Alabama Football: 30 Greatest Games in Crimson Tide History

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
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Alabama Football
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Alabama Football Greatest Game

January 1, 1979 – Sugar Bowl vs. Penn State

The Crimson Tide destruction of Ohio State in the 1978 Sugar Bowl did not earn the Tide an acknowledged National Championship. It did push the Tide to No. 1 in the preseason polling for the 1978 season. A third-game loss to No. 7 ranked USC, in Birmingham, dropped the Crimson Tide to No. 7. The Crimson Tide slid to No. 8 after the next game, a 51-28 win over Vanderbilt.

It took Bryant’s team six straight wins to climb back to No. 2. After an 18-point win over Auburn, Alabama stayed at No. 2, with a Sugar Bowl date with No. 1 Penn State. Though the Nittany Lions had beaten only three ranked teams, Joe Paterno’s squad was undefeated at 11-0.

The way the bowl system was structured, before the BCS, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams rarely met for a National Championship contest.  Borrowing an old-fashioned term that pre-dates the 1979 Sugar Bowl, the game was a ‘slobber-knocker.’ Star Crimson Tide running back Major Ogilive took an early big hit. He has only faint memories of the winning touchdown he scored in the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the Crimson Tide lost a fumble, setting Penn State up just 19 yards from a tying touchdown. What transpired in the new few plays will forever be honored in Alabama Football history. The Nittany Lions gained a first-and-goal at the Crimson Tide eight. On second down, Tide cornerback Don McNeal miraculously made one of the greatest defensive plays in Tide history. In what looked like a sure Penn State touchdown, McNeal flew out of the endzone to knock a Penn State receiver out of bounds at the one.

A third-down run was stopped inches from the Tide endzone. Barry Krauss made the dramatic fourth-down tackle and became a Crimson Tide legend. Reportedly, before the snap, Tide lineman, Marty Lyons informed PSU QB, Chuck Fusina he had better pass.

Though plenty of time was left in the contest, the Tide’s ‘Goal Line Stand’ won the game and a National Championship.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 14 – Penn State 7