Alabama Football will look to stretch its winning streak Saturday, but early on the series was all Mizzou.
The Alabama Football vs. Missouri series is few in games, even though it began in 1968. That year’s Gator Bowl saw the Tigers upset the Crimson Tide. For Mizzou fans, the game is viewed as a major upset. Beyond losing a football game, there was more going on for Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and his Alabama football team. More on that story below.
Alabama Football vs. Missouri; Gator Bowl; December 1968
From January 1967 through January 1975, the Alabama Crimson Tide played in eight bowl games. The game results were one tie and seven losses. The first of the seven losses was administered by Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. The Aggies were coached by one of Bear’s boys, Gene Stallings. Bryant hated losing but at midfield after the game, he jubilantly lifted Stallings upon his own broad shoulders.
The 1968 Gator Bowl was supposed to end differently. The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 12 in the nation, with an 8-2 record. The two losses came by a total of three points. Missouri had been strong through most of the season but two late losses dropped them to No. 16. The Crimson Tide was a ten-point favorite.
Mizzou won 35-10, physically whipping Bear’s team on both sides of the ball. Missouri rushed for 402 yards. The Tide finished with a total of 67 yards, and minus-45 yards rushing, largely due to 12 sacks of QB, Scott Hunter.
Two years ago The Kansas City Star helped Missouri fans relive the game. After the upset, Bryant said,
"(Missouri) ran up and down the field just as though they were playing a barbers’ college and toyed with us like children."
Alabama Football vs. Missouri; Legion Field, Birmingham, AL; September 1975
The Crimson Tide opened with Missouri, coming off an 11-1, 1974, marred only by a two-point loss to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. Bryant’s Alabama football team was ranked No. 2, while Missouri was unranked.
Mizzou won 20-7. The Tigers held the Tide rushing attack to 31 yards on 34 carries. The halftime score was 20-0. In the second half, Ozzie Newsome corralled a pass, after it bounced off another player, for the Tide’s only score.
The Crimson Tide would not lose again in 1975, finishing with a Sugar Bowl victory over Penn State. The Missouri loss dropped the Tide to No. 14 in the polls. It finished at No. 3.
The Four-Win Streak
In 1978, the Crimson Tide finally beat a Missouri team 38-20, in Columbia. The teams did not meet again until 2012. Again in Columbia, the 2012 Tide, 42-10 victory is best known for what happened off the field. During the game, a heavy rainstorm chased the teams from the field. In the visitor locker room, Tide players found dry uniforms and game notes to study during the delay. As always, Nick Saban was prepared for any eventuality.
In 2014, the two teams met in Atlanta for the SEC Championship. An out-classed Missouri team lost 42-13. The most recent meeting between the schools was October 2018 in Tuscaloosa. It was another easy victory for the Crimson Tide, 39-10.
Back to the 1968 Story
In 1968, Bryant still had an all-white team. He wanted that to change. He had been trying to integrate his football teams going back to Kentucky and Texas A&M. He had failed. Playing Missouri gave Bryant a chance to discuss how to recruit and handle black players with Missouri, Head Coach, Dan Devine.
Writing for the Kansas City Star, Vahe Gregorian recounted Devine’s advice to Bryant.
"Devine responded that he had “less trouble with black players than white,” and added, “I knew that from then on, the Bear and ‘Bama would be color blind.”"
Indeed, a couple of months later, Bryant sent then Alabama football assistant, Pat Dye to pursue Wilbur Jackson. This lesser-known fact changed Alabama football history. To an extent, it changed the state of Alabama. Jackson became the Tide’s first black, scholarship player.
The ‘Bear’ being color-blind is exactly how it worked out. Scores of his former players, black and white, will attest to that fact.