RECORD: 11-0 ALL-AMERICA: BILLY NEIGHBORS, DT A 10-3 WIN OVER ARKANSAS IN THE SUGAR BOWL SEALED ALABAMA'S FIRST NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN 20 YEARS
LESS THAN five minutes remained in the ball game, and Alabama was leading 34-0 when Bobby Hunt sent Auburn whirling 65 yards against the 'Bama reserves to a first down in the shadow of the Alabama goal. Bear Bryant, a man who would rather surrender his left lung than a touchdown, sent in the Crimson Tide's first string. Four plays later the Tigers were still in the shadow of the Alabama goal. When the final gun went off a few moments later, its report lost in the frenzy of 54,000 Alabamians whooping onto Legion Field, Bryant permitted himself one of his rare smiles. His Crimson Tide--unbeaten and untied in 10 games, unscored on in the last five, heading for a Sugar Bowl date with Arkansas--had won the national championship just as surely as there is a piece of pig iron in Birmingham.
Alabama won the game on Saturday because it performed on offense as it has seldom performed all year. With Pat Trammell controlling the ball game with a poise and confidence that few college quarterbacks ever attain, Alabama scored a touchdown in the first quarter, two touchdowns and a field goal in the second quarter, a touchdown in the third quarter and a field goal in the fourth quarter. The Tide rolled up 315 yards and 20 first downs. But it also intercepted four passes, recovered the game's only fumble and, in the final analysis, won as it has been winning all year, by sending still another opponent home with knots on its head.
Alabama has allowed just three touchdowns and a total of 22 points. It leads the nation in two of the three major defensive categories: fewest points allowed and fewest total yards. Yet this is not a team of superstars; the line is almost small by big-time college football standards, and the professional scouts will tell you that there isn't a real standout prospect in the lot. The reason it plays defense so well is because that is the way Bryant asks his team to play, hitting again and again with the viciousness of a pack of sharks until someone goes down.
"I don't know whether that's a great team," said coach Shug Jordan of Auburn after it was all over, "but they were great today. I don't guess anybody ever hit us quite as hard." When Bear Bryant heard that, he nodded his head.
To Paul William Bryant a fact is a fact, and he is not given to shows of false modesty. If there is a touch of genius about the man, it resides in two areas: organizational talent and the ability to instill a bursting sense of pride in his athletes, enabling boys to play a bruising game as if they were already men. Because of his fierce energy and intelligence and dedication, he has become the best football coach in the land. And that's why, with the possible exception of Oklahoma's Bud Wilkinson, he makes more money than anyone in the business.
Apparently Alabamians don't mind a bit. Just so long as they remain at the top. They're getting to like high living down there.