Friday night it rained, but when Bryant went down for breakfast with the team Saturday the weather was clear and cool. Six Alabama professors, including two women, were there. They were part of Bryant's continuing effort to stimulate a rapport between the faculty and the football program. He invites a group at a time to come join the team at practice, in meetings and at meals. "But they've been disillusioned," he said, grinning. "They expected me to sound like Knute Rockne." Bryant speaks slowly, deliberately, and is analytical almost to a fault. One of the professors said he wished he could get his messages across as well as Bryant does.
A kickoff-to-victory-party chalk-talk followed breakfast, and Bryant eventually got around to Quarterback Bowden. "Now this is the boy they think can beat you throwing the football. Well, he can throw it pretty good, all right. But what we're going to find out is how good he can throw sitting on his fanny."
Bowden will have dreams about what happened last Saturday. Rushed into mistakes and often on his fanny, he passed wobblers and floaters, and sometimes he threw too long and sometimes he threw too short. His receivers were dogged by clinging little characters like John Mosely and Bobby Johns and David Ray, who combined zone with man-to-man coverage and never let anybody get behind them. It soon became a matter of which team would catch most of Bowden's passes, Auburn or Alabama, and Alabama won—seven interceptions to six completions.
Meanwhile, Sloan was throwing like the pro he thinks he is not good enough to become. He, too, was rushed and dumped hard and often, but he had the poise that comes from experience that Bowden did not have, and invariably he was on target. He completed 13 of 18 for 226 yards, three for touchdowns—to Tommy Tolleson for 11 yards, to Ray Perkins for 33 yards and to a sophomore who wasn't even listed in the program, Don Shankles, for 29 yards. When Publicist Thornton finished totting up, he announced grandly that Sloan had broken Namath's one-season passing record with 1,453 yards and Harry Gilmer's total-offense record with 1,499, had set a completion record (97) and a percentage record (60.6) and, most impressive of all his statistics, had now thrown 91 straight passes without an interception. And eight-point-favored Alabama won easily 30-3.
For Bryant it was his 53rd victory in 60 regular-season games over the last six years. In private, he told his players, "You've come a long way. You're as good as anybody now." He promised them they now could have a look at Nebraska, the team they will meet in the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. (He had discouraged their watching the Nebraska-Oklahoma game on television on Thanksgiving Day because he wanted nothing to interfere with their thinking about Auburn.)
And all around the dressing room those Orange Bowl officials in green blazers smiled and shook hands and marveled at their genius in picking Alabama to play Nebraska. They chortled on, and one of the coaches passed around a copy of Ken Meyer's story reproduced on the cover of Alabama's game plan. Meyer is the Alabama offensive back-field coach. A tiger, his story goes, kept going from one jungle animal to another, exerting his authority. "Yes, sir, you're the lord of this here kingdom," they kept answering him, until he moved farther back into the jungle, where he came upon this peaceful-looking red elephant. He challenged the elephant to tell him who was lord and the elephant booted him into the air, fielded him with a tusk and pitched him into the bushes. When the battered tiger finally crept out, he looked up and said, "Man, just because you don't know the right answer you don't have to get smart."