SI Vault
 
'64 Alabama's Big, Bold Bid For No. 1
John Underwood
August 30, 2006
RECORD: 10-1 ALL-AMERICAS: WAYNE FREEMAN, G; DAN KEARLEY, OT; JOE NAMATH, QB; DAVID RAY, HB. ALABAMA EARNED THE TITLE WITH A 21-14 IRON BOWL VICTORY
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
August 30, 2006

'64 Alabama's Big, Bold Bid For No. 1

View CoverRead All Articles

RECORD: 10-1 ALL-AMERICAS: WAYNE FREEMAN, G; DAN KEARLEY, OT; JOE NAMATH, QB; DAVID RAY, HB. ALABAMA EARNED THE TITLE WITH A 21-14 IRON BOWL VICTORY

GIMPY KNEE or not, Alabama quarterback Joe Namath has a way of making his presence felt. When a tackler in the Vanderbilt game jeered at him, "Hey, number 12, what's your name?" Namath replied, "You'll see it in the headlines tomorrow." On the next play Namath threw a touchdown pass. Now, at a pep rally on the Thursday before the Crimson Tide was to face Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Namath was addressing the largest crowd of the year in the Alabama gymnasium.

"Two years ago," he said after a long wait for the applause to ebb, "we went to Atlanta. We had won eight straight and were Number 1 in the country. We lost. This year we're 8 and 0, and we're Number 2. Saturday we're going to win in Atlanta, and we're going to come back to the Number 1 university in the country." A player who was there said that Joe's speech positively sent shivers up his spine.

Namath's injured knee had not regained enough mobility according to coach Paul (Bear) Bryant, so when the game began, Steve 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.

With less than two minutes to halftime and 'Bama 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.

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 careered in, too close. Ray pivoted upfield, quickly leaving Bussell three steps behind. Namath spiraled the ball into his hands on the run, and Bussell didn't catch him until Ray was on the Tech one-yard line. On the next play fullback Steve Bowman scored.

Tech had barely seen the smoke from the first shot when it was hit with two more. First, end Creed Gilmer recovered Ray's twisting onside kick at the Tech 49. Then Namath passed on first down to Ogden on the right side. 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 analysis, 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.

1