Few teams had the kind of promise as the 1973 Crimson Tide, which began the season ranked sixth in the preseason Associated Press poll and crushed California, featuring quarterback Steve Bartkowski and running back Chuck Muncie, in its opener 66-0.
With a roster boasting first-team All-AmericansBuddy Brown (tackle), Woodrow Lowe (linebacker), and Wayne Wheeler (split end), along with second-teamers Mike Washington (cornerback), John Croyle (defensive end), and Mike Raines (defensive tackle), Paul W. "Bear" Bryant appeared more than poised to make a run for his fourth national championship.
The wins quickly piled up: 44-0 at Vanderbilt, 28-14 against Georgia, 35-14 at Florida.
Aided by halfback Randy Billingsley's blocks, Alabama had four players _ Jackson, Richard Todd, Calvin Culliver and Jimmy Taylor _ each reach 100 rushing yards during a 77-6 victory against Virginia Tech, which is still a team record.
Against unbeaten Tennessee, quarterback Gary Rutledge connected with wide receiver Wayne Wheeler for an 80-yard touchdown on the first snap of the game, and Jackson capped the 42-21 victory with an 80-yard touchdown run.
On Thanksgiving, Alabama handled another unbeaten rival, LSU, 21-7.
For an encore, the Tide crushed Auburn, 35-0.
Overall, Alabama scored a school-record 477 points and averaged 480.7 yards per game.
At the time, the United Press International coaches' poll held its final voting at the end of the regular season (although the Associated Press had already switched for good, and since 1969 held its final rankings at the end of the postseason), with Alabama named its national champion.
However, the Tide had one more game to play, the extremely hyped first meeting with Notre Dame, which would take place at the Sugar Bowl.
The game lived up to the billing, with the lead changing hands six times and featured a wild 90-second span with three turnovers at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The deciding points came with 4:26 left on the clock, when Notre Dame's Bob Thomas, who had missed two attempts earlier in the game, kicked a 19-yard field goal.
After the Tide offense stalled on the subsequent possession, Greg Gantt's 69-yard punt gave Notre Dame first down at its own 1-yard line, but Gantt also drew a penalty on the play that would have given Alabama fourth down and 5 yards to go.
Bryant decided to decline the penalty, putting the game into the defense's hands, only to see Fighting Irish quarterback Tom Clements, complete a key 35-yard third-down pass to tight end Robin Weber to secure the 24-23 victory. Clements was subsequently named the game's most valuable player.
"We got into a two-tight end set, a running set," Clements told BCSfootball.com. "It was a play where (tight end Dave) Casper was supposed to cross from one side of the field to the other, and he was the main target. But when I made the play-action fake and looked into the area where he was supposed to be, I noticed that (wide receiver) Robin Weber was running straight down the field."
Said Bryant: “The way we had them backed up, if I were a betting man, I would have bet anything we were going to win.”
Instead, the coach visited the Notre Dame locker room to congratulate Coach Ara Parseghian and shake Clements’ hand.
Not surprisingly, Notre Dame was No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll, and soon after the coaches' poll announced that it too would hold its final voting after all bowl games had been played.
A year later, No. 1 Alabama again finished the regular season undefeated and accepted an invitation from the Orange Bowl for a rematch against Notre Dame, which was ranked eighth. Unfortunately for Crimson Tide fans, the result was the same, as the Fighting Irish won Parseghian's final game, 13-11. Instead of Alabama taking home another national championship, Oklahoma and Southern California split the title honors.
1973 Crimson Tide
Coach: Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Assistant coaches: Ken Donahue, Sam Bailey, Jimmy Sharpe, Jack Rutledge, Dude Hennessey, Bill Oliver, Bobby Marks, Bud Moore, Mal Moore, Pat Dye
Captains: Wilbur Jackson, Chuck Strickland
Date, opponent, location, W/L/T, score
Sept. 15: California, at Birmingham ,W 66-0
Sept. 22: Kentucky, at Lexington, W 28-14
Sept. 29: Vanderbilt, at Nashville, W 44-0
Oct. 6: Georgia, at Tuscaloosa, W 28-14
Oct. 13: Florida, at Gainesville, W 35-14
Oct. 20: Tennessee, at Birmingham, W 42-21
Oct. 27: Virginia Tech, at Tuscaloosa, W 77-6
Nov. 3: Mississippi State, at Jackson, W 35-0
Nov. 17: Miami, at Tuscaloosa, W 43-13
Nov. 22: LSU, at Baton Rouge, W 21-7
Dec. 1: Auburn, at Birmingham, W 35-0
Dec. 31: Notre Dame, at Sugar Bowl, L 23-24
Record: 11-1; Total points: 477-113
Ranking (AP): Preseason No. 6; Postseason No. 4.
Leaders: Rushing _ Wilbur Jackson (752 yards, 95 carries); Passing _Gary Rutledge (33 of 57, 897 yards); Receiving _ Wayne Wheeler (19 catches, 530 yards). Woodrow Lowe had a team-record 134 solo tackles.
Wayne Wheeler, split end
Steve Sprayberry, tackle
Larry Ruffin, guard
Sylvester Croom, center
John Rogers, guard
Buddy Brown, tackle
George Pugh, tight end
Gary Rutledge, quarterback
Wilbur Jackson, left halfback
Randy Billingsley, right halfback
Ellis Beck, fullback
John Croyle, left end
Mike Raines, left tackle
Skip Kubelius, right tackle
Mike DuBose, linebacker
Chuck Strickland, linebacker
Greg Montgomery, linebacker
Woodrow Lowe, linebacker
Mike Washington, cornerback
Tyrone King, cornerback
David McMakin, safety
Ricky Davis, safety
Bill Davis, kicker
Greg Gantt, punter
Calvin Culliver/Willie Shelby, kick returns
Robin Cary, punt returns
All-American: First team _ Buddy Brown, tackle; Woodrow Lowe, linebacker; Wayne Wheeler, split end. Second team _ Mike Washington, cornerback; John Croyle, defensive end; Mike Raines, defensive tackle. Academic _ Randy Hall, defensive tackle.
