The game plan is completed and gone over on the field for the last time. It is a guessing game. Alabama guesses that Tech will throw frequently into the flats coming off a long motion and flooding a zone with three receivers. "I don't think Tech thinks they can run on us," says Assistant Coach Dude Hennessey. For Tech, Alabama has made one predictable change: Bryant will start both fullbacks, Steve Bowman and Leslie Kelley, his leading ground-gainers, since there is no outside speed available to him anyway. And he will make one change that he hopes will not be foreseen by Tech: Wayne Cook, who normally plays tight end to Tolleson's split end, will also split out seven yards to the weak side, and Alabama will do a little zone flooding of its own, expecting Namath or Sloan to catch Tech defending too often in a one-on-one situation. The feeling is that the left side of Tech's secondary is vulnerable. Furthermore, Bryant figures he can beat the Tech defense principally because it does not care much for tackling.
A pep rally drew the largest crowd of the year to the gymnasium. They came with garbage-can covers (for banging), shouting, " Steve Sloan for president" and cautioning visitors to be sure and stand when they played the national anthem, Dixie. Hennessey called Bryant "the greatest man I know." He spoke of "mamas and papas" and got some welcome hissing when he mentioned Grant Field. "Let's hear it!" shouted Dude. "Hiss!" answered the crowd. Then some of the players spoke, and Namath got a turn. "Two years ago," he said, after a long wait for the applause to ebb, "we went to Atlanta. We had won eight straight and were No. 1 in the country. We lost. This year we're 8 and 0, and we're No. 2. Saturday we're going to win in Atlanta, and we're going to come back to the No. 1 university in the country." A player who was there said that Joe's speech positively sent shivers up his spine.
The Alabama Athletic Dormitory, the house that Bear built, is a $680,000 piece of emphasis that is indisputably a campus beauty mark. It houses 130 boys, has a lavish decor, guest rooms for visiting mamas and papas, a color television set in a room that appears to be wallpapered in stocks and bonds, and the only reason it does not have a swimming pool is that some people think you can overdo a thing like this. This is home for, among others, Gaylon McCollough, a 21-year-old, 6-foot 3-inch, 204-pound senior center from Enterprise, Ala. McCollough has a prominent jaw, a high-B average and is planning to enter medical school next fall. After breakfast he sat in his Italian provincial dining-room chair and told a visitor what it was like to play football for Bear Bryant.
"In the spring, and then in the early fall, when it's two-a-day and dog-eat-dog, you don't think you'll ever make it. You lie in your bed at night and you think, oh Lord, if I could only quit, if I could only get a day off. Every play is full out, and every workout is like a war. You go into every play like it was your last, you come back to the huddle keyed up for another. Then all of a sudden it's over, and the season's on, and it's easier. And now here we are with two games to go and a chance to go to another bowl game and win the national championship, and you know it's not every man gets this kind of chance."
Two twin-engine Southern Airlines planes were needed to get the team to Atlanta, because four-engine planes or jets cannot fly in or out of Tuscaloosa. Mrs. Bryant, who makes all the team's trips, rode in one and her husband in the other, as is their custom. This time she had to ask a rider politely to relinquish the seat nearest the front on the right side because she had been sitting there all year and the Bryants are very superstitious folk. She showed the lucky Alabama brooch Paul bought her their first year there, and said that Paul would be wearing his lucky red-and-white tie. "Paul had a blue vest he wore for 26 games before the 1962 Tech game," she said. "He forgot it that year. He had to borrow one. We lost."
It could not have happened to a nicer day. The temperature was 75�, the sun was everywhere, splashing into the corners and behind the posts of Grant Field, and so were the people everywhere, 53,000 strong. An Alabama fan, quick to notice such things, pointed out that the Tech program cover, a cartoon of a yellow jacket enjoying some sport at a red elephant's expense, had billed the contest as "today's rubber game." It was true Tech had won in 1962, he said, and Alabama in 1963, but what about 1961, 1960, 1959 and 1958? The scoreboard also had some accounting to do. It showed, beforehand, 90 for Georgia Tech, 0 for Alabama. "We work down from there," explained a Tech man, "and Alabama works up."
When Bryant brought his team out early to be greeted by the initial stiff volley of "go to hell, Alabama, go to hell" from the Tech cheering section, he smiled and put on a red Alabama helmet. Later he replaced it with his shapeless brown hat and stood chatting and smiling under the south goalpost with Bobby Dodd. Dodd rested his hand on the Bear's shoulder. The Bear was wearing a red-and-white-striped tie.