Alabama Football: 30 Greatest Games in Crimson Tide History

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

January 1, 1935 – Rose Bowl vs. Stanford

Alabama football had returned to the Rode Bowl twice since the 1926 upset of Washington, in 1927 and 1931. The Crimson Tide was still not embraced by some western media as a national power. The following season the Crimson Tide tied Pop Warner’s strong Stanford team. The two undefeated teams would share the 1926 National Championship. In the 1931 Rose Bowl, the Tide trounced an undefeated Washington State team 24-0. Another shared National Championship (this one with Notre Dame) followed.

Going into the 1935 Rose Bowl, Stanford was undefeated, with a bad, upset tie to Santa Clara. The AP Poll would not become fully established until 1936. Although it is unclear how many AP sportswriters participated during the 1934 season, a mid-season poll listed the top three teams as No. 1 Minnesota; No. 2 Stanford and No. 3 Alabama.

After the 1935 Rose Bowl, though polls were not done beyond the regular season, Stanford would likely have been ranked outside the top five, but definitely in the top ten.

The main reason for the then Stanford Indians slipping was being soundly beaten by the Crimson Tide in the Rose Bowl.

Despite the Crimson Tide’s Rose Bowl successes, college football fans on the west coast wanted to see Minnesota. The undefeated Gophers believed they had already proven themselves as the best team in college football. They had no choice. At the time the Big Ten did not allow its teams to participate in bowl games.

An underdog role was again assigned to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Head Coach, Frank Thomas would not have wanted it any other way. Thomas had brought the ‘Notre Dame’ box offense to the Crimson Tide in 1931. In 1934, he had the perfect man to trigger it. Riley Smith was the Tide quarterback, used in that period primarily as a blocking back.

The offense was keyed by the left halfback, Milliard ‘Dixie’ Howell. Howell excelled at all the triple-threat skills, running, passing and kicking. With Howell in the backfield and Don Hutson at end, the Crimson Tide had one of the powerful passing attacks in the nation.

‘Howell to Hutson’, so much a part of Crimson Tide lore, is credited with revolutionizing college football. Hutson would go on to receive similar credit in professional football while playing for the Green Bay Packers.

Stanford took a 7-0, first-quarter lead after recovering a Crimson Tide fumble. In the second quarter, with Howell passing and running, the Tide cut the lead to 7-6. The Crimson Tide took the lead with a field goal. A 68-yard touchdown run by Howell took the score to 16-7. Late in the second quarter, an Alabama interception set up another scoring drive. The touchdown came from a pass by Joe Riley to Hutson. At 22-7, the game was out of reach for Stanford.

The Indians came back with a long, second-half drive, cutting the lead to 22-13. The Crimson Tide closed out the scoring with a ‘Howell to Hutson’ connection. The 59-yard pass play took the lead to 29-13.

The game’s disparity shows up in the yards gained stats. Stanford out-rushed the Tide, 195 yards to 123. More than half of the Tide’s rushing production came on the long touchdown run by Howell.

But the Crimson Tide completed 10-of-13 passes, for 215 yards. The Indians threw 23 passes but gained only 95 yards on five completions.

Over time, Minnesota became a consensus, 1934 National Champion. The Crimson Tide edged out the Gophers as chosen by five different college football ranking groups, including Houlgate, considered by the NCAA has a ‘Major Selector’ of the era.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 29 – Stanford Indians 13