A Season in Time: Alabama Crimson Tide 1966
The 1966 season was one of the most controversial in NCAA football history.

Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)

Part I - Preseason Expectations
Joe Namath with Bear Bryant
Joe Namath with Bear Bryant

Alabama QB Steve Sloan
Steve Sloan

Alabama QB Kenny Stabler
Ken Stabler

C Paul Crane with Bear Bryant
Paul Crane with Bear Bryant

Sports Illustrated Cover for Bear Bryant Series


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The Alabama Crimson Tide began practice for the 1966 season with a goal of winning the national championship for the third straight year. The neither of the previous two campaigns had the Tide gone undefeated. Yet, in both seasons, the Crimson had profited from the way the Associated Press conducted its final football poll.

  • In 1964, Bama, led by QB Joe Namath, went undefeated but lost to Texas in the Orange Bowl, 21-17.
  • As it had done since the inception of its poll in 1936, the AP conducted its final vote after the regular season. So Alabama's bowl loss did not detract from its #1 ranking in the final AP poll.
  • Before the 1965 season, the wire service, responding to outcries from the press as well as the public, decided to wait until after the bowl games to conduct its final poll.
  • Bear Bryant's eighth team at his alma mater lost its opener to Georgia, 18-17, and tied Tennessee 7-7.
  • After completing its regular season with five straight victories for an 8-1-1 mark, the Tide ranked fourth in the last AP poll before the bowl games. The top three teams were Michigan State, Arkansas, and Nebraska.
  • Three bowl games had to go the right way for Bama to leapfrog the three squads ahead of them, and that's exactly what happened.
    • Cotton Bowl: LSU 14 Arkansas 7
    • Rose Bowl: UCLA 14 Michigan State 12
    • Orange Bowl: Alabama 39 Nebraska 28
  • The Tide finished #1 in the post-bowl poll to claim another national championship, which, combined with the one from 1961, gave them three in the last five seasons.
The pre-season AP poll for 1966 put Bama in first place, followed closely by Michigan State. Notre Dame started at #5. If the Crimson Tide were to live up to its advance billing, several questions would have to be answered.

  • Steve Sloan, who had replaced Namath under C for the '65 season, had graduated. Lefty junior Ken Stabler had seen sparse action (3-of-11 passing with 328y rushing) but had the talent to fill the shoes of his two predecessors under center. Free-spirited Stabler was the opposite of "the devout, focused, disciplined Sloan." Ken had the passing and running ability to operate Bear's I-formation option O.
  • If Stabler faltered, senior Wayne Trimble, a major recruiting prize whose career had been limited by injuries, stood ready to step in. Wayne had given up his starting spot in the secondary to compete for the QB job.
  • Who would replace Paul Crane at C? "A devastating blocker and nearly flawless snapper," Crane had been drafted by the New York Jets where he would again snap the ball to Namath. The heir apparent was senior Jimmy Carroll who, after missing the first five games of 1965 with an ankle injury, had been redshirted.
  • With only 13 seniors remaining from the 51 athletes who came to Tuscaloosa as freshmen, Bryant would have to rely on a large number of juniors and even sophomores to play significant roles. (Freshmen were ineligible for varsity competition.)
  • Bear himself downplayed talk of a threepeat, something no college team had ever done. The Bama media guide said: "Bryant, himself, scoffs at the mention of three titles in a row. He won't even discuss it publicly. Neither will the players or the coaches. But deep down, the thoughtinspires them all."
  • In August, Sports Illustrated began a five-part series entitled "I'll Tell You about Football." John Underwood wrote the biographical pieces in conjunction with Bear.

Hints of a problem that would haunt the Crimson Tide in 1966 surfaced as the schedule for the new season was completed.

  • Despite the upheaval caused in 1963 by the forced integration of the university by the U. S. Justice Department, Alabama still followed strict segregation policies. Specifically, state law prohibited integrated sporting events.
  • The Crimson Tide squad remained 100% white. Kentucky fielded the first black players in the SEC during the 1965 season. Ironically, the Wildcat coach was Charlie Bradshaw, a former Alabama assistant.
1966 Alabama Crimson Tide
1966 Alabama Crimson Tide
  • On the basketball court, Kentucky, coached by ardent racist Adolph Rupp, had been upset by Texas Western (now UTEP) in the finals of the 1966 NCAA Tournament. The game made history because Don Haskins' squad fielded an all-black starting lineup.
  • When Tulane announced its intention to withdraw from the SEC after the 1965-6 school year, the Bama athletic department searched for a new opening opponent for the '66 season.
  • Assistant AD Charley Thornton recalls: "None of the teams we called wanted to play us because of the racial climate. The image of the state was so bad, they didn't want to play in Alabama."
  • The fact that the athletic department contacted several integrated northern teams to fill the open date indicates Bryant was willing to stick a toe in the integration waters.
  • Alabama ended up scheduling "lightly-regarded, all-white" Louisiana Tech, thereby giving critics, including a number of AP voters, ammunition to downgrade the Tide's 1966 performance because of a weak schedule.

Part II: Games 1, 2, and 3

Part I

Alabama lost its #1 ranking in the AP poll before it ever played a game.

  • On September 17, #2 Michigan State defeated North Carolina State at home 28-10. #3 Nebraska beat TCU 14-10. In Los Angeles, UCLA crushed Pittsburgh, 57-14.
  • As a result, the Spartans rose to the top in the next AP poll while the Bruins leapfrogged Nebraska to #2. Idle Alabama fell to third.
  • The Tide would never regain the top spot.

Bear Bryant didn't concern himself with polls this early in the season. Instead, he made sure his squad was not overconfident as it prepared for Louisiana Tech.

