SI Vault
John Underwood
January 11, 1965
Playing on a gimpy leg, Alabama's Joe Namath was the star of the Orange Bowl, but the surprising Texas Longhorns beat the country's No. 1 team by mixing long gains with muscular defense
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January 11, 1965

Fabulous In Defeat

Playing on a gimpy leg, Alabama's Joe Namath was the star of the Orange Bowl, but the surprising Texas Longhorns beat the country's No. 1 team by mixing long gains with muscular defense

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Alabama did not make a first down, much less get near the end zone, in the first quarter, but the psyched-up defense twice blunted Texas thrusts. Then the defensive team guessed wrong on a stunting movement and Koy sliced, cut back through the vacancy left at right tackle and was suddenly free on his 79-yard touchdown run, the longest by a Texas back in four years.

This first of several unusual involvements that cost The Tide dearly occurred in the second quarter. The next came as Texas prepared to punt on fourth down at its 26. During the time-out that preceded the play Bryant substituted his offensive team. Center Gaylon McCullough lined up at defensive right tackle, misread the line of scrimmage and was called offside. The punt was nullified and Texas retained possession with a first down on the 31. On the very next play Hudson replaced Kristynik at quarterback. Hudson was the starter before an early-season injury sidelined him and is a fine passer, but Alabama did not catch the change until too late. Sauer, split right, ran a straight fly pattern and sped past 'Bama's defenses.

With the score 14-0, Namath replaced Sloan. His knee was heavily bound and he wore soccer shoes with small cleats to prevent them from grabbing turf. He clearly could not run, but in college football there is no one who throws better, gimp leg or no. His passes covered all but four yards of the ensuing 87-yard touchdown drive, including a seven-yarder to End Wayne Trimble for the score.

Shortly afterward came the third jolt of misfortune for Alabama—stranger even than the first or second. Having detected an opening at left end when Texas lined up for a field-goal try, Alabama sent Creed Gilmer ripping across the unprotected zone. Gilmer blocked the kick at the Alabama 28-yard line, and David Ray picked the ball up to run for Alabama. But Ray fumbled away possession as he was hit on the 38. A downfield holding penalty put Texas on the Alabama 13, and three plays later Koy slanted in to make it 21-7 at half time.

The second half belonged to Joe Namath. Coach Weeb Ewbank of the New York Jets, watching from the press box, bubbled over every move as Namath took Alabama 63 yards for one score, getting the touchdown on a 20-yard pass thrown sharply between two Texas defenders. "Fabulous, fabulous, fabulous," sang Ewbank, who had a contract ready for Namath to sign. "Reminds me of Unitas. He doesn't have to be tutored. He could take a pro team right now."

In the fourth quarter Namath worked Alabama in again, this time for a field goal, and finally to the six-yard line on the last Alabama drive. Three fullback plunges by Steve Bowman reached the one. At the line of scrimmage on fourth down Namath thought he saw a trace of daylight at right guard. He ignored his knee trouble and disappeared in a cascade of white-and-orange jerseys. Eventually Namath could be seen in the end zone, but only after the play was blown dead. "One official said it was a score, but the referee said no," Namath said, and was livid. "I guess you know whose side I was on." An Alabama assistant put it less heatedly and more accurately. "If we can't score in four tries from the six we don't deserve to win."

Texas never got past midfield in the second half, and made only four first downs as Alabama overshifted to the strong side to adjust to the power sweeps of Koy. But for all the momentum Namath provided, Texas had won the game in the first half and preserved it with that goal-line defense.

The next morning Joe Namath went through the formalities of a press conference in which he signed a Jet contract that will, with long-term benefits, amount to more than $400,000, or just enough to pay the annual salaries of 75 postal clerks. Then he went celebrating with Ewbank at Tropical Park, a racetrack where Namath once was nabbed for gambling as a minor. There, in keeping with the Alabama mood, he squandered a small portion of his record allotment on horses that ran slow.

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