Photo courtesy of University of Alabama.
Don McNeal’s big play against Penn State was crucial in Alabama’s 1978 National Championship.
Defense is a group activity, achieving full power only when eleven men think and act as one.
Snap after snap, each defender goes about his business—reading, chasing, colliding, tackling—not knowing how or when a game-altering play will happen.
Some big plays jump out of the history books, forever bathed in significance or venerated as amazing feats of athletic skill.
What Alabama fan could ever forget Cornelius Bennett’s most legendary sack? It doesn’t just exist in Youtube replays. It lives on in the vivid memories of all who saw it live, forever enshrined in the inevitable retelling.
Join us as we examine Nine Defensive Plays that Stand the Test of Time…
Oct. 15, 1966
Trailing 10-0 at the half on a miserable, rainy day in Knoxville, Alabama rallied to take an 11-10 lead into the final moments. But Tennessee was not beaten just yet. When Alabama defender Stan Moss bit on what looked like a routine sweep, UT halfback Charles Fulton lofted a perfect option pass to a wide-open Austin Denney. The seam was large, and Denney raced into the slop, toward a go-ahead touchdown. He built up a big lead, but Tide defensive back Johnny Mosley, a senior from Montgomery, ran him down, slamming Denney to the ground at the Alabama 13. It was a tackle for the ages. Moments later, the Vols missed a chip shot field goal. Mosley’s big play had saved the game and Alabama’s perfect season.
Oct. 8, 1977
Three weeks after losing on the road to Nebraska—when quarterback Jeff Rutledge uncharacteristically tossed five interceptions—Alabama played an inspired game against No. 1-ranked Southern Cal. In the closing minutes of the nationally televised showdown at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, USC quarterback Rob Hertel led the Trojans on a long scoring march, pulling within 21-20 with 35 second left, which set the stage for a climactic finish. The decision to go for two was an easy one to make, given the high stakes, and Hertel rolled right on a play-action pass. Alabama sophomore end Wayne Hamilton blasted through the line and chased Hertel down, slamming him to the ground just as he released an off-target wobbler. Barry Krauss intercepted the two-point pass, and Alabama ran out the clock to secure a 21-20 victory that catapulted the Crimson Tide back into the national championship race.
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