  • On Saturday night, September 24, 63,187 fans gathered at Legion Field in Birmingham, where Bama played most of its home games in those days.
  • Ken Stabler made a smashing debut, throwing two TD passes to WR Dennis Homan and scoring one himself as the Tide romped 32-0.
  • The game was closer than the score indicated as "the surprisingly strong Louisiana Tech squad carried the fight to Alabama most of the way" (to quote the AP article on the game). Three TDs were set up by intercepted passes while another INT killed Tech's most serious drive at the 14 late in Q2.
  • S Bobby Johns, a converted QB, picked off a Phil Robertson aerial late in Q1 to set up Stabler's 32y TD pass to Homan six plays later in Q2.
  • The second score came after Eddie Roberts snatched an errant pass and returned the ball to the 8. Stabler scored from there to make the tally 14-0 at halftime.
  • Homan gathered in a 79y pass from Stabler in Q3.
  • Wayne Trimble and Joe Kelley also saw action under C. Trimble led a Q4 TD drive after "Little Dicky" Thompson (5-8 1/2) picked off Robertson at the enemy 22. Harold Moore carried the leather the final 2y.
  • Kelley was at the controls for the final TD. After tossing a 40y pass to E Conrad Fowler, Joe handed off to Moore who smashed through the middle of the line 4y to paydirt.
  • The top three spots in the AP poll remained the same but Notre Dame edged up to #4 after beating Purdue 26-14.
Bear wasn't happy with the performance of the Red (first team) O.
  • He said after the game, "Anybody could look at the statistics and see that the Red couldn't move the ball, and they won't be the Red team Monday."
  • Sure enough, T Jerry Duncan and G Johnny Calvert were demoted after grading poorly. After a week of having the coaches ride their butts throughout practices, they would be reinstated right before the next kickoff.

Next up was Ole Miss at Jackson where the Rebels played their important home games.

  • Johnny Vaught had established Ole Missas a perennial SEC power in the 1950s. Bryant had wrested conference leadership from Vaught (and LSU) when he rebuilt Bama starting with the '58 season.
  • Bama had eked out a 17-16 victory in Birmingham the season before. That preserved an amazing streak - Ole Miss had not beaten Alabama since 1910.
  • The '66 edition of the Rebels were unscored on in their first two games.

46,703 filled Memorial Stadium on the cool evening. To no one's surprise, D dominated the scoreless first period in what Alabama radio announcer John Forney called "one of the hardest-hitting football games ever seen."

  • Thompson's INT on Ole Miss's third play put the Tide in business at the Rebels 35. Stabler completed several short passes, but when Les Kelley was stopped on third and short, Steve Davis attempted a 36y FG but pulled it to the left.
  • With 1:57 left, Bama received a punt in good field position. Stabler hit Duncan on a tackle-eligible pass for 15y. Five plays later, Kelley smashed over from the one. The advance had been aided by a pass interference call against Tommy Luke on the 3. Davis's PAT made it 7-0 at the break.
  • After the teams exchanged punts in Q3, Stabler cranked up another scoring drive. The march began and ended with passes to Petal MS WR Ray Perkins (who eventually became Bear's successor). The first went for 19 and the second, 28.
  • Another Thompson INT stopped a threat, but finally the Rebels got on the scoreboard. Doug Cunningham capped a 92y drive with a 2y scoring leap in Q4 to make it 14-7 and give hope to the home crowd.
  • Thompson's third pick of the evening - and he had another nullified by a penalty - set up a 24y Davis FG to ice the game with four minutes left.
  • Stabler completed a school record 16-of-19 for 144. 9 went to Perkins - another Tide record - for 94y.
  • Vaught praised Kenny: "He surprised us. He's a lot better player than we thought he was. He's quicker, he throws a much better short pass, and he just keeps you off balance."
  • Alf Van Hoose assured Tide fans in The Birmingham News the next day: "Kenny Stabler answered once and for all the persistent questions about his left arm. The Snake can throw."

The AP pollsters considered Notre Dame's 35-7 victory at Northwestern more impressive than Bama's triumph and moved the Irish up to the #3 spot.

1966 Alabama-Ole Miss Program 1966 Alabama-Clemson Program

Next up for the Tide was Clemson in Tuscaloosa.

  • Denny Stadium had just been expanded to seat 60,000, about 15,000 less than Legion Field in Birmingham. However, Alabama paid no rent and kept all the proceeds after paying the visiting team. (In 1975, the state legislature would rename the stadium Bryant-Denny.)
Denny Stadium 1966
Denny Stadium 1966
  • Frank Howard, Clemson coach for the 27th year, had played on Alabama's undefeated 1931 Rose Bowl champions for the legendary Wallace Wade.
  • The '66 Tigers of the ACC had beaten Virginia 40-35, then lost at Georgia Tech 13-12.
  • The day before the game, Bear showed his old pal Frank around the locker room. The host bragged about his quick little boys. Howard would have none of it. "Hell, Bear, you ain't foolin' nobody." Frank, like many people, suspected Bryant of trimming the weights of his players. Before departing for the game, the visiting coach, known for his wit, proclaimed: "I notice that Bear's got some mighty small boys. My doctor told me I had to lose some weight. So while I'm down there, I'm going to weigh on his scales."
  • Hearing the quote, Bear decided to have some fun with Frank. He offered Howard a chance to weigh himself on one of the scales in the locker room. Frank, who weighed about 260, watched the needle settle at 237. "By God, Bear, they're accurate after all!" he proclaimed, tongue-in-cheek. Bear, of course, had instructed his equipment manager beforehand to rig the scale to subtract 25-30 pounds for anyone who stepped on.
  • The Tide O-line weighed accurately at 197 (TE), 206 (T), 181 (G), 193 (C), 197 (G), and 185 (T).
The warm Saturday afternoon crowd of 46,486 saw their heroes get off to a fast start.

  • Clemson QB Frank Liberatore scared Alabama when he returned the opening kickoff 37 yards and was only one block away from a TD. He was hauled down on the Tide 43. However, an INT by Mike Sasser ended the threat.
  • Stabler led the O to a TD that came on a 6y pass to Homan. The next Bama possession ended in a 32y FG by Davis.
  • On the third series, Stabler pitched out to Kelley who raced 30y. Three plays later, The Snake slithered over from the 1 for a 16-0 halftime lead.
  • After throwing another short TD pass in Q3, this one to Kenny Martin to end a march highlighted by Homan's 38y ramble on a reverse, Stabler took a seat. He completed 7-of-8 for 98y and led scoring drives on 4 of 5 possessions.
  • Trimble and Kelley ran the attack the rest of the way as Bear emptied his bench, but the best they could do was a 36y Davis FG in Q4 to complete the 26-0 victory.
  • Howard, whose squad would win the ACC that season, called Alabama "one of the finest football teams I've ever seen."
  • UCLA, after edging Rice in Houston 27-24, dropped from second to fourth in the AP voting, allowing Notre Dame and Alabama to move up one notch each.


