RECORD: 13-0 ALL-AMERICAS: JOHN COPELAND, DE; ERIC CURRY, DE; ANTONIO LANGHAM, CB. ALABAMA HALTED MIAMI'S 29-GAME WINNING STREAK AND WON ITS FIRST NATIONAL TITLE SINCE 1979
DESPITE ALABAMA coach Gene Stallings's stubborn refusal in the days leading up to the Sugar Bowl to concede that his team was an underdog, the Crimson Tide's 34-13 win on New Year's Day over the defending national champion Miami Hurricanes was an upset of magnificent proportions. Alabama quarterback Jay Barker could not be counted on to pass his team to victory, and, in fact, he would complete only 4 of 13 throws for 18 yards and suffer two interceptions. Likewise, the outside running game would be an exercise in futility. The Crimson Tide would have to run between the tackles--football's truck route--behind a smallish, undistinguished line that 'Bama fans had maligned. At 6'3" and 250 pounds, center Tobie Sheils is slight for a major-college lineman. Left guard George Wilson shot off half of his left foot in a 1989 hunting accident.
And six nights before the game right tackle Roosevelt Patterson was verbally assaulted in the French Quarter. "You must be an offensive lineman, you fat, sloppy [expletive]," Miami linebacker Rohan Marley had shouted at the amply padded, 290-pound Patterson. Chalk one up for the shrimp, the gimp and the blimp. Behind them Derrick Lassic rushed for 135 yards on 28 carries, the most yards a back gained against the Hurricanes this season.
When Miami had the ball, the Crimson Tide had five, six, sometimes even seven defensive backs on the field. On several occasions Alabama placed 11 men on the line of scrimmage. It was a naked challenge to quarterback Gino Torretta: Beat us deep if you can. The outcome was a pick party. Torretta threw three interceptions, each of which led, directly or indirectly, to a Crimson Tide touchdown.
One of those interceptions came with slightly more than nine minutes left in the third quarter. Miami faced second-and-10 at its own 11-yard line. With a nifty hip fake at the left sideline, senior wideout Lamar Thomas had burst past cornerback Willie Gaston and hauled in Torretta's sweetest pass of the evening at the Hurricanes' 36. Thomas was headed for the goal line. As he neared the end zone, however, a crimson blur rapidly closed on him. "I was supposed to be behind him," said Alabama free safety George Teague. "If I didn't catch him, I was going to be in trouble."
Teague caught Thomas at the Crimson Tide 15, but he was not content to make a tackle. Reaching over Thomas's right shoulder with his right hand, he wrested the ball from Thomas, thereby effecting the most remarkable full-gallop fumble recovery in memory.
In the fourth quarter the Hurricanes cut the Alabama lead to 27-13, but the Tide responded with a five-minute, 12-play touchdown drive that broke Miami's back. Three coaches and one decade to the month after the death of Bear Bryant, Alabama won its 12th national title and its first in 13 years.