On the other hand, with the NCAA looking over its shoulder, Texas A & M can hardly afford a whitewash. If either the school or the NCAA finds more infractions, the Aggies could get the dreaded death penalty, which stipulates that the offending college can't field a team for at least a season. So by the time Alabama arrived in College Station, rumors were flying that, win or lose, Sherrill would announce his resignation after the game.
On the morning of the game, 'Bama called a press conference of its own. The purpose was to respond to an ESPN report that a group of Tide boosters was raising $2 million to buy out Curry's contract. Roger Sayers, Alabama's interim president, and Winton (Red) Blount, the chairman of its board of trustees, announced not only that they would honor Curry's contract next season but also that they had extended it through 1992. "To quote a recent candidate for president," said Blount, "read my lips: His contract is not for sale."
The Hurricane Bowl festivities included a dance and a king-and-queen contest. The original game programs were sold, albeit with updated inserts, and a bowl-like atmosphere prevailed in College Station. Nevertheless, the crowd of 59,152 was about 13,000 shy of capacity, leaving the schools to haggle over how much 'Bama would have to pay A & M to make up the loss in revenue. All the seats had been sold for the Sept. 17 date.
Once the game got under way, Sherrill found himself plagued by another Smith—David, the Alabama quarterback. If the game had been played in September, D. Smith would have missed it with an injury. Ever since, Aggie fans have been accusing Curry of being less afraid of Hurricane Gilbert than of playing A & M without Smith. Curry denied the charge. Yet, as the season unfolded, it became obvious that Smith was perhaps more important to the Tide than either Humphrey or Jelks. Without him, Alabama failed to complete a single pass in 11 attempts against Mississippi.
Last week, with Smith mixing play-action passes with runs by tailbacks Murry Hill and David Casteal, the Crimson Tide marched 75 yards on its first possession to take a 7-0 lead. After the Aggies' Scott Slater made a 49-yard field goal, Alabama's Philip Doyle connected twice, from 39 and 42 yards, to give the Tide a 13-3 advantage at halftime.
Texas A & M took the second-half kickoff and drove 80 yards behind quarterback Lance Pavlas to make the score 13-10, but the Tide broke the game open early in the fourth quarter. First Smith engineered another long scoring drive, which culminated in an eight-yard TD pass to fullback Kevin Turner. Then 'Bama's Derrick Thomas, winner of this year's Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker, clobbered Pavlas behind the line and recovered the ensuing fumble. Four plays later Doyle converted a 30-yard field goal to put the Tide ahead 23-10.
In the game's final seconds, Thomas, whose two sacks gave him 24 for the season and 47 for his career, sneaked up behind Curry and doused him with a bucket of ice water. After that he helped carry Curry to midfield, where Curry shook hands with Sherrill.
In the locker room Curry was asked if that was his first victory ride at Alabama. He smiled and replied, "No, our players are big carriers, and I guess they like to pick me up because I'm not so heavy."
Just the same, if he doesn't win an SEC title right quick, Curry may never get those 'Bama boosters off his back.