1966 Alabama-Louisiana Tech Program

Dennis Homan, Alabama WR
Dennis Homan

S Bobby Johns, Alabama
Bobby Johns
Video of Johns career at Alabama

Dicky Thompson, Alabama
Dicky Thompson

Ole Miss Coach Johnny Vaught
Johnny Vaught

WR Ray Perkins, Alabama
Ray Perkins












Coach Frank Howard, Clemson
Frank Howard

Alabama FB Les Kelley
Les Kelley

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Part III - Game 4

1966 Alabama-Tennessee Program
Dewey Warren, UT QB
Dewey Warren
Tennessee's TD
Austin Denney scores UT's TD
LB Paul Naumoff, Tennessee
Paul Naumoff
Tennessee P Ron Widby
Ron Widby

The Crimson now faced their toughest test of the season - a trip to Rocky Top.

  • The Bama-UT series, which began in 1901, had long ago established itself as one of the most intense rivalries in the South, being known as The Third Saturday in October.
  • "Tennessee was like a dirty word to us," said DL Richard Cole. "Coach Bryant really got fired up to play those guys in orange, and he made sure we got fired up, too."
  • Bear often said, "You find out what kind of person you are when you play Tennessee." He had shown his mettle by playing against the Volunteers in 1935 with a broken leg.
  • He showed the players how focused he was on winning the game when the team deplaned in Knoxville on Friday. Duncan recalls:

The Chamber of Commerce had representatives there to greet us, including the president. They gave us all big envelopes with little items in them, such as a map of Knoxville, a key chain with Neyland Stadium on it, and coupons for free sandwiches. The president tried to hand one to Coach Bryant, who grabbed it from him, tore it open, saw the map, and said, "Hell, we didn't come up to go on some damn tour." Then, to our amazement, Coach Bryant wadded up the map and threw down the envelope. We couldn't believe how rudely he acted. But that sure did get us ready to play.

Rain began fallling in Knoxville on Thursday and continued through Saturday.

  • Longtime Alabama radio announcer John Forney recalls: "While the two teams worked out in the downpour, all I could think of was that Alabama's quickness would be negated by the conditions."
  • 56,368 drenched spectators saw another classic at Neyland Stadium. The team that handled the wet conditions better would likely win.
  • In the first half, that team was not Alabama. Because of the rain, Bryant instructed his captains to defer if they won the toss. However, they persuaded him that the O wanted the ball; so Coach changed his mind.
  • Alabama did indeed win the toss and received the kickoff. Forney remembered "how surprised I was when we won the coin toss and chose to receive the opening kickoff ... It started raining and never stopped. It was a miserable mess."
  • On second-and-15, Stabler, as he did before every snap, read the safety and determined that Perkins would be double-covered. In that instance, Kenny had the option of giving the ball to FB Kelley rather than faking it and throwing a pass. However, Les read the D the opposite way. So when Stabler handed the ball, the FB didn't accept it, and it bounced forward into Derrick Weatherford's hands at the 22.
  • On the first play, Bob Johnson, UT's mammoth 6-4 231 lb All-American C, cleared out 5-9 187 lb NG Tom "Stumpy" Somerville to enable WB Charles Fulton to gain 9. "It's going to be a long day," though Stumpy.
  • Three plays later, QB Dewey Warren passed 6y to TE Austin Denney in the EZ. Gary Wright's placement made it 7-0. Forney: "The game had hardly begun and already Bama's gameplan had to be changed."
  • Before the quarter ended, the Tide had to punt out of its own EZ. Given excellent field position, the Vols capitalized when Wright booted a 40y FG to make it 10-0.
  • Midway through Q2, Bama finally got a break, recovering a fumble at the enemy 31. Stabler, suffering through the worst half of his life, ran the ball on six of the next eight plays. Included was a fourth-and-three run for 6. However, the pigskin slipped from his hands on the next play and Paul Naumoff recovered at the 6.
  • UT punter Ron Widby, who would lead the nation that season, repeatedly boomed punts to keep the visitors at bay.
  • Neither team gained 100y the first 30 minutes. Amazingly, Stabler failed to complete a pass.

Given the weather conditions and sloppy field, Alabama's chances of mounting a comeback seemed slim against a D that had yet to yield a TD in 1966.

  • Bryant told his managers to give each player a clean uniform. At least they would feel fresh for the first few minutes of the second half.
  • While listening to their coaches go over adjustments, the players wondered what Bear would say after such a miserable performance.
  • When Bryant came in, he was singing a hymn: "What a friend we have in Jesus ..." That usually meant a butt-chewing was next. Instead, Coach smiled, clapped his hands together, and exclaimed: "This is perfect! We got 'em right where we want 'em. That was their half, and now this is our half coming up. What a chance we've got to show what we're made of."
Stabler Handing Off UT Defends Stabler
Stabler handing off to Frank Canterbury (28) and trying to Pass

Ken Stabler Passing
Stabler Throwing against UT

Austin Denney, Tennessee E
Austin Denney

The pep talk didn't seem to make much difference when the battle resumed.

  • With its O still struggling, the Bama D had to hang tough. On its second possession, UT drove from its 28 to the Tide 35. But the D stiffened and forced a punt.
  • Facing bad field position yet again, Stabler drove the ball out near midfield before bogging down. Still, the punt flipped the field.
  • Near the end of the period, the D created the break the O needed. LB Mike Hall hit Fulton, causing a fumble that DE Mike Ford recovered on the Vols 46.
  • Snake finally ended his drought, scrambling left and hitting Homan for 14. He rolled left again but threw back to the right to TE Wayne Cook who rumbled to the 10. Several plays later, Stabler barely sneaked in from the one to make it 10-6 with 14:29 left in the game.
  • Since playing for ties was not in Bear's nature, he ordered a 2-point try. The play he sent in was a delay to the TE. It worked perfectly. Stabler faded straight back and tossed over the middle to Cook open at the 2. He dove across to make it 10-8.
  • Wayne admitted after the game, "I was surprised they called that pass to me." He would catch only 14 all year, but Bear knew UT would not be covering him.
 Alabama-Tennessee Action
Kelley over the top

Bama needed only a FG to win.

