It was the last game in the long, historic series between Alabama and Georgia, a game being discontinued because of the old Bear Bryant-Wally Butts-Saturday Evening Post controversy of 1963. Fittingly enough, when all of the excitement was over in Athens, Ga. last Saturday there was another controversy that Alabama and Bryant will not soon forget. With just two minutes remaining in the game and heavily favored Alabama clinging to a 17-10 lead, only recently earned, the Bulldogs pulled off a succession of miracles—and seemingly a piece of sleight of hand—that left 41,500 spectators in utter shock. Georgia thumbed back into the pages of football's razzle-dazzle days and spun off a 73-yard pass-lateral-run play for a touchdown, then went for a two-point conversion try and made it, and one of the nation's mightiest teams fell 18-17 in the very first full week of college play.
With just 3:14 left the climax unfolded in genuinely dramatic fashion. Alabama drove behind Quarterback Steve Sloan for 74 yards and a go-ahead touchdown that looked as secure as Bryant's job. And in that moment Sloan, despite a skittery start, appeared to merit the words Bryant had spoken of him earlier. Said Bear, "He's the best quarterback I've coached." That meant he was better than $400,000 Joe Namath, among others. But, if Sloan were that good, the question was soon to arise as to the worth of Georgia sophomore Kirby Moore.
On the first play after the kickoff Moore, from his own 27, threw a pass out to End Pat Hodgson on the 35. Hodgson caught the ball and flipped a lateral to Halfback Bob Taylor almost in the same motion. He moved so fast that no official was able to detect what a sequence camera later showed—Hodgson's knee on the ground while he had possession of the ball. The play should have been dead on the 35. Instead, Taylor raced untouched down the sideline for the touchdown. A place kick would have tied Alabama and most Georgians would have been delirious at that prospect. But not Coach Vince Dooley, a 33-year-old former Auburn assistant who guided Georgia to a surprising 7-3-1 record last year. Dooley wanted all or nothing. So on the conversion try the Bulldogs lined up in their customary wing T, and Moore calmly tossed a pass into the end zone where Hodgson—him again—grabbed it as Bryant and the usually fierce Alabama defenders stood appalled at the brashness of it all.
Dooley later credited the pass-lateral-run play to Georgia Tech. "Four years ago Tech used it on us when I was at Auburn, and I thank them very much. We practiced it for two weeks, but I thought it would be 1980 before I'd have the nerve to call it in a game."
Bryant tried to warn his loyal followers during the week that Alabama might have trouble, but Bryant is always cautious, and no one was really prepared to believe him. While Bear had been happy with Sloan, he insisted this was his worst team in eight years—too young, too light (the defensive line averaged under 200) and poor in its workouts.
Early in the game Alabama looked almost as bad as Bryant had said it could be. Georgia got off to a 10-0 lead on a field goal and a 55-yard intercepted pass for a touchdown by Tackle George Patton, but Alabama managed to fight back on the strength of typical Tide stunts—a couple of fumble recoveries deep in Georgia territory. It was to Steve Sloan's credit, and Alabama's, that the team could rally for the drive and late touchdown that would have won on any normal afternoon.
But nothing was normal last week in Athens, except Bear Bryant's first reaction on seeing the play that may have cost him the national championship. "The officials," he said without rancor, "are paid to make the call."
1. FLORIDA (1-0)
2. KENTUCKY (1-0)
3. ALABAMA (0-1)
The new look of LSU'S offense last week was penalties—lots of them for illegal shifting. Coach Charley McClendon's Tigers perforce fell back on the old reliable defense to stave off Texas A&M 10-0. The difference between the two: Doug Moreau's 46-yard field goal and a blocked punt.