COACH: PAUL (BEAR) BRYANT
ALL-AMERICAS: STEVE BOWMAN, FB; PAUL CRANE, C; STEVE SLOAN, QB
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS: 12 (1925, '26, '30, '34, '41, '61, '64, '65, '73, '78, '79, '92)
AFTER A long season of college football that began in the heat of September, it was left to the last two teams scheduled to play—Alabama and Nebraska—to decide between themselves which should be considered the country's best. If one team appeared to have more of an incentive, it was the Crimson Tide. In the same Orange Bowl a year before, Alabama, undefeated and already voted No. 1, was embarrassed as it failed to move the ball the length of a bow tie in the last few minutes and lost to Texas 21-17. This season the Associated Press announced it would hold off on its final vote until after the bowl games.
On a glittering, perfectly splendid New Year's night, the team that could not make six inches to beat Texas made 512 yards to beat Nebraska 39-28. The Crimson Tide poured into the crannies of Nebraska's pass defense as quarterback Steve Sloan took an exacting toll, spearheading a 17-point rush in the second quarter that left Nebraska forever in a rut. Afterward, with his team in the dressing room, Bear Bryant jumped up on a bench and said, "I don't know how you'll end up in the polls, but with me you're definitely Number 1." Nebraska's Bob Devaney conceded that the Alabama offense was "probably the best I have ever seen."
The magnificence of that offense, of course, is in its passing game, and that means Sloan and half a dozen excellent receivers. Sloan was brilliant. With Nebraska's huge linemen always on the verge of sending him to an early grave, he adapted by rising on his toes and cocking his arm over his helmet rather than at his ear. Unable to follow through, he lofted the ball, but when he did so the quick Alabama receivers were there, curling back or stretching out to make the catch. Most of the stretching and lunging and curling and diving was done by Ray Perkins, who caught 10 passes for 159 yards, including two for touchdowns.
Possibly the only thing more spectacular than Perkins's TD catches was the chain reaction they set off in the end zone. Touchdowns were the signals for soaring rockets and Roman candles, lighting up the sky, and when somebody kicked an extra point or a field goal into the fountain-and-garden area behind the end zone two lovely young women in bathing suits went wading delicately after them. To have all that and the Alabama offense too was really having all that heaven should allow.
From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, January 10, 1966