  • Forcing a three-and-out, the Tide got the ball on its 25 with nine minutes left. Stabler assembled his huddle. "Alright, shut your mouths. We're putting the ball in the EZ." Later in the drive, he asked his boys, "Man, isn't this fun?" His coolness instilled confidence in his unit.
  • Sticking mostly to the ground, Bama drove relentlessly into enemy territory. With a 6-3 210 lb FB who was bigger than every one of the linemen blocking for him, Stabler kept handing the ball to Kelley to bang into the tiring Orange defenders. He also faked to Kelley once, then passed to him over the middle for 13. A few plays later, Ken spun 270°, faked to the FB, and scampered around LE for a first down at the 6.
  • Moved back to the 12, Bama got a big break when Kelley fumbled forward, and the ball bounced right into the gut of Perkins at the 6.
  • When the Vols stopped Kelley on the one on third down, Stabler called timeout and jogged to the sidelines. Bryant didn't hesitate to beckon Davis for the equivalent of an EP kick. Bear also sent Snake back in to hold even though Johns usually performed that task. The coach wanted the sure-handed QB to avoid any kind of bobble in the wet conditions.
  • As the team broke the huddle, G Bruce Stephens told Davis, "If you don't make this, I'm gonna kill you." The snap was low, but Ken placed it perfectly, and Davis booted it through with less than four minutes left.

Any thought that the game was over quickly vanished.

  • On the first play after the kickoff, Warren connected with TB Bill Baker for 22 to the 49.
  • Fulton took a pitchout and started to run right, then fooled Bama by tossing to Denney who roared to the 13 where Johnny Mosley made a game-saving tackle. Just like that, UT was in FG range for its kicker, who earlier booted a soggy 40-yarder.
  • The Vols kept it on the ground, moving to the 3 with 0:16 left. Despite perhaps having time for one more try at the EZ, UT called its final timeout. Warren insisted years later, "I don't know who called time out. I didn't." Nobody ever remembered doing so.
  • Coach Bill Battle, who played for Bryant in Tuscaloosa, sent in fellow Alabama native Wright for the winning FG from the right hash mark at the 10.
  • Most every team that completes an undefeated season needs luck to win at least one of the games. This was Alabama's lucky game as Wright's boot sailed just to the right of the upright.
Tennessee Coach Bill Battle
Coach Bill Battle

Many people at the game remembered the last play decades later.

  • Alabama trainer Jim Goostree: "I was standing in a chute in the south end zone [where the kick was booted] waiting to go to our dressing. I thought no way Gary Wright was gonna miss that FG. He was a great kicker. I thought the game was lost. Then, to my surprise, as well as my joy, I watched the official call it no good. It was close, mere inches, and I recall the Tennessee fans reacting both ways. First, they cheered wildly. Then, they got quiet."
  • Forney: "That game took more out of me as a broadcaster than any I recall. I was shaking when it was over. I was wrung out. I was almost disoriented. ... I remember seeing a Tennessee team manager standing behind the goal post in an orange rainsuit as Wright lined up for the kick. I kept my eyes on that guy. He sank to the ground and grabbed his head. Before the officials signaled the kick no good, I screamed, 'It's no good. It's no good.' The reaction of that team manager told me that."
  • Bryant said people should not blame the kicker for the loss. "If I were on Tennessee's side, I'd say Alabama was lucky. Call it fate, good fortune, or just plain luck, we're grateful for the win. But I don't think their kicker should feel so bad. We would've blocked it if he'd kicked it straight."
  • Bear was referring to the fact that sophomore Donnie Johnston broke free up the middle. "I was looking right down at the ball as I came in. If it had been straight, I probably would have caught it in my gut," Donnie said afterwards.

Wright has been haunted by his miss ever since.

  • "I've heard about it every day since 1966," Gary said in 1987. "I looked at the official. When he called it no good, I wanted to hide. My heart sank. I wanted to crawl under a tarp on the side of the playing field."
  • "One of the managers at Tennessee noticed that W is my middle initial. After that kick, he said, 'Hey, Tennessee, does that stand for wide?' From that day forward I was called Tennessee."
  • "It's an appropriate nickname. I missed three FGs kicking for Tennessee. They were all about the same, short and with a tough angle, all easy enough to make. The one against Tennessee was the toughest, by far, because the game was so important to me. I'm from Alabama. I'd chosen to go to Tennessee as a walk-on. Alabama had sent me a letter while I was in high school, asking if I'd be interested in joining that program if recruited, and I'd written 'No' on it and sent it back."
  • That night, the heartbroken kicker went to a concert. He doesn't remember a single song that was played. "But I do remember that somebody from Tennessee went looking for me. They thought I was off somewhere attempting suicide. I was just trying to forget."
  • Wright still attends almost all UT home games but has not attended Alabama games even though he is a pharmacist in Heflin AL.

Because it struggled to win, Bama dropped from #3 to #4 in the next AP poll. Notre Dame, after blasting Oklahoma 38-0, supplanted Michigan State at the top.

Video Highlights of Alabama-Tennessee Game

References: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)
Third Saturday in October, Al Browning (2001)
Part IV - Games 5 and 6

After the war in Knoxville, the Tide returned to Birmingham for perennial pushover Vanderbilt.

  • The staff made a change on D after watching the Tennessee films. Stumpy Somerville became a backup O-lineman, and the bigger Johnny Sullivan replaced him at NG.
  • On the fifth play, Johns returned an INT 33y for a TD to start the 42-6 rout. Bama punted only once as it piled up 353y to Vandy's 114.
  • Trailing 21-0 near the end of Q1 thanks to a 29y pass from Kelley to Perkins (Les's only college pass attempt) and Trimble's aerial to Brewer, the Commodores scored their only TD three plays after recovering Kelley's fumble at the 30.
  • RB David Chatwood scored on a 14y run to make the tally 28-6 at halftime.
  • Bryant played subs the second half, using 58 players, including 11 ball-carriers and the usual three QBs.
  • Trimble tossed another TD pass, this one to Homan from the 18, and scored on a 1y plunge in Q4.
  • The AP voters kept Alabama at #4 for another week.
Alabama-Vandy Action 
Frank Canterbury picks his way vs Commodores

The following Saturday, Mississippi State made the short trip to Tuscaloosa to continue a rivalry that began in 1896. Bama has played the Bulldogs far more times than any other school (thanks to the breakdown in relations with Auburn that caused that series to go into hiatus from 1908-1947).

