- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
The Crimson Tide certainly didn't want to disappoint all those Boy Scout leaders in the crowd. So on its first drive of the second half Alabama marched down to Auburn's 26-yard line, with help from a 15-yard face-mask penalty. Then Bryant sent in the old Whoopee Pass: Quarterback Ken Coley dropped back and raised his arm as if to pass. Meanwhile, Tight End Jesse Bendross had pulled like a guard, and as he passed behind the center, Coley brought the ball down and shoveled it—or, more accurately, squirted it, like a watermelon seed—to Bendross, who went all the way for a TD.
Alabama's defense seemed to put the lock on Auburn after that, but this was a unique afternoon, remember? 'Bama's Joey Jones fumbled a War Eagle punt around his own 40, and Clanton dribbled the ball nearly 40 yards before finally downing it on Alabama's two-yard line. Just like that, Auburn Running Back Lionel James was in for a touchdown to tie the score at 14. The Tigers liked that fumbled-punt play so much they tried it again about six minutes later. And Jones obliged once more, muffing the catch on his own 33. This time Auburn had to go with the foot of Del Greco, and he hit from 19 yards out. Auburn led 17-14 with 12:58 left.
"It got to the point where we were very nervous," said Bendross later. "Coach Bryant tells us to keep the faith and not give up. If you don't think you can get beat, you won't." So Alabama toughened up, and after a holding penalty against Auburn gave the Tide a first down on the Auburn 38, Quarterback Walter Lewis deftly faked a handoff to Fullback Ricky Moore. Auburn's defense read "run," but Lewis was throwing and Bendross, streaking for the post, caught the ball in stride and put Alabama on top, 21-17. That was enough, but 'Bama sophomore Linnie Patrick added another TD just to be sure. Final score: 28-17.
Actually, Alabama did its best blocking of the afternoon in clearing Bryant's way through the mob on the field when the game had ended. His players shielded him as though he had swallowed nitroglycerin. A security man tucked The Bear's checkered hat under his coat for safekeeping. It was nearly an hour before Bryant met the press and Dye.
"Governor Reagan?" said Dye, now pretty confused himself.
"Carter," Bryant mumbled. "...Well, Reagan, too, but Governor Carter. I thought you'd appreciate that."
"Did the President call you?" asked Dye, trying to clear up matters.
"Well, sure he did," said Bryant.
The real surprise ending to the day was not that Bryant finally had No. 315, but that he also had a semi-remote chance to win his seventh national championship, should Alabama beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Did he have a plan yet?