RECORD: 11-1 ALL-AMERICAS: BUDDY BROWN, OT; WOODROW LOWE, LB; WAYNE WHEELER, SE. ALABAMA TROUNCED LSU ON THANKSGIVING TO TAKE OVER NO. 1
ON A THANKSGIVING weekend that served up a cornucopia of significant college football action--four games featuring matchups of Top 10 teams--the most compelling confrontation was between No. 2 Alabama and No. 7 LSU. Bear Bryant brought the Crimson Tide to Baton Rouge, and the mist had barely settled on the bayous when he and LSU's Charlie McClendon were bragging on one another again. It is a gracious Southern ritual that has been going on since McClendon, who is not only a fellow traveler from Arkansas but also played and coached under Bryant, took over at LSU in 1962.
According to the script, Bryant puts on his most venerable face and then says, as he did last week, "Cholly Mac and I are good friends, as everyone knows, and I hope he'll be kind to his old coach." Then, after Bryant's boys waylay McClendon's, as they have done seven times in nine games, Cholly Mac will drawl, "Somehow, I don't think Bear taught me all he knows."
There were hints of that last week when Bryant prophesied that "mistakes will decide this game." Collaring the referees before the game, the coach tried to make certain that his young squad would not be rattled by Tiger Stadium, a notorious arena that has justifiably been dubbed Death Valley. With the Southeastern Conference title at stake and both teams flaunting unblemished records, the playing conditions were, as one 'Bama player described them, "downright hellacious."
It was Alabama, however, that took the Tigers by the tail in the first half. The Tide--one of the top 10 teams in scoring, rushing, total offense and total defense--must also lead in the unofficial category of total depth. Shuttling 70 or more players into each game, Bryant this year has achieved a battering effect on opposing teams.
After LSU held Alabama to a standoff in the first period, a Tigers handoff went astray and 'Bama tackle Mike Raines pounced on the ball on the LSU 19. Then quarterback Gary Rutledge made a fake into the line and peeled off on a keeper to score easily. Moments later Rutledge flipped a pass to a very lonely tight end, George Pugh, who loped in for a 49-yard score. LSU's last critical error came in the third quarter when Tigers cornerback Mike Williams fell while covering 'Bama's Wayne Wheeler, and the fleet split end easily turned the play into a 77-yard TD.
Down 21-0 early in the fourth quarter, LSU and the denizens of Tiger Stadium came alive again as quarterback Mike Miley took the Tigers on an 82-yard drive capped by tailback Brad Davis's 40-yard touchdown run. LSU threatened once more, but Alabama linebacker Woodrow Lowe's interception sewed up a 21-7 Tide victory. When the weekend had ended, Alabama was the majority choice for No. 1.
Afterward, Bryant and McClendon slipped back into their routine. "I'm tickled to death to win from Cholly Mac," said the Bear. "He taught me a lot. I always try to learn from my best boys."