  • Bear was 8-0 against the Maroons, having beaten them every year since he returned to Tuscaloosa. In '65, the Tide had eked out a 10-7 victory in Jackson.
  • State's 2-4 record meant nothing - they always came ready to play Bama.
  • With the Crimson O sputtering, the first period ended scoreless. Stabler killed one drive by throwing an INT in the EZ.
  • In Q2, Stabler led a charge from the Bama 48 to the 18, close enough for Davis to boom a 35y FG at the 12:30 mark. Trimble took over on the next possession after Mosely recovered a fumble and marched 37y on four plays, the last 26 coming on a pass to Perkins to make it 10-0 at the break.
  • The only scoring in Q3 was another Davis FG, this one from 31y out. Entering the final 15, MSU had crossed midfield only once. That would soon change.
  • On the fifth play of the period, Ken threw another INT, this one deep in Tide territory. Prentice Calhoun ended the short drive with a 3y run to make it 13-7 with 11:40 left. In today's parlance, it was now a "one possession game."
  • Bryant sent Trimble back in. "See what you can do," he told him. Starting from the 29, Wayne moved the Tide relentlessly down the field. After one first down on an interference penalty, Trimble faced third and 5 on the State 48. He boldly called the tackle-eligible pass that had worked against Ole Miss. The QB took the snap, started right as if to run the option, then fired the ball to Duncan, who had broken behind the LB. Not only did the play gain the first down, it gained a TD. "I've never been so wide open in my whole life," said Jerry, a high school FB. Davis's placement made it 20-7 with 9:15 left. Crimson and White fans, the vast majority of the 56,500, could breathe easier.
  • Trimble put some icing on the cake - and intensified the QB controversy - by leading another scoring march. Perkins caught another TD pass, this one for 37 with 3:27 left.
  • State scored with 3 seconds left against the second string to make the final score a more respectable 27-14.
  • The next AP poll showed no change in the top four: Notre Dame, Michigan State, UCLA, Alabama.
Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)


1966 Alabama-Vanderbilt Program

Stabler Passing vs Vanderbilt
Stabler passing vs Vandy

Alabama-Vanderbilt Action
Trimble running against Vanderbilt

1966 Alabama-Miss. State Program

T Jerry Duncan, Alabama

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Part V - Game 7
LSU Coach Charles McClendon
Charlie McClendon
1966 Alabama-LSU Program
Louis Thompson, Alabama
Louis Thompson
Mike Hall, Alabama LB
Mike Hall with New York Jets

As 6-0 Alabama prepared for LSU, the Tide players learned that they would be without one of their starters.

  • Following the victory over Mississippi State Saturday night, FB Les Kelley headed to Birmingham with some buddies to have a good time.
  • After imbibing a number of adult beverages, Les returned to Bryant Hall about 5 AM Sunday, long after the team curfew.
  • Unfortunately for him, dorm director Gary White guarded the entrance like a sentry. White simply pointed toward the athletic offices.
  • Coach Bryant was already at work when Les arrived. After hearing Kelley's story, Bear said he needed to consult his assistants and pray about the matter. He told his micreant to return at 5 PM.
  • When the senior returned at the appointed hour, he received the bad news that he was suspended indefinitely from the team. He had to move out of Bryant Hall and not associate in any way with the players or coaches.
  • The next day, Bryant told reporters, "It will be up to Les to prove to me that he is worthy of another chance."
The 1966 edition of the LSU Tigers, missing 15 graduated starters, were embroiled in the school's worst season since 1960.

  • Coach Charlie McClendon had played for and coached under Bryant at Kentucky before moving to Baton Rouge as an assistant.
  • However, Mac had no mixed emotions when he faced his mentor. "I thought a lot of Coach Bryant and owed him so much, but when we kicked it off, there was nobody I wanted to beat more."
  • The Tigers started the '66 season with a 28-12 win over their former coach, Paul Dietzel, in his first game at South Carolina.
  • After a 17-15 loss at Rice, LSU defeated Miami (FL) 10-8 before tying Texas A&M 7-7.
  • A 30-0 thumping of Kentucky in Lexington preceded home defeats at the hands of Florida (28-7) and Ole Miss (17-0).
  • So McClendon's bunch came to Birmingham with a 3-3-1 record. The offense, which had scored only 7 points in its last two outings, would be stoutly challenged against the Tide D.
  • Alabama opened as an 18-point favorite but, as usual, the Tide faithful bet the game up a couple of points to 21 by kickoff.

The game, broadcast on ABC, marked both teams' first TV appearance that season.

  • On the third play of the game, Louis Thompson sacked little QB Freddie Haynes, forcing the Tigers to punt from inside their own 10.
  • Mike Hall slipped through and blocked Mitch Worley's punt. The ball rolled out of the back of the EZ to give Bama a 2-0 lead.
  • The two plays portended a long day for the Tigers and their fans in the crowd of 66,500.

The Tide forged an 8-0 halftime lead.

  • Steve Davis booted FGs of 24 and 32y.
  • LSU's biggest threat (to use the word loosely) ended in Q2 when John Mosley intercepted a long Haynes pass.
DiBetta, Haynes vs Alabama
Gawain DiBetta (21) leads QB Fred Haynes (11) against Alabama.
Alabama DB Bobby Johns
Bobby Johns

1996 LSU-Alabama
DiBetta finding the going tough

Alabama FB Les Kelley
Les Kelley

Bama finally scored a TD in Q3, but it wasn't the O that produced it.

  • CB Bobby Johns stepped in front of Haynes' pass and swept 33y to paydirt with two minutes left in the period. Davis's PAT made it 15-0. With the Tide defenders dominating, LSU had little chance of rallying.
  • A third INT set up Bama's final score. Stan Moss grabbed backup QB Trey Prather's toss and returned it to the 6. From there, Frank Canterbury scored from the 3 with four minutes left to wrap up the 21-0 victory.
  • LSU finally managed to penetrate deep into Tide territory, but Hall stopped a 4th-and-1 run at the 21.

The final stats showed how much the defenses dominated the contest.

  • LSU amassed only 6 first downs and 90y of offense. The back-to-back shutouts were the school's first since 1941.
  • Mac's defenders had nothing to be ashamed of, holding Bear's O to 10 first downs and 256y.

LSU won its final two games against Mississippi State (17-7) and Tulane (21-7) to avoid its first losing season since 1956. However, the streak of five straight bowl games ended.

After watching the game on TV at his parents' home in Tarrant (35 miles SE of Birmingham), Kelley drove back to Tuscaloosa and made another Sunday dawn visit to Bryant's office to ask for another chance.

  • Once again, coach told him to come back later.
  • In the meantime, Mosley, Ray Perkins, and several other teammates interceded for Les.
  • When Kelley returned and heard the good news from Bear that he was reinstated, Les said, "Coach, you won't be sorry."

Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)

Part VI: Games 8 and 9

After UCLA's loss to Washington, Alabama moved back to the #3 position in the AP poll behind Notre Dame and Michigan State.

