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, 1964 – Sugar Bowl vs. Ole Miss

Alabama football fans born after the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant era may not appreciate why a game in which the Tide did not score a touchdown would be considered great. Much less, one of the ’30 Greatest.’ A standard explanation that a chosen game led to a Crimson Tide National Championship does not apply. The Crimson Tide would have to wait until 1964 to replicate its first Bryant National Championship.

The 1962 and 1963 seasons were good ones for the Tide, just not championship good. Ole Miss had won a shared National Championship in 1960. In 1962, the title went to Southern Cal, but Ole Miss was undefeated, a contender all season and finished ranked No. 3. The Rebels, under SEC legend, Johnny Vaught slipped a bit in 1963. Entering the season, Ole Miss was ranked No. 2. Two ties saw their ranking drop to No. 7 going into the Sugar Bowl game.

The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 8 going to New Orleans. In a normal game, the evenly rated teams would be seen as a tossup. But the 1964 Sugar Bowl was no normal game.

Paul Bryant’s greatest quarterback, Joe Namath was not even on the Crimson Tide bench. He didn’t make the trip to New Orleans because Bryant had suspended him. Off-campus, some beer and a loud, but only verbal altercation, caused Namath’s suspension. He had to move out of the Athletic Dorm and was told if he made no future mistakes he could return to the team the following spring.

Next man up at quarterback was Steve Sloan. Sloan would later become an All-American, but on the first day of 1964, he bore no resemblance to Joe Namath.

Having to play without its offensive star was made worse by the New Orleans weather conditions. The night before, three inches of snow fell on the Crescent City. The morning of the game, there was doubt the field at Tulane Stadium could be made playable. In a cold win, on a soggy field, Bryant was sure there would be little scoring. Turnovers dominated the game. Of 11 by Ole Miss, the Crimson Tide recovered six. Ole Miss recovered three of the Tide’s six fumbles. According to the Tuscaloosa News, hard hits had more to do with the fumbles than field conditions.

Sophomore Steve Sloan had thrown only two passes all season. He would throw just 10 against Ole Miss, completing three. He was the Tide’s leading rusher with 51 yards.
Bryant was content to depend on field position and his defense. The just enough offense was four field goals by Tim Davis.

Final Score – Alabama Crimson Tide 12 – Ole Miss Rebels 7