Alabama got serious about football in 1919 when it hired Xen Scott as head coach. Under the leadership of this tiny man Alabama earned national respect ... Scott, who stood 5-foot-6 and weighed 135 pounds, was a sportswriter in the offseason, covering horse racing for a Cleveland newspaper. He played football at Cleveland's Western Reserve University, where he earned a reputation as a brainy, daring leader.
Alabama became the Crimson Tide during the Scott Era. In the early 1900s it had picked up the nickname "The Thin Red Line," but Birmingham News sports editor Zipp Newman coined the named Crimson Tide when he came home from the army in 1919. Newman said he got the idea from watching the tide pound a seashore. It suggested a force that kept pounding at you. One day he wrote "Crimson Tide" in a headline, and a famous nickname was born.
Scott's first Crimson Tide did not surrender a touchdown in its first five games and finished with an 8-1 record, scoring 280 points and giving up only 22. ...
Scott's second team, in 1920, became the first Alabama squad to win 10 games. It posted eight shutouts, lost only to Georgia, and went 10-1.
In 1921, the Crimson Tide slumped to 5-4-2, but Scott's last team would be the history-maker at the Capstone with its upset of Penn in Philadelphia.
Al Clemens, a 156-pound end, ... captain of Alabama's '21 and '22 teams ... recalled the historic game at Franklin Field and the strategy employed by his coach.
"On the train ride up there we stopped in Washington, D.C., to watch a game between Navy and Penn State. The papers were calling this a 'classical game,' but they looked like high school players to us. We thought if this is what Eastern football is like, we can beat Pennsylvania."
A crowd of 20,000 gathered at Franklin Field for the battle between Eastern and Southern schools. It was by far the largest crowd an Alabama team had ever seen. "Penn had an All-American tackle named Thurman," said Clemens. "Coach Scott's game plan was for us to attack Thurman, run everything right at him. We'd hit him and say, 'OK, Thurman, maybe they'll put somebody in here who can play.' He got so frustrated he slugged our fullback, W. C. Baty - hit him right in the head with his fist. They threw him out of the game. That happened in the third quarter and we knew we had it won then."
Alabama scored on a Bull Wesley field goal and a fumble recovery in the end zone by Shorty Propst and came away with a monumental upset, 9-7. Later Scott and some of his players paraded through the streets of Philadelphia.
"Coach Scott had the game ball under his arm and people would say, 'What you got there?' Coach Scott said, 'It's gold ... oh, it's gold.'"
The team rode the train 2,500 miles back to Tuscaloosa, where the depot was running over with fans.
"They had three big flat-bed trucks pulled by horses," Clemens recalled. "They hitched them together and we stood up on them and waved as they pulled us through the center of town."