  • When leading rusher Les Kelley returned to practice on Monday after his one-game suspension, he couldn't find his name on the depth chart on the wall of the locker room.
  • Bryant's message was clear: Kelley would have to regain his first string spot by hard work. "I knew I would have to prove myself all over again in Coach Bryant's eyes," Les recalls.

The 7-0 Crimson Tide prepared for its homecoming game against South Carolina, an Atlantic Coast Conference member at that time.

  • The game would pit Bryant against another of his former assistants for the second straight week. Paul Dietzel, who served under The Bear at Kentucky, was enduring a tough first season in Columbia. His Gamecocks stood at 1-7, the only victory coming at North Carolina State.
  • The Cocks, decimated by injuries, figured to be the typical homecoming sacrificial lamb for the home team.
  • Denny Stadium, Bama's on-campus home, had just been expanded to 59,500 seats, and almost everyone was filled.

Bryant alternated signal callers in an effort to jump start an offense that had not mounted a scoring drive against LSU.

  • Lefty Ken Stabler started and took the Tide on a scoring march after HB Donnie Sutton returned the opening kickoff 20y to the Bama 43. Nine plays later, HB David Chatwood bowled across after scrambling 15y to the 1 on the previous snap.
  • When Wayne Trimble relieved The Snake late in Q1, Bryant sent Kelley out with him. Wayne handed off to Les five times during a drive that carried over to Q2. Finally, Kelley drove in from the 3 to make it 14-0. Les would finish the day with 64y on 16 carries.
  • Trimble led the Q3 march to the third TD, which came on a weird play. Wayne lofted a pass from the SC 13. HB Ed Morgan the ball and E Ray Perkins alertly grabbed it in the EZ for the score.
  • Steve Davis's 31y FG in Q4 wrapped up the workmanlike 24-0 victory.
  • The Gamecocks managed only 9 first downs (3 better than LSU the week before) and 165y to Bama's 20 firsts and 347y. SC failed to penetrate the Tide 45 until the closing moments.
  • When asked by a reporter how Alabama compared to the two teams ahead of them in the rankings, Dietzel replied: "No one can match Notre Dame or Michigan State in terms of personnel, but if either of them played Alabama, I'd have to pick Alabama."
  • Bryant admitted that "It'll take a real good football team to beat us."
  • Bama managed to get one first place vote in the AP poll but actually lost six points as it remained #3.
 Alabama-USC Action
David Chatwood tries the middle against the Gamecocks.

Alabama enjoyed an open date the next Saturday, November 19.

  • That allowed the players and coaches to watch The Game of the Century taking place in East Lansing between Notre Dame and Michigan State.
  • In a game that spawned the phrase "Tie One for the Gipper," Irish coach Ara Parseghian elected to run out the clock in the last minutes and take the 10-10 tie.
  • After watching the game on TV, Bama C Jimmy Carroll spoke for his teammates when he said, "None of us could understand why they didn't try to win the game. It was the opposite of everything we believed, everything we had been taught. The flip side of it was, we thought for sure that would make us No. 1."
  • But Parseghian correctly assumed that his team, playing on the road without FB Nick Eddy and, after Terry Hanratty was injured in Q1, its starting QB, would remain #1 in the eyes of the AP voters.
  • Michigan State stayed #2 and Bama #3. The pollsters had sent a clear message that the only way the Tide could finish #1 was if both ND and MSU lost. Since the Spartans had completed their schedule and were ineligible to go to the Rose Bowl (the only bowl in which the Big Ten participated) because they had gone the year before, Alabama effectively had no chance to finish higher than #2.
  • Bryant himself made this comment on the ND-MSU game: "Everything at Alabama is based on winning. I couldn't go for a tie late in the game ... In our region, our football players have a far-reaching effect on young people. Some of them are gong off to Vietnam everyday, and I hope they aren't going over there for a tie."

Still, two more games remained for Bear's boys starting with Southern Mississippi before 40,010 (including yours truly) at Ladd Stadium in breezy Mobile. As soon as NCAA rules allowed bowls to invite teams, Alabama accepted a bid to the Sugar Bowl.

  • Thad "Pie" Vann, in his 17th year at the helm in Hattiesburg, had guided his Southerners to a 6-3 record. Two seasons in a row, 1953 and 1954, Pie's boys had upset Alabama in the season opener during the decade of doldrums that brought Bear back home.
  • Stabler, from Foley AL on the east side of Mobile Bay, fired TD passes of 55 (to Dennis Homan), 25 (to Perkins), and 1y (to Wayne Cook) to pick apart what was the nation's top defensive team going into the game.
  • The Perkins TD came early in Q2 after a scoreless opening period. It was set up by fumble caused by Louis Thompson and recovered by Mike Hall - the same duo that had given LSU so much grief. At that point, USM had failed to gain a first down, gaining a net -6y in their first 13 plays. Cook's TD catch gave Bama a 12-0 halftime lead.
  • The Tide added 22 points in the second half on Chatwood's 13y run, Homan's TD, and a 1y sneak by third string QB Joe Kelley. The final score of the Tide's 15th straight win was 34-0.
  • With Georgia upsetting Georgia Tech 23-14, Bama stood alone as the only unbeaten, untied team in the nation.
  • However, later in the afternoon on the West Coast, Notre Dame belted USC 51-0 to cement its #1 ranking. Since the Catholic school's policy banned bowl games, the Fighting Irish finished their season 9-0-1.
  • The AP poll kept the top three in the same order. With the final voting taking place the next week, all Alabama could do was fall from #3 by losing to Auburn. It could climb no higher with a win.
Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)



Alabama-South Carolina program

South Carolina Coach Paul Dietzel
Paul Dietzel

Alabama-South Carolina Action
Stabler running against SC

Alabama WR Ray Perkins
Ray Perkins

Alabama-USM Program


Alabama-USM Action
Les Kelley plunging against USM

Alabama WR Dennis Homan
Dennis Homan

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Part VII: Game 10

 1966 Cartoon

Alabama entered its annual Iron Bowl match with Auburn 9-0 but with no chance to win the mythical national championship.

  • The Tide sat at #3 in the AP poll behind #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State, both of whom had finished their regular seasons and would not play in bowl games.
  • The UPI Coaches' Poll had the teams in the same order.
  • Even more galling was the fact that the eight-man panel of the National Football Foundation, which awarded the MacArthur Bowl annually, decided not even to wait for Alabama's final game December 3 and the bowl games. On December 1, the Foundation announced that, for the first time ever, the panel had selected co-champions: Notre Dame and Michigan State.
  • Most writers across the country applauded the decision. For example, Arthur Daley of the New York Times Service wrote in a nationally-circulated column:

These teams were even on November 19 when neither could prove superiority in a face-to-face showdown. The feeling here is that they still are even and that the National Football Foundation should be applauded for its wisdom in giving them joint ownership of the MacArthur Bowl.

