Alabama Football: ‘The Goal Line Stand’ was a team thing

Linebacker Barry Krauss of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Linebacker Barry Krauss of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images) /

Several Alabama football players made ‘The Goal Line Stand’ happen in 1979 Sugar Bowl

Alabama football fans know well the 1979 Sugar Bowl ‘Goal Line Stand.’ On fourth down, a  jarring tackle by linebacker Barry Krauss made Crimson Tide history. Krauss’ hit on Penn State running back, Matt Guman was so powerful, the impact briefly paralyzed Krauss.

With just over eight minutes to go in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, the Alabama Crimson Tide led 14-7. In the elapsed 22 minutes of the second half, the Crimson Tide had managed just one first down. Fortunately, the Alabama football defense appeared up to the task of preserving a Crimson Tide victory. In the game’s first half, Penn State gained only a net, 20 yards.

Suddenly the Crimson Tide offense fumbled a QB pitch. Penn State recovered at the Tide 19-yard line. On the next play, Penn State, running back, Matt Shuey ran the Nittany Lions to a first down at the Tide, eight yard-line. Then Matt Guman took a pitch and reached the Tide six yard-line.

On second-down, Penn State QB, Chuck Fusina rolled right and hit an open receiver. Crimson Tide cornerback, Don McNeal was three to four steps away in the end-zone, covering another Penn State player. Almost miraculously, McNeal immediately reacted and exploded to the ball carrier. The Penn State player caught the pass just inside the two yard-line. McNeal drove him out-of-bounds at the one yard-line. Reportedly in a brief exchange after the second-down play, Fusina cockily asked Tide defender Marty Lyons what the Nittany Lions should run. Lyons’ quick retort was Fusina had better pass.

On third down, Matt Shuey leaped over the top. Tide reserve defender David Hannah tackled Shuey by the legs. Crimson Tide defender Curtis McGriff hit Shuey as did linebacker, Rich Wingo, who hit Shuey high to finish the stop.

In Alabama football lore, the ball was placed down just 12 inches from the goal. In reality, it was about 18 inches away. The Alabama football staff decided to fully commit to stopping a fourth-down run. Penn State obliged.

Barry Krauss has often said the defensive unit should be credited with the fourth down, goal-line defending stop. He is correct. Had Rich Wingo and David Hannah not neutralized Penn State blockers, Krause would not have reached Matt Guman. Less known and perhaps more important were Tide defenders Mike Clements and Murray Legg.

Defensive back, Mike Clements encroached the left edge of the Penn State line. His penetration allowed him to grasp Guman’s legs just before he attempted to jump over the pile. Guman jumped but could not leap. After the massive hit by Krause, the impact caused a pinched nerve and deadened his body. He could not keep pushing Guman back. Safety Murray Legg charged into Krausse and Guman, effectively stopping any forward motion.

Check out the video below.

Much has been written about the 1979 Sugar Bowl and the plays leading up to ‘The Stand.’ Great detail was provided by Tom Arenberg, writing for in 2010.

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For some of us Alabama football fans, it is hard to believe the ’79 Sugar Bowl happened over 40 years ago. The memories are strong but incomplete. Thanks to the YouTube video and Tom Arenberg, the details can be accurately recounted.