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IT'S ALABAMA IN A RUNAWAY
Roy Blount Jr.
November 20, 1972
When last seen, Terry Davis and his Crimson Tide were rolling on, while bits of LSU were strewn over the field
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November 20, 1972

It's Alabama In A Runaway

When last seen, Terry Davis and his Crimson Tide were rolling on, while bits of LSU were strewn over the field

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Terry Davis (see cover), the quarterback of unbeaten Alabama, is too small for the pros. His arm and statistics are ungodlike and he has the countenance of a Norman Rockwell boy who thinks he might go cane-pole fishing after a while. But last week in Birmingham, the football capital of the South, Davis passed and ran and pitched and faked and handed off, and just generally executed so thoroughly that hitherto undefeated LSU rarely knew what to expect from him. Alabama won 35-21, which leaves it sitting pretty, bowlwise and pollwise. Saturday night the streets of Birmingham ran red with the school colors and the flushed faces of Crimson Tide enthusiasts yelling "Hooo Lordy" and "Roll, Tide." Those bards who celebrate legendary Confederate quarterbacks must surely have whipped together a "Ballad of Terry Davis" plus an aggressive bumper sticker or two. And after the game Coach Bear Bryant went so far as to say, "I don't know how you get consideration for that Heisman, or whatever it is, but Terry Davis hasn't lost a regular season game."

This, briefly, is what Davis did to LSU. Behind 7-0 in the second quarter, after LSU's own gifted quarterback, Bert Jones, had thrown a 21-yard touchdown pass, Davis faked a handoff and tossed a 25-yard strike to Wayne Wheeler to tie the score. Early in the second half he threw to Wheeler again for a 29-yard touchdown that put Alabama ahead 14-7. When LSU fumbled a punt minutes later, Davis swept end for 25 yards and it was 21-7.

LSU came back to make it 21-14 late in the third quarter, but it was here that Davis and Alabama really took charge. Had the LSU defense been able to hold, the momentum of the game would have shifted to the Tigers, but Alabama took the kickoff and nearly ran LSU back to Louisiana. Like this: Steve Bisceglia gained five. Bisceglia again for 18. Joe LaBue for six. Bisceglia for four. Bisceglia two. Davis 37. Davis five. And Bisceglia, appropriately, for one and the touchdown. Eight running plays, 78 yards, 28-14, game over, essentially. In fact, Alabama so demoralized LSU Coach Charlie McClendon that given a fourth down and three at his own 31 with about 4:50 left to play, his team still trailing by 14, he chose to punt, giving up any chance for victory. "I felt like I didn't want it to be 50," he said later.

It must be pointed out that Davis did not quell the Tigers singlehanded. Jones stands three inches and 25 pounds larger than the 6-foot, 179-pound Davis, but Davis' blockers average 250 pounds from guard to guard, and some say that John Hannah is the best lineman in SEC history. "They're tremendous size people," says LSU Running Back Brad Davis, who ran well against them.

Terry Davis also had better receivers than Jones. The best one on the field by far was Alabama's Wheeler, who caught 112 yards' worth of Davis passes, including those two touchdowns. The bulk of the Alabama offense was on the ground, however, and Bisceglia, on the inside, and LaBue, on the outside, gained a little more than half of the team's 335 yards rushing.

Give a little credit too—as if he needed it in Alabama—to Bryant, who installed the Wishbone last year and since then has developed it to the point where its inventor, Darrell Royal, has picked up several refinements from him.

Last year McClendon devised a no-nonsense "one-track" defense to stop Alabama, which LSU did, holding the Tide's running game to 214 yards and one touchdown. Alabama had to come up with two field goals and a two-point conversion for its 14-7 victory. This year McClendon set up essentially the same eight-man-front defense, and for half the game it seemed to work well enough.

"One man has to go after the quarterback and another one after the pitch man on each play," said McClendon when explaining his one-track idea. "If you play halfway in between you're usually just wrong."

The trouble is, old one-track does not offer much protection against the pass. Playing LSU last year, Alabama threw only three times with no completions. Bear Bryant has been saying right along that Davis can pass well, but statistics like that hardly enforce the notion. But in the first half last Saturday he threw 12 times, and when he completed three more passes at the start of the second half as Alabama went ahead 14-7 LSU had to adjust its defense. At which point the Wishbone began to work in all its fury.

"This year's Alabama team is a lot better than last year's," McClendon conceded after the game. "They know so much more about the game and about running the Wishbone."

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