  • Daley never mentioned Alabama in his article.
  • All Bama could do was beat Auburn, then win the Sugar Bowl matchup against Nebraska to end the season as the only major unbeaten, untied team in the land.
  • With the Iron Bowl on national television, the Tide could at least make some AP and UPI voters think twice about relegating Bama to #3.
Sign at 1966 Alabama-Auburn Game
Sign at Alabama-Auburn Game

1966 Alabama-Auburn Program

QB Loran Carter, Auburn
Loran Carter

Stabler Passing vs Auburn
Kenny Stabler passing vs Auburn

Whether the hopelessness of their plight affected them or not, Bryant's boys started slowly before 68,000 evenly-split fans at Legion Field in Birmingham, the site of the annual game from 1948-1988.

  • The fired-up 4-5 Tigers battled the Tide on even terms in the scoreless Q1. However, Auburn's ground attack came to a halt when FB Tom Bryan, out most of the season with injuries, was hurt again late in the period.
  • The biggest play of the initial 15 minutes from the Alabama point of view was Steve Davis's punt from the Tide 20. Auburn speedster Bobby Beaird fielded the ball and eluded the tackle of Jerry Duncan to scamper 28y before Davis made a TD-saving tackle. The return ended Bama's chance of leading the nation in punt return D. Coming into their tenth game, the Crimson punt coverage team had yielded an average of one foot per boot.
  • With 10 minutes left in the half, QB Ken Stabler engineered a drive from his own 28 to the Auburn 15 only to have Davis miss a 31y FG.
  • After a three-and-out, Bama struck quickly when Kenny rolled out at his own 37 and hit Ray Perkins at the War Eagle 25. The speedy WR shook off a tackle on his way to the EZ.
  • After the D forced another punt, the O went back to work, this time with a 9-play, 48y march that climaxed with FB Les Kelley plunging over from the 1. After Davis added his second PAT, heavily-favored Alabama led 14-0.
  • Before the intermission, Stabler led another sortie that ended with Davis's 23y FG for a 17-0 halftime advantage.

The only serious question to be settled in the second half was whether the Tide would pitch their sixth shutout of the season.

  • After DB Bobby Johns picked off Tiger QB Loran Carter, Stabler mixed passing and running to set up Kelley's 12y run to paydirt with 5:20 left in Q3.
  • Kenny took a seat the rest of the game after what Bryant later called "probably ... his greatest game." The Snake's slate read 11-of-16 for 169y and 9 rushes for 51.
  • On Auburn's next possession, Carter threw another INT, this one to 5'10" 185 lb sophomore Wayne Owen at the Tiger 41. Two plays later, Donnie Sutton gathered in a 41y pass from QB Wayne Trimble to make the score 31-0 with 3:19 left in Q3.
  • Bear started emptying the bench, playing 56 lads in all. Still, Auburn could not get past the Alabama 45. Bama held their rivals to 70y rushing.
  • The victory completed the ninth undefeated, untied regular season in Alabama history and gave the Tide a share of its ninth SEC championship with Georgia.

In the pressbox, Nebraska assistant coach Tom Osborne, scouting the Tide for the Sugar Bowl, told a reporter, "There's no doubt in our minds that we will be playing the best team in the country."

  • Bryant refused to politic for his team, saying only that, "They said our boys were No. 1 before the season and we haven't lost."
  • On his Sunday replay show, Bryant hoped poll voters would "vote their convictions" and asked everyone to "keep [their] mouths shut about the way they vote [because] nothing we can say will make any difference."

When we final poll was released on Monday, the inevitable came to pass.

    1. Notre Dame (506 points, 41 first-place votes)
    2. Michigan State (471 points, 8 first-place votes)
    3. Alabama (418 points, 7 first-place votes)

  • Bryant was gracious in defeat. "The voters have spoken. I don't agree but that's that. I congratulate two great teams with two great coaches."
  • The result was devastating to Bear's players, especially the seniors. "We really didn't know how to take it," said Duncan. "Losing the national championshiop was like the end of the world to us 'cause it was what drove everything."

Keith Dunnavant has called the 1966 AP vote "the greatest injustice in the history of the national championship selection process."

In the history of college football, no other team has ever won back-to-back national championships, finished undefeated and untied, and been denied the title. In the history of college football, no other team has ever been ranked No. 1 in the preseason AP poll, finished perfect, and then been denied the title.

If the situation had been reversed, and Notre Dame was undefeated and bidding for a third consecutive title, the Fighting Irish most certainly would have been ranked No. 1.

Bama trained its sights on a huge northern team in Nebraska, whose hopes for an undefeated season had been spoiled by Oklahoma in the last game of the regular season.

To be continued ...

Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)

Part VIII - Sugar Bowl

For the second year in a row, Alabama would face Nebraska in a New Year's Day bowl. Alabama would enjoy its twentieth postseason trip, an NCAA record.

  • The Tide had defeated the 10-0 Cornhuskers 39-28 in the Orange Bowl.
  • Bob Devaney's '66 team had lost the annual finale to Oklahoma, 10-9, but still won the Big Eight Championship and kept the #6 spot in the final AP poll.
  • Desirous of playing the highest ranked team possible and not wanting to return to Miami for the third straight year, Bear Bryant brokered a deal to play Nebraska in New Orleans. The best he could hope for was to beat UN decisively and be selected national champions by one of the organizations that hadn't taken its final vote yet.
  • "We went to New Orleans on a mission," recalls WR Dennis Homan. "We wanted to prove that we were the best football team in the country."

The Crimson Tide had been in New Orleans several days when Bear decided to revamp the offensive game plan.

  • In the '66 Orange Bowl, with a shaky D, Bryant had used several trick plays and ball control defeat the much larger Cornhuskers.
  • More confident of his D this time around, he decided to attack more and use more options with Stabler.
  • Bear didn't know it, but Devaney was tinkering too. He switched from an odd-man front to an even-man front in hopes of gaining an advantage against Bama's smaller, quicker linemen.
  • The Cornhuskers had 22 players on their roster larger than the Tide's biggest, 213 lb Louis Thompson.

January 1, 1967, dawned gray and drizzly after three days of rain. The smaller team didn't need a wet field to slow them down.

