Clash of Titans
Games featuring a future Hall of Fame coach on each sideline.
November 17, 1962: Alabama @ Georgia Tech
Bear Bryant vs Bobby Dodd
Alabama came to Grant Field with a 26-game unbeaten streak that included an 11-0 1961 season. But the 1962 Crimson Tide were an entirely different aggregation from the previous year's consensus national champions. In fact, they were like no other Bear Bry­ant team any­one had ever seen.
The '61 Tide were led by senior QB Pat Trammell, whom Bear christened his favorite player of all time. Trammell threw just 133 passes, completing 75 for 1,035y. He was also Bama's second-leading rusher with 279y on 75 carries.
Bryant poor-mouthed his '62 team in the preseason, saying they were doomed to medi­ocrity. In addition to Trammel, he had lost his leading rusher, Mike Fracchia, and one of his best receivers, Tommy Brooker. To make matters worse, his offensive and defensive lines were young and small. But as usual Bear had an ace up his sleeve in the person of sophomore QB Joe Namath from the unlikely location of Beaver Falls PA.
Joe introduced himself to Bama fans in the spring game when he completed 12 of 17 pass­es for 156y. Then he began his first regular season game by hitting WR Richard Wil­liamson in stride for a 52y touchdown, the first of three passing TDs in the 35-0 thumping of Georgia. The bells tolled for the death of Bear's "three yards and a cloud of dust" offense.
The Tide rolled over their first eight opponents to set the stage for their annual meeting with Georgia Tech, which was 5-2-1. The Yellow Jackets were still seething over Darwin Holt's cheap hit that broke a Tech player's jaw in the previous year's game. Atlanta sports­writer Furman Bisher accused Bryant of teaching dirty play. As a result, Tech Coach Bob­by Dodd refused to schedule any more games against Alabama when the current contract ran out.

L: LB Leroy Jordan and Bear Bryant (University of Alabama Corolla Yearbook Class of 1963)
R: Bobby Dodd (Georgia Institute of Technology Blueprint Yearbook, Class of 1963)
Bama, which hadn't lost to Tech since Bear returned to his alma mater in 1958, was favor­ed by a touchdown. But Bryant, as usual, built up the opponent and questioned whether his runts could stay on the field with the Yellow Jackets. "It will be the biggest challenge of their lives," he said. "Tech is big and strong, bigger and stronger than we are. I just don't know if we can beat them."
Dodd also praised his opponent. "Alabama is a great defensive team. It reminds me of some of General Bob Neyland's great teams at Tennessee [where Dodd played college foot­ball] and some of Tech's fine teams of the past. It will be hard to score on Alabama. That's our No. 1 problem. We will need a great day from Billy Lothridge, our quarterback."
Bryant was genuinely pessimistic about the game, especially when Saturday dawned dark and rainy. He was in his hotel room when a promising high school quarterback named Kim King, his parents, and girlfriend came to visit. They found Bear slumped in a chair staring out the window at Grant Field. "This is Dodd's weather," Bryant told the visitors between drags on his cigarette. "It's raining. It's a sloppy field. This is Dodd's weather. He'll figure out how to play in this weather. He knows how to win in this kind of weather."
When Bryant walked onto the field before the game, rowdy Tech students, seated near the visiting bench in cozy Grant Field, threw liquor bottles that nearly hit him.
Bama Lines up in Shotgun
On the Crimson Tide's first offensive play before a record crowd of 52,971 at Grant Field, Namath lined up in shotgun formation on his 23 and threw a pass. A pro scout in the press box nearly fell off his chair. "Who is he trying to kid?" he yelled. "Bear's teams don't pass on the first play from scrimmage. They don't pass from the 23-yard line, and they haven't run from a shotgun once this year."

Bill Lothridge

Mike McNames

Don Toner
Georgia Tech Blueprint Yearbook Class of 1963
Bama gained one first down on an 11y pass before having to punt. Using their own shotgun formation, Tech moved from their 32 to the Tide 44 before bogging down, and Lothridge, whose punting provided the Jackets with a huge weapon, kicked out on the five.
That pattern repeated itself throughout the afternoon with Tech generally having better field position. Lothridge passed Tech to the Bama 20 on their second possession before Butch Wilson stole Billy's pass to end the threat.
Later in the quarter, Lothridge passed and ran Tech to the Bama 13. But LB Lee Roy Jor­dan, another of Bear's favorites, dropped Joe Auer for a loss of seven. So Lothridge tried a 43y field goal that fell short.
The furthest Bama drove in the first half was the Tech 49, where Jack Hurlburt was inches short on fourth down on the last play of the opening period.
Tech Scores First
Tech finally broke the scoring ice in the second period. As you'd expect from a defensive struggle, an interception set up the score. Mike McNames intercepted Namath's pass at the Tide 28 and ran to the 14. After Tommy Jackson gained nine, McNames had the honor of scoring the touchdown on a 9y smash over right guard. Lothridge kicked the all-important extra point to make it 7-0 with 4:22 left in the half.
L: Mike McNames intercepts Namath's pass. R: Larry Stallings pressures Jack Hurlburt.
(Georgia Institute of Technology Blueprint Yearbook, Class of 1963)

