide had that success and followed up with immense success over the next four seasons, they got the benefit of the doubt unless they were up against Notre Dame. And it is this constant problem that validates my earlier comments. These are not “worthless” national championships and those teams certainly should be celebrated, but the result was not a settled champion so much as it was validation of a popularity contest among teams with similar records.

    How did Alabama win the 1964 national title? Well, it was all because Notre Dame blew a 17-0 halftime lead over USC and lost with 1:35 left on a touchdown by Rod Sherman that gave the Trojans a 20-17 win. Alabama would never have won a popularity contest with Notre Dame in 1964, and the only reason they didn’t have to do so was because the Irish cooperated and lost. Even after the Notre Dame loss left Alabama and Arkansas as the only unbeaten teams, six AP voters chose the Irish as the top-ranked team in the country. So how did Alabama win it? Because they were better-known and more popular than Arkansas. Oh, and because Alabama had begun the year at number six while Arkansas was unranked. The problem has never been that Alabama won those national titles, the problem has been the “how” and “why.” Alabama would have been no better or worse team if the Irish had beaten USC in 1964, but they would not have been national champions (at least not with the recognized polling systems of the time, AP and UPI).

    Of course, it is not only Alabama this affects. How did Notre Dame win the 1973 national championship? The (wrong) assumption is that #2 Notre Dame beat #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, but the Irish were actually #3 in the AP poll. And they weren’t even a close #3. Oklahoma, who had a tie on their resume with then #1 USC, was 223 points ahead of Notre Dame in the AP poll (but only 67 points behind Alabama). The Sooners were on probation and thus bowl ineligible. Notre Dame drew Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and won a 24-23 classic. But how did this suddenly make them number one? Notre Dame’s 1973 schedule is a colossal joke. The Irish played 3 teams in the regular season with a winning record and only one of them – USC – had more than the “just above .500” total of six wins. OU, by contrast, had played the 3rd toughest schedule in the country and beat USC every way possible except on the scoreboard. Notre Dame beat Alabama thanks to a missed PAT – and it became a popularity contest of Notre Dame versus Oklahoma, and the Sooners didn’t have a prayer. Of course, the counter-argument is that Oklahoma was on probation. If the argument is, “But OU tied USC,” you still have to explain why Oklahoma was rated ahead of Notre Dame going into the bowl games since that result was already known. Besides, Penn State was not only undefeated, they had the Heisman Trophy winner and his “ABC Movie of the Week” life story. One game miraculously transformed Notre Dame from “#3 team that hasn’t really played anyone” to “national champion.” And then you have to explain 1974 as well.

    Oklahoma was again on probation. They massacred a significantly less challenging schedule than the previous year. There were two unbeaten teams, OU and Alabama. Strangely enough, the same Oklahoma that couldn’t be ranked #1 in 1973 because of probation was #1 entering the bowl games in 1974. Alabama again lost to Notre Dame – and Oklahoma won a national championship despite the probation that just a year before cost them a national championship. Why?

    Because they weren’t in a popularity contest against Notre Dame in 1974. (In a moment that could only happen at Auburn, Tigers head coach Shug Jordan actually came out in favor of Oklahoma before Alabama lost the Orange Bowl to Notre Dame. Jordan’s reasoning was that a team on probation shouldn’t be punished. After all, he noted, his own team had won the 1957 national title – while on probation). I think I know where Pat Dye gets some of his insane comments.

    And then there’s 1977, a truly bizarre spectacle to put it mildly. Texas and OU were 1-2 in the rankings, the Sooners’ only loss coming to the Longhorns. Alabama was third, Michigan was fourth, and the Irish were fifth. Three more one-loss teams – Arkansas, Kentucky, and Penn State – were 6/7/8. Because of bowl commitments, Alabama, the highest-ranked team, could not play Texas to settle the issue. Alabama was obligated to the Sugar Bowl, where they blasted Ohio State, 35-6. Michigan lost the Rose Bowl, OU lost to Arkansas in the Orange Bowl, and Notre Dame crushed Texas, 38-10, in the Cotton Bowl. Why did Notre Dame win the national title? Because it was a popularity contest, and Notre Dame couldn’t possibly lose such an argument. Alabama would have beaten any other team in that top five at the popularity game – except the one they couldn’t.