  • The capacity crowd of 82,000 (including yours truly) saw something interesting right before the kickoff. When Bryant walked onto the field, the drizzle stopped, and the sun shone through the clouds for a few minutes. The Tide players saw it as an omen. "We were so fired up, I guarantee you, we could have beaten the Green Bay Packers," said LB Bob Childs.
  • Just before Bryant left the locker room, he told Stabler he wanted him to go long on the first play. The Snake had set an SEC record with his 64.9% completion rate during the season, leading some to call him a "left-handed Namath."

Sure enough, Bama won the toss and elected to receive.

  • After Mike Sasser ran the kickoff to the 28, Stabler took the snap, rolled left, stopped, and, seeing WR Ray Perkins breaking free behind the coverage, fired the pass. I can still picture it in my mind's eye from my seat in the North upper deck behind the Alabama O. I was amazed how effortlessly Ken propelled the ball with a flick of his wrist and how it cut through the air like a missile right into Perkins' hands on the dead run down the left sideline at the Nebraska 40. Ray was caught from behind on the 28. Devaney said after the game that he had warned his players to expect a bomb on the first play.
  • On the next play, FB Les Kelley ripped through a hole in the middle for a 10y gain.
  • Five plays later, Bama faced second down on the 1. Stabler absent-mindedly lined up behind the G before being signalled over as his teammates tried not to laugh. Ken then took the snap from the real C and handed to Kelley who fell into the EZ. His shoulder, which turned out to be separated, started throbbing with pain, but he shrugged it off.

Nebraska also started with a pass.

  • QB Bob Churchich hit SE Tom Penney for a 17y gain. However, the Tide D allowed no more and forced a punt to the Bama 29.
  • On second and one, Stabler took to the air again, hitting Perkins at the UN 48 for a 42y gain to the 20. Kelley picked up a blitzer on the play, causing the most intense pain he had ever experienced to radiate through his shoulder. "I knew I was hurt bad," Kelley said later after he took himself out of the game.
  • Two plays later, Stabler executed the option to perfection, faking the pitch and bursting into the EZ from the 14. He showed that the soggy field wasn't going to slow down the Bama Express. Alabama led 14-0 halfway through the first period.
  • Before the first 15 minutes ended, Charles Harris scooped up a fumble by Nebraska RB Harry Wilson to set up Steve Davis's 30y FG.

Bama led 17-0 to start Q2.

  • Wayne Trimble, in his last game in crimson, drove the Tide 71y in 10 plays, racing around LE for the final 6 himself.
  • At halftime, the Alabama Million Dollar Band did its famous routine of forming the score, 24-0, followed by spelling out BAMA to indicate the frontrunner.



Coach Bob Devaney, Nebraska
Bob Devaney

Bear Bryant and Ken Stabler
Ken Stabler celebrates his 21st birthday in New Orleans a few days before the Sugar Bowl

1967 Sugar Bowl Program

Ken Stabler, Sugar Bowl
Stabler passing against Nebraska

Wayne Trimble passes 
Wayne Trimble passes in the 1967 Sugar Bowl.

The main question in the second half was whether Nebraska would be shut out for the first time in 55 games.

  • Davis booted another 3-pointer, this one 40y, after Bobby Johns stole a Churchich pass.
  • The Big Red finally scored on the first play of Q4 when Churchich passed 9y to Dick Davis.
  • Stabler topped off the scoring with a 45y laser to Perkins to make the final score 34-7.

Both coaches praised Bama afterwards.

  • Bear proclaimed: "It's the greatest football team I've ever been associated with and the greatest college football team I've ever seen." That, of course, meant that the '66 Tide were better than his '61, '64, and '65 national champs.
  • Devaney cast his vote for Alabama as the #1 team as well. "I couldn't say anything else the way they played today," Bob said. "They are better than the score indicates. Alabama is the best football team I have ever seen." He added, "We prayed for rain. We should have prayed for a driving rain."
  • Stabler nosed out Perkins for the MVP award. Ken finished 12-for-16 for 218y and was the game's leading rusher with 38. "I thought it was my best game. I think we could have beaten Notre Dame today," said Snake.
  • Perkins caught nine passes for 178y. He signed a three-year, $250,000 contract with the Baltimore Colts after the game, a contract Bryant himself had negotiated for him. Little did anyone dream at the time that Perkins would replace Bryant as Bama coach after the 1982 season.

The Crimson Tide entourage went back to Tuscaloosa to await the results from the one post-bowl vote.

  • The five-man panel of the Football Writers Association of America joined the AP and UPI, who had closed shop after the first weekend in December, in awarding the national championship to Notre Dame.
  • Alabama Nation could at least take some solace from Dan Jenkins' article in the next Sports Illustrated.

Be truthful now, Notre Dame and Michigan State. Would you really want to play Alabama? Would you honestly care to spend an afternoon trying to swat those gnats who call themselves lineman and swirl around your ankles all day? Why, Heavens to Bear Bryant, nobody ought to want to play Alabama unless it just enjoys going to football clinics. Which is exactly what last week's Sugar Bowl was - a clinic, with Bear Bryant instructing the nation on what a top-ranked team is supposed to look like.

It would be only seven years later that #3 Notre Dame, having ended its bowl prohibition after the 1969 season, played #1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl - the first-ever meeting between two of the most storied football programs.

  • Ara Parseghian's Fighting Irish won that night 24-23 in one of the greatest games ever played. As a result, ND vaulted to the top of the final AP poll while Alabama fell to #4.
  • Bear Bryant would go to his grave in January 1983 without ever beating Notre Dame. Expanding the scope of his scheduling, Bear lost to the Irish in 1976 (21-18 at South Bend) and 1980 (7-0 in Birmingham).
Reference: The Missing Ring: How Bear Bryant and the 1966 Alabama Crimson Tide Were Denied College Football's Most Elusive Prize, Keith Dunnavant (2006)



Ray Perkins, Sugar Bowl
Ray Perkins vs Nebraska


Ken Stabler vs Nebraska
More Sugar Bowl action








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Part I: Preseason Expectations

Part II: Games 1, 2, and 3

Part III: Game 4

Part IV: Games 5 and 6

Part V: Game 7

Part VI: Games 8 and 9

Part VII: Game 10

Part VIII: Sugar Bowl


Other Seasons in Time

Notre Dame 1924

Providence Steamroller 1928

Stanford 1940

Wisconsin 1942

LSU 1958


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