Tommy Jackson as Lothridge and McNames block
(Georgia Institute of Technology Blueprint Yearbook, Class of 1963)
Tide Capitalizes on Tech Mistake
Bama continued to flounder in the second half, thanks in large measure to two more inter­ceptions thrown by Namath. However, Bryant's defense also stifled the Yellow Jackets.
Exemplifying the old-fash­ioned Southern view of both Bryant and Dodd–it's better to give the ball to the opponent deep in his territory than have it deep in your own side of the field–Lothridge quick-kicked to the Bama five later in the third quarter.
After RB Carlton Rankin fumbled for a 3y loss, HB Ingram Culwell surprised everyone in the stadium by throwing a pass from the end zone. The play worked for 33y to E Bill Battle. Namath hit Cotton Clark for 17y to the Tech 48. But three incompletions from the shotgun formation led to Clark's beautiful punt that was downed on the Tech one. Lothridge immediately punted the hot potato all the way to the Tide 46. Neither team threatened the rest of the period.
Bear Goes for Two
McNames's second interception stopped Bama's first possession of the final quarter. After Clark's 63y quick-kick to the Tech, Lothridge went back in kick formation on fourth down. But he fumbled the snap and was downed on the nine. After a 5y penalty, an incom­pletion and two short completions made it fourth-and-goal from the two. Clark smashed into the end zone to make it 7-6. Bryant then gambled for two points and a win rather than a tie and lost. Namath chose to run but was stopped by Ed Griffin to keep Tech in the lead with 5:31 on the clock. Georgia Tech 7 Alabama 6
Bama tried an onside kick and succeeded when Benny Nelson recovered on the Tech 33. But just when Crimson Tide envisioned a game-winning field goal, Frank Sexton elated Tech fans by picking off Namath's pass and returning it to the Bama 42. But he fumbled, and Richard O'Dell recovered for the Tide.
With backup QB Jack Hurlbut at the controls, the Tide gained two first downs to put the ball on the Tech 34. The momentum continued when Clark ran for five and Namath, an excellent runner, zipped for 16y to the 15. But the defense rose up in the person of Don Toner, who cemented the victory by intercepting Namath's errant pass with 1:05 left. Iron­ically, Toner hailed from Bessemer AL, 37 miles from Tuscaloosa.

Don Toner intercepts Namath's deflected pass to seal Tech's victory.
(Georgia Institute of Technology Blueprint Yearbook, Class of 1963)
When they met at midfield, Dodd told Bryant: "I believe that was the cleanest game I've ever seen. What do you think, Coach?" Bryant replied, "It certainly was. But I didn't expect anything different."
Dodd gushed to the media: "Today's was the greatest individual victory ever won by a Georgia Tech football team. ... We played our greatest game to win over a superior Ala­bama team that deserved the No. 1 ranking it had prior to today."
Bryant blamed himself for the loss, citing several poor decisions late in the contest. "I hand­icapped our team by some calls I made." One he cited was the pass in the last minute that Toner intercepted. "If I had it to go over again, I would run two quarterback sneaks and kick a field goal." Asked if he had any hesitancy about going for two after the Bama touchdown, Bear replied, "I had no hesitation at all." He praised both teams. "This was one of the greatest football games I have ever seen. It was a great, great game."
When Bear entered the dejected locker room after talking to the press, he asked his players to take a knee and prayed: "Lord, let these young men forgive me. If I'd stayed at home, we'd have won the game." He then rose to his feet and explained, "I just want to tell you guys how proud I am of you. You never quit; you weren't beaten. Time just ran out on you. If you pick up where you left off today, in the fourth quarter, when we play Auburn, we'll be OK. Feel sorry for yourself, and you'll get beat again."
Sure enough, two weeks later, Alabama crushed Auburn 38-0 as Namath threw two touchdown passes and ran 17y for another. Joe set school single-season passing records for yardage (1,192) and touch­downs (13). The Crimson Tide finished the season 10-1 and ranked #5 to earn a spot in the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma.
The 1962 victory was the only time Dodd beat Bryant.