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14 Days of Champions: No. 2 1961

When Paul W. "Bear" Bryant was hired by the University of Alabama in 1958, the coach told both the incoming recruits and the holdovers from the previous teams -- well, those who survived his brutal offseason-conditioning program -- that if they weren't there to win a national championship they were in the wrong place.

Paul W. "Bear" Bryant's first national championship in 1961 may have also been his finest.

During his first three seasons, Alabama produced no championships and no All-Americans, but in 1961 the Crimson Tide was coming off a 8-1-2 season, had key players returning, and had increased capacity at Denny Stadium by 12,000 to 43,000.

Led by quarterback Pat Trammell, linebacker/center Lee Roy Jordan and lineman Billy Neighbors, Alabama simply destroyed the competition, beginning with a 32-6 victory at Georgia. Opponents scored 25 points the entire season, compared to 297 for the Crimson Tide, with North Carolina State, led by quarterback Roman Gabriel, managing to score the most points, seven.

"They play like it is a sin to give up a point," Bryant commented.

After Tennessee managed a field goal in a 34-3 loss, Alabama didn't yield another point during its five final games of the regular season, recording shutouts against Houston, Mississippi State, Richmond, Georgia Tech and Auburn.

"I don't know if that's a great team, but they most certainly were great against us," Auburn coach Shug Jordan said after the 34-0 loss. "I don't guess anybody has ever hit us that hard."

After the Georgia Tech victory the Crimson Tide was ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll for the first time that season, which it would maintain through a 10-3 victory against Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl for the national championship.

"Regardless of who was coaching them they still would have been a great team," said Bryant, who was also named national coach of the year for the first time. "I said early in the season that they were the nicest, even the sissyist bunch I'd ever had. I think they read it, because later on they got unfriendly."

Fullback Mike Fracchia was named the most valuable player of Alabama's first victory at the Sugar Bowl in three attempts. Neighbors was a unanimous All-American selection, the Crimson Tide's first since 1954. Jordan and Trammell were second-team picks, in addition to All-SEC selections along with Fracchia.

"He can't run, he can't pass and he can't kick," Bryant said about Trammell. "All he can do is beat you."

However, the title did have one lingering negative consequence, due to linebacker Darwin Holt catching Georgia Tech quarterback Emile Granning with an elbow on a late hit, fracturing his jaw. A year later, Alabama fans were dreaming of back-to-back titles until November 17, when the inspired Yellow Jackets pulled out a hard-hitting 7-6 victory after Alabama came inches short of completing a two-point conversion.

The No. 5 Tide finished 10-1, with Jordan, a unanimous All-American who finished fourth in Heisman Trophy balloting, recording 30 tackles against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, a 17-0 victory. Fifteen seniors finished their careers after going 29-2-2 during their last three seasons.

1961 Crimson Tide

Coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Assistant coaches: Phil Cutchin, Carney Laslie, Sam Bailey, Charley Bradshaw, Pat James, Gene Stallings, Dude Hennessey, Howard Schnellenberger, Elwood Kettler, Clem Gryska, Don Cochran.
Captains: Pat Trammell, Billy Neighbors

Date, opponent, location, W/L/T, score
Sept. 23: Georgia, at Athens, W 32-6
Sept. 30: Tulane, at Mobile, W 9-0
Oct. 7: Vanderbilt, at Nashville, W 35-6
Oct. 14: North Carolina State, at Tuscaloosa, W 26-7
Oct. 21: Tennessee, at Birmingham, W 34-3
Oct. 28: Houston, at Houston, W 17-0
Nov. 4: Mississippi State, at Tuscaloosa, W 24-0
Nov. 11: Richmond, at Tuscaloosa, W 66-0
Nov. 18: Georgia Tech, at Birmingham, W 10-0
Dec. 2: Auburn, at Birmingham, W 34-0
Jan. 1, 1962: Arkansas, at Sugar Bowl, W 10-3
Record: 11-0; Total points: 297-25
Ranking (AP): Preseason No. 3; Postseason No. 1.
Leaders: Rushing _ Mike Fracchia (652 yards, 130 carries); Passing _ Pat Trammell (75 of 133, 1,035 yards); Receiving _ Richard Williamson (11 catches, 206 yards).

Bill Battle/Richard Williamson, end
Bill Rice/Charley Pell, tackle
Jimmy Wilson/Al Lewis, guard
Lee Roy Jordan/John O’Linger, center
Jack Rutledge/Jimmy Sharpe, guard
Billy Neighbors/Darwin Holt (LB), tackle
Tommy Brooker/Butch Henry, end
Pat Trammell/Ray Abruzzesse (DB), quarterback
Cotton Clark/Bill Richardson, halfback
Butch Wilson/Benny Nelson/Bill Oliver, halfback
Mike Fracchia/Eddie Versprille, fullback
Tim Davis, kicker
Cotton Clark, punter
Mike Fracchia/Bill Richardson, kick returns
Bill Richardson/Ray Abruzzese, punt returns

All-American: First team _ Billy Neighbors, defensive tackle. Second team _ Lee Roy Jordan, center; Pat Trammell, quarterback. Academic _ Tommy Brooker, end; Pat Trammell, quarterback.
All-SEC (first team): Mike Fracchia, back; Lee Roy Jordan, center; Billy Neighbors, guard; Pat Trammell, quarterback.

