Alabama Football: 30 Greatest Games in Crimson Tide History

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports /
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Alabama Football
Head coach John McKay of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

Alabama Football Greatest Game

September 10, 1971 – Los Angeles vs. Southern Cal

In the interval that spanned the Alabama Crimson Tide seasons of 1969 and 1970, Tuscaloosa was not a happy place. The Alabama football records were 6-5 and 6-5-1. Boosters and fans called for Bryant to resign, claiming the game had passed him by.

On one of his Sunday Alabama football replay shows, Bryant responded by telling some of them “to go to hell.” He said if he, the football coach could no longer get it done, then he, the Athletic Director would fire himself.

Then he went back to work. Bryant quietly brought some of the Texas Longhorns staff of Darrell Royal to Tuscaloosa during the summer. Bryant wanted to learn the wishbone. He had been considering the change for months, but purposely stuck with his drop-back passing offense during spring practice.

Before fall camp in 1971, Bryant quietly told his staff to learn everything about the Wishbone offense. He had made up his mind. The players embraced the plan to surprise USC with the new offense in September. When a few reporters were allowed onto the closely guarded, field, the team reverted to the old offense until the reporters left.

The fall before USC had embarrassed the Crimson Tide, 42-21 in Birmingham. Some Alabama football insiders of the time say Bryant was almost pleased with the loss. It certainly made the coming integration of Alabama football, already begun quietly by Bryant, easier. African-American players ran past over, around and through the Crimson Tide that muggy night at Legion Field. One of them was born in Birmingham.

Alabama football was long overdue for change, racially and schematically. The schematic part was unveiled in Los Angeles. The Trojans were stunned. The Crimson Tide scored 17 points before the Trojans could get on the board. At halftime, the score was 17-10. Neither team scored in the second half as the Crimson Tide wishbone chewed up the clock. The Crimson Tide, led by Johnny Musso, rushed for 302 yards while throwing only six passes and completing five.

It was an offensive plan the Crimson Tide would follow through the decade.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 17 – USC 10