All-SEC (first team): Buddy Brown, tackle; Greg Gantt, punter; Wilbur Jackson, halfback; Woodrow Lowe, linebacker; David McMakin, safety; Mike Raines, defensive tackle; Steve Sprayberry, tackle; Mike Washington, cornerback; Wayne Wheeler, split end.
Alabama: Berryman, UPI
Michigan: National Championship Foundation, Poling
Notre Dame: AP, Billingsley, FB News, FW, Helms, National Championship Foundation, NFF
Ohio State: FACT, National Championship Foundation, Poling, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)
Oklahoma: DeVold, Dunkel, Football Research, Sagarin
1. Notre Dame
2. Ohio State
5. Penn State
8. Southern California
9. Michigan State
11. Texas Tech
15. Miami (Ohio)
16. North Carolina State
3. Ohio State
4. Notre Dame
5. Penn State
7. Southern California
10. Michigan State
(tie) Texas Tech
17. Miami (Ohio)
19. San Diego State
Heisman Trophy Voting
1. John Cappelletti, Penn State, RB, 1,057
2. John Hicks, Ohio State, OT, 524
3. Roosevelt Leaks, Texas, RB, 482
4. David Jaynes, Kansas, QB, 394
Offense: WR Lynn Swann, Southern California, 6-0, 180, Foster City, Calif.; TE Dave Casper, Notre Dame, 6-3, 252, Chilton, Wis.; T John Hicks, Ohio State, 6-3, 258, Cleveland, Ohio; T Booker Brown, Southern California, 6-3, 270, Santa Barbara, Calif.; G Buddy Brown, Alabama, 6-2, 242, Tallahassee, Fla.; G Bill Yoest, North Carolina State, 6-0, 235, Pittsburgh, Pa.; C Bill Wyman, Texas, 6-2, 235, Spring, Texas; QB Dave Jaynes, Kansas, 6-2, 212, Bonner Springs, Kan.; RB John Cappelletti, Penn State, 6-1, 206, Upper Darby, Pa.; RB Roosevelt Leaks, Texas, 5-11, 209, Brenham, Texas; RB Woody Green, Michigan State, 6-1, 202, Portland, Ore.; RB Kermit Johnson, UCLA, 6-0, 185, Los Angeles, Calif.
Defense: L John Dutton, Nebraska, 6-7, 248, Rapid City, S.D.; L Dave Gallagher, Michigan, 6-4, 245, Piqua, Ohio; L Lucious Selmon, Oklahoma, 5-11, 236, Eufaula, Okla.; L Tony Cristiani, Miami (Fla.), 5-10, 215, Brandon, Fla.; LB Randy Gradishar, Ohio State, 6-3, 236, Champion, Ohio; LB Rod Shoate, Oklahoma, 6-1, 214, Spiro, Okla.; LB Richard Wood, Southern California, 6-2, 217, Elizabeth, N.J.; B Mike Townsend, Notre Dame, 6-3, 183, Hamilton, Ohio; B Artimus Parker, Southern California, 6-3, 215, Sacramento, Calif.; B Dave Brown, Michigan, 6-1, 188, Akron, Ohio; B Randy Rhino, Georgia Tech, 5-10, 179, Charlotte, N.C.
SEC Conference Overall
School ............ W-L-T Pct. Pts. Opp. W-L-T Pts. Opp.
Alabama .......... 8-0-0 1.000 268 70 11-0-0 454 89
LSU .................. 5-1-0 .833 156 72 9-2-0 258 153
Ole Miss ........ 4-3-0 .571 124 137 6-5-0 202 177
Tennessee ......... 3-3-0 .500 127 136 8-3-0 272 219
Florida.............. 3-4-0 .429 82 141 7-4-0 180 171
Kentucky ........... 3-4-0 .429 148 130 5-6-0 226 196
Georgia............ 3-4-0 .429 128 114 6-4-1 207 150
Auburn ............. 2-5-0 .286 73 140 6-5-0 153 159
Mississippi State ........ 2-5-0 .286 133 205 4-5-2 219 255
Vanderbilt ......... 1-5-0 .167 87 181 5-6-0 181 262
Bowls: Sugar (Notre Dame 24, Alabama 23), Sun (Missouri 34, Auburn 17), Tangerine (Miami, Ohio 16, Florida 7), Peach (Georgia 17, Maryland 16), Orange (Penn State 16, LSU 9), Gator (Texas Tech 28, Tennessee 19).
Team statistics Score by quarters 1-2-3-4 Total
Alabama 105-103-105-141 _ 454
Opponents 10-34-22-23 _ 89
Statistical category, Alabama, Opponents
First Downs 239; 147
Rushing yards 664-4,027; 487-1,536
Passing attempts 94-53-6; 235-109-29
Passing yards 1,261; 1,157
Total offense 758-5,288; 722-2,693
Penalties-yards 40-349; 35-306
Turnovers (margin +10) 23; 33
Rushing: Jackson 95-752;
Passing: Rutledge 57-33-4, 897 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving: Wheeler 19-530
Scoring: Davis 75 points
Tackles: Lowe 134
Interceptions: Rhodes 4-42
(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; Alabama 2012 Football Records Book)
The Days of Champions countdown
14. 1941: http://alabama.247sports.com/Article/BOLs-14-Days-of-Champions-countdown-begins-with-No-14-1941-106401
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