    The national championships awarded during the poll era have to be viewed differently than, say, the BCS or college football playoff championships. In that era, the team voted the national champion might be summarized as, “Big name team with the best or nearly best record who started the year ranked very highly.” Lest any Alabama fan thinking I’m being harsh, remember this: if USC had hit the field goal to beat Stanford on the final play, the Trojans would likely have won a consensus national championship, and the 1979 Alabama team would be added to the list of “things we’re angry about” along with 1966 and 1977. The fact that Alabama would have been neither any better nor any worse has no bearing on which team would have won the championship.
    Last edited by selmaborntidefan; July 13th, 2019 at 04:38 PM.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

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  9. #9
    BamaNation Hall of Fame selmaborntidefan's Avatar
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    A FINAL EVALUATION AND PERSONAL WORD

    So how can we evaluate the 1979 Crimson Tide? Teams must be viewed in the context of their time. It is an open question whether the 1979 Tide was “the best team” of the year since USC was without question a powerhouse that had more future NFL stars, including two Heisman winners in the backfield. But the unvarnished truth is more simple: the 1979 Tide were a worthy and enduring champion, and they are one of the greatest college football teams of all-time. Although it is probable that the 1971 Nebraska Cornhuskers would rate higher on the all-time scale, this team was without question an all-time great team to be mentioned in the same breath as the Nebraska teams of 1971 and 1995, 1991 Washington, 2001 Miami, 2011 Alabama, and 2018 Clemson. With the exception of the LSU game, no team ended a game closer to the Tide than seven points. And other than Auburn as well as LSU, no team was closer than ten. The Tide thumped a 10-1 co-SWC championship team by 15 points in the bowl game and only trailed in the fourth quarter once all year long.

    It was and is popular to run down the schedule, but it is actually tougher than it seemed at the time. Georgia Tech was 4-6-1, but not only had that game been scheduled years earlier when Tech was a better team, the Yellow Jackets had gone 7-5 the previous year. Alabama made Baylor look like a high school team but few fans recall that Baylor actually ended the year ranked 19 after beating a very good Clemson team by a touchdown in the Peach Bowl. Baylor played three other teams in the top ten besides Alabama, and while they lost all three of them, they were final deficits of 3, 9, and 13 points. Baylor got more points against Houston (10) than they had first downs (8) against Alabama. Vandy was admittedly terrible (1-10), but nobody else came close to beating them by 63 points while trying not to run up the score, either. Maybe Florida was 0-10-1, but none of the other teams that played the Gators shut them out nor did any of those other teams score 40 points. Tennessee might well have been a five-loss team that including a shocker to Rutgers, but the Vols also manhandled Notre Dame, 40-18, when the Irish were ranked #13. In fact, Tennessee beat Notre Dame more decisively than did USC. Holding MSU to seven points may not have been a great achievement (the Dawgs were held to 14 or fewer points eight times in 11 games), but the Dawgs did beat Tennessee and had a hard fought loss to unbeaten Florida State. LSU may have been 7-5, but three of those losses were to top ten teams by a combined 13 points. And Arkansas was held to their lowest point total of the year in a bowl game. It might be best, however, to leave the “Alabama or USC” debate – the 1979 version anyway – to a variation of a Tweet I saw two years ago defending the selection of Alabama over Ohio State for the 2017 four-team playoff, so I will. “In 1979, Alabama and USC both played some pretty lousy teams. Unlike USC, Alabama did not play any of them to a tie.”

    This was a talented, tough, and beautiful team.

    Roll Tide.
    Last edited by selmaborntidefan; July 13th, 2019 at 04:38 PM.
    My New Year's resolution for 2019 is this year I'm not going to drink anymore. I'm not going to drink any less, either.

    I was married for 25 years, but if I'd killed her on the honeymoon, I'd have been out in less than 20.

    Butch Jones has richly earned his title, The Archbishop of Talentbury

    After reading all the horrible things drinking will do to you....I gave up reading.

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    BamaNation All-American Padreruf's Avatar
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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    I too lived that year...and you nailed it. Thanks for the memories...
    "The greatest evil in the world is not 'not knowing;' it is not knowing that you do not know." Alfred North Whitehead

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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    Excellent!


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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    Good job selma! that was a great (and very long in a good way) read.

    Excellent Lou Holths impression too.
    Architects do it with models.

    Roll Tide Roll

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    Re: "The Defense Will Be Weak....Because Of Inexperience" - A Look Back At 1979

    Man Selma, I don't know how you remember all of this stuff, or put it down so eloquently, but I enjoyed every section of it. I was at both the LSU game, (in the rain), and the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas that year. After the Sugar Bowl, I was still worried that someone would jump us for number 1, just like ND did in, I think, 1977. Thanks for the memories!

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