National champions
Alabama: AP, Berryman, Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, FB News, Football Research, Helms, Litkenhous, National Championship Foundation, NFF, Sagarin, Sagarin (ELO-Chess), UPI, Williamson
Ohio State: FW, Poling

Final rankings
Associated Press
1. Alabama

2. Ohio State
3. Texas
4. LSU
5. Miss
6. Minnesota
7. Colorado
8. Michigan State
9. Arkansas
10. Utah State
11. Missouri
12. Purdue
13. Georgia Tech
14. S yracuse
15. Rutgers
16. UCLA
17. Rice
(tie) Penn State
(tie) Arizona
20. Duke

1. Alabama

2. Ohio State
3. LSU
4. Texas
5. Ole Miss
6. Minnesota
7. Colorado
8. Arkansas
9. Michigan State
10. Utah State
11. Purdue
(tie) Missouri
13. Georgia Tech
14. Duke
15. Kansas
16. Syracuse
17. Wyoming
18. Wisconsin
19. Miami (Fla.)
(tie) Penn State

Heisman Trophy Voting
1. Ernie Davis, Syracuse, HB, 824
2. Bob Ferguson, Ohio State, HB, 771
3. Jimmy Saxton, Texas, HB, 551
4. Sandy Stephens, Minnesota, QB, 543

All-American Team
E Gary Collins, Maryland, 6-3, 205, Williamstown, Pa.; E Bill Miller, Miami (Fla.), 6-0, 188, McKeesport, Pa.; T Billy Neighbors, Alabama, 5-11, 229, Tuscaloosa, Ala.; T Merlin Olsen, Utah State, 6-5, 265, Logan, Utah; G Roy Winston, LSU, 6-1, 225, Baton Rouge, La.; G Joe Romig, Colorado, 5-10, 199, Lakewood, Colo.; C Alex Kroll, Rutgers, 6-2, 228, Leechburg, Pa.; B Ernie Davis, Syracuse, 6-2, 210, Elmira, N.Y.; B Bob Ferguson, Ohio State, 6-0, 217, Troy, Ohio; B Jimmy Saxton, Texas, 5-11, 160, Palestine, Texas; B Sandy Stephens, Minnesota, 6-0, 215, Uniontown, Pa.

SEC standings (conference, overall)
School.......... W-L-T Pct. Pts. Opp. W-L-T Pts. Opp.
Alabama......... 7-0-0 1.000 178 15 10-0-0 287 22

LSU ............... 6-0-0 1.000 143 27 9-1-0 234 50
Ole Miss.......... 5-1-0 .833 176 33 9-1-0 326 40
Tennessee ...... 4-3-0 .571 128 114 6-4-0 221 149
Georgia Tech .. 4-3-0 .571 90 43 7-3-0 162 50
Florida ........... 3-3-0 .500 57 92 4-5-1 97 146
Auburn .......... 3-4-0 .429 94 109 6-4-0 174 137
Kentucky ........ 2-4-0 .333 81 101 5-5-0 138 123
Georgia ......... 2-5-0 .286 60 128 3-7-0 84 177
Mississippi State.. 1-5-0 .167 34 112 5-5-0 111 135
Tulane............ 1-5-0 .167 20 175 2-8-0 60 225
Vanderbilt ...... 1-6-0 .143 51 163 2-8-0 95 220
Bowls: Sugar (Alabama 10, Arkansas 3), Gator (Penn State 30, Georgia Tech 15), Orange (LSU 25, Colorado 7), Cotton (Texas 12, Ole Miss 7).

Team statistics
Score by quarters 1-2-3-4 Total
Alabama 71-97-54-65 _ 287
Opponents 3-13-0-6 _ 22

Statistical category, Alabama, Opponents
First Downs 164; 93
Rushing yards 472-2,005; 321-550
Passing attempts 159-89-5; 203-83-19
Passing yards 1,265; 776
Total offense 631-3,270; 524-1,326
Penalties-yards 70-667; 38-362
Turnovers (margin +18) 18; 36

Individual leaders
Rushing: Mike Fracchia 130-652; 5 TDs
Passing: Pat Trammell 133-75-2, 8 TDs
Receiving: Tommy Brooker 12-183, 1 TD
Scoring: Pat Trammell 56 points
Interceptions: Five players tied with two

(Sources: "100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know & Do Before they Die," by Christopher Walsh; "Huddle Up: Alabama Football 2009," by Christopher Walsh; NCAA; Southeastern Conference; 2011 Alabama Football Record Book)

The 14 Days of Champions countdown

14. 1941:
13. 1973:
12. 1965:
11. 1978:
10. 1926:
9. 1964: 19
8. 2011:
7. 1934:
6. 1979:
5. 1992:
4. 1992:
3. 1925:

  • glennbarr

    I was lucky enough to get to every game on the road to the Championship.....(except the Bowl game)...........I remeber in Mobile Ray Abruzzesse dropped a punt deep in our terrority ......actually it hit him in the chest and bounced back toward Tulane ......they recovered.........but the "D" that year just would not give an inch........then on a cold day in Birmingham's Legion Field we were sitting in the end zone close to Graymont Avenue (it was curved away from the field in those days.......the PA announcer had just given the scores on the teams that was ahead of Alabama in the polls...........both had lost..........on the next play Mike Fracchia broke off tackle.........we could see the hole open about the same time Mike turn on the burners and scored the TD to put the game was fun to watch the defense when you could have so much confidence that they would not score........thanks, Chris...........this story brings back a lot of memories.......


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