Alabama Football: 30 Greatest Games in Crimson Tide History

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
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Alabama Football
[Genuine Curteich-Chicago, C. T. Art Colortone, Chicago]. Artist Unknown. (Photo by Print Collector/Getty Images) /

Alabama Football Greatest Game

January 1, 1963 – Orange Bowl vs. Oklahoma

For the Crimson Tide, the Orange Bowl was a consolation game. A  November loss to Georgia Tech at Grant Field in Atlanta ruined the No. 1 ranked Tide’s chances for a repeat National Championship. The 7-6 loss to the Yellow Jackets ended the Tide’s 26-game unbeaten streak. In the 1962 season, Joe Namath averaged a little over 14 passes per game. According to a 1962 Sports Illustrated story, Namath attempted 38 passes against Georgia Tech. Paul Bryant’s unusual strategy back-fired as Namath threw four interceptions. It is noteworthy Bryant chose a two-point conversion attempt rather than playing for a tie. Though the conversion failed, the Tide got one more drive. Inside the Tech 20, Bryant wanted a few more yards before kicking a winning field goal. A Tide pass went off a receiver’s hands and became the fourth Tech interception of the game.

The 1962 season was still a great one for Alabama football. The Tide destroyed SEC foes, Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Auburn by a combined score of 120-7.

In the season opener, Joe Namath, the new sophomore, starting quarterback threw three touchdown passes against Georgia. In the defense first, run-oriented offenses of the era, Namath made more of an impact as a leader than his offensive production. He completed 76 of only 146 pass attempts in the1962, regular season, a then, school record. His completions and yards passing (1,192) were new school records. He also rushed for a net 229 yards.

What stood out most to his teammates was described by Keith Dunnavant, in his book, Coach.

"there was an air of supreme, unshakable confidence about him, even as a uninitiated rookie"

The Crimson Tide did not win the 1962 SEC Championship. At  9-1, the Tide entered the Orange Bowl ranked No. 5. Oklahoma had won the Big 8 and was ranked No. 8. The Sooners had won three National Championships in the 1950s and were a formidable foe.

President John Kennedy and First Lady, Jackie Kennedy attended the game. In a time before stadium suites and premium seating, the Kennedys sat among fans – Oklahoma fans.

The game was 14-0 at halftime. Namath had thrown a touchdown pass to Ricard Willaimson and Cotton Clark had scored on the ground. The second half was a defensive tussle, with the Crimson Tide adding a field goal in the third quarter.

The reason this Orange Bowl game made this ‘Greatest 30’ list is Lee Roy Jordan’s performance. The Sooners ran a total of 60 plays in the game. Jordan made tackles on 31 of them. The achievement would be a Crimson Tide record but is not, because, in that college football era, bowl games were considered exhibitions. The official Crimson Tide record is 25 tackles, set by DeMeco Ryans.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 17 – Oklahoma Sooners 0