- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Howard Schnellenberger, an Alabama assistant, had said that "if Tech were smart, they'd ram it right to us. But they're not smart." In the early stages, when both teams were working out their doubts, Tech did have moments of looking smart, running counters and reverse traps inside Alabama's ends, getting satisfying bolts of yardage, especially when Halfback Johnny Gresham, the best runner on the field, countered off Alabama's right side. But each time Tech appeared ready for some real fun Quarterback Bruce Fischer would try a pitch-out or a rollout, and would experience immediate and disturbing failure and a loss of momentum.
Alabama had field position throughout the first half. Sloan was at quarterback. Namath stood waiting on the sideline, to be used only when Bryant thought his presence on the field was absolutely necessary. Sloan split his tight end for the first time midway in the opening quarter, and as Tech frantically tried to cover the crowd on the side, he laid the ball into Cook's hands. Cook dropped the pass, but the missed play was almost as good as a completion—Tech was exposed. Sloan came back to the swing man with a pass for 14 yards, then threw again to Cook for 19 to the Tech 21-yard line. Continuing with the new formation, he sent Kelley on a power slant for a first down at the 11, but Tech held this time.
The game marked time late into the second quarter, with the tension holding. Then, with less than two minutes to half time and Alabama nesting on the Tech 49, Bryant called for Namath, of whom he has said, "I believe Joe can do just about anything." At first Joe did nothing, and looked bad doing it. On a straight drop-back pattern, he hesitated too long and his pass was tipped away by a Tech lineman. On second down, he pumped twice trying a comeback pass to Flanker Back Ray Ogden on the right sideline. It was short, and a good thing, too, because Tech's Gerry Bussell, tight on Ogden's shoulder, almost got to the ball. If he had, the chances are he would have gone unmolested to the Alabama goal. But, in almost being a hero, Bussell had tipped himself off.
The next play was sent in from the bench, but Namath had already called it. Back to Bussell's side, this time to Dave Ray, inserted at flanker in Ogden's place. Ray cut in front of Bussell toward the sideline, faked up, then curled back as if for the same comeback pass to the outside. Bussell careened in, too close. Ray pivoted up field, quickly leaving Bussell three steps behind. Namath spiraled the ball into his hands on the dead run, and Bussell didn't catch him until Ray was on the Tech one-yard line. On the next play, Bowman scored.
Tech had barely seen the smoke from the first shot when it was suddenly hit with two more. First, End Creed Gilmer recovered Ray's twisting onside kick at the Tech 49. Then Namath, hustled back in, passed on first down to Ogden on the right side. This time Ogden had curled in after making his fake, then slanted down the middle and was to the Tech three before he was caught. Two plays later, Namath rolled left and passed to Ray coming left to right in the end zone. The Tide had its second touchdown only a minute and a half after Namath's presence had been deemed absolutely necessary. The effect was devastating and finishing.
In the second half Ray kicked a field goal to become the alltime collegiate kicking champion with 58 points. Alabama scored another touchdown and Tech beat the clock with a touchdown of its own in the last minute to escape a shutout. Alabama won 24-7—its 24th victory in the series. Tech has won 19. In analysis, Tech apparently did not exploit a superiority of manpower inside the ends, perhaps because it never believed fully that a superiority existed. There was no great inequality of players, despite the protestations of both coaches, except for the 1� minutes when Alabama had Namath on the field. During those few moments the defensive backs were bound to feel unequal.
The game was played without incident. With a fraternal postgame pat on the back, Coach Dodd was as gracious as could be. "It's no disgrace," he told Bryant, "to lose to the best team in the country." "I did not think Tech would score," said Bryant. The suspense was gone by the second half, but it had been a good football game between two good teams. One's only regret was that it was the last time the two would meet.