Keeping Score

Nine Unforgettable Upsets

These surprising victories rank among the most satisfying in Alabama history
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Photo courtesy of University of Alabama.
In Alabama's victory over Nebraska in the 1966 Orange Bowl, Ray Perkins caught a bowl-record nine passes.

For most of its history, Alabama has played the role of perennial favorite, burdened with the enormous expectations associated with consistent success.

Not always, however.

At various times, the Crimson Tide has entered a big game as a big underdog, a circumstance that has produced some of the program’s sweetest and most satisfying victories.

So join us as we take a trip back in time to explore Nine Unforgettable Upsets…

 

Alabama 20, Washington 19
Jan. 1, 1926
The first Southern team invited to the Rose Bowl, then the nation’s only post-season contest, attracted little respect from West Coast sportswriters, who bought into the prevailing narrative that Southern colleges played an inferior brand of football. No matter that Wallace Wade’s Crimson Tide brought a perfect record to Pasadena, having allowed just one touchdown all season. At the half, Washington led 12-0. But the Tide came roaring back in the third quarter. Johnny Mack Brown scored two touchdowns to lead Alabama to a monumental upset that pronounced the Tide’s arrival on the national stage.
Alabama 12, Ole Miss 7
Jan. 1, 1964
When the media reported that Joe Namath had been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, few Alabama fans gave the Crimson Tide much hope in the upcoming Sugar Bowl. Johnny Vaught’s Ole Miss Rebels had finished the year undefeated, champions of the SEC, and ranked seventh. Even with Namath, Alabama had lost two close games in 1963. After watching backup Jack Hurlbut struggle in the season finale against Miami, Paul “Bear“ Bryant turned to untested sophomore Steve Sloan to start the Sugar Bowl. Playing after a freak snowstorm in old Tulane Stadium, Sloan made few mistakes and guided Alabama close enough for four Tim Davis field goals, which proved to be the winning margin, and the Tide defense forced six turnovers.
Alabama 39, Nebraska 28
Jan. 1, 1966
After rebounding from a season-opening loss and a mid-season tie, SEC champion Alabama arrived in Miami as a 17-point underdog to undefeated, third-ranked Nebraska. Demonstrating his pragmatism against a talented team that outweighed his own by about 35 pounds per man, Paul “Bear“ Bryant scrapped his usually conservative offensive philosophy and instructed quarterback Steve Sloan to pass at will. Sloan was brilliant, completing 20 passes for an Orange Bowl record 296 yards, including a record nine completions to split end Ray Perkins, who scored two touchdowns. It was 24-7 at the half. The stunning victory by Bryant’s quick little boys catapulted Alabama to a second straight national championship.
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