Days of Champions: 1964

The 1963 season had been turbulent for the Crimson Tide. Quarterback Joe Namath was suspended for the final two games for violating the team's no-drinking policy, and, after accepting an invitation to the play in the Sugar Bowl, Coach Paul W. "Bear" Bryant compared his team's chances against Ole Miss as being the same of it snowing in New Orleans.

Although it couldn't post 1961-type numbers, Alabama still outscored opponents 250-88. Courtesy of the Bryant Museum.

The next day, Alabama awoke to find the city covered in the white stuff, which obviously drastically changed the dynamics of the game. Although the Tide didn't reach the end zone, it didn't need to. The defense made six fumble recoveries and three interceptions to more than offset the Rebels' statistical advantage of 248 yards to 194. Tim Davis' four field goals, of 31, 46, 22 and 48 yards led to a 12-7 victory, and for the first time in Sugar Bowl history a kicker was named game MVP.

Namath had earned a fresh start in 1964, when Alabama was ranked sixth in the preseason Associated Press poll, but four games into the schedule sustained a knee injury against North Carolina State that would limit him for the rest of the year. Steve Sloan replaced him and led victories against Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State and LSU, but against Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Namath entered the scoreless game late in the second quarter. By halftime, it was 14-0, en route to a 24-7 victory.

When Namath had a similar performance against Auburn on Thanksgiving Day, with a touchdown pass to end Ray Perkins along with Ray Ogden's 108-yard kickoff return sparking a 21-41 victory, his legendary status really began to really take hold. Of course, the undefeated (10-0) record didn't hurt, either.

Combined with Notre Dame's loss to Southern Cal, Alabama vaulted to No. 1 in the final Associated Press Poll (voted before the postseason), and received an invitation to face Texas in the first Orange Bowl played at night.

Namath again was the spark plug off the bench, completing 18 of 37 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns. However, in the closing seconds, Alabama was down 21-17 and had the ball inches away from the goal line. The call was a quarterback sneak behind center Gaylon McCollough, who with the snap plowed into the end zone. One official signaled touchdown, but another overruled. Namath said afterward: "I'll go to my grave knowing I scored."

Guard Wayne Freeman, tackle Dan Kearley and halfback/kicker David Ray were named to various All-American teams (back Mickey Andrews was second-team) along with Namath, who for the season completed 64 of 100 passes for 757 yards, but was not a consensus selection. Of course, he went on to have a prolific career in the National Football League, and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1964 Crimson Tide

Coach: Paul W. "Bear" Bryant
Assistant coaches: Gene Stallings, Howard Schnellenberger, Ken Meyer, Dee Powell, Richard Williamson, Ken Donahue, Dude Hennessey, Clem Gryska, Jimmy Sharpe, Mal Moore
Captains: Joe Namath, Ray Ogden

The legend of Joe Namath really took off. Courtesy of the Bryant Museum.

Date, opponent, location, W/L/T, score
Sept. 19: Georgia, at Tuscaloosa, W 31-3
Sept. 26: Tulane, at Mobile, W 36-6
Oct. 3: Vanderbilt, at Birmingham, W 24-0
Oct. 10: North Carolina State, at Tuscaloosa, W 21-0
Oct. 17: Tennessee, at Knoxville, W 19-8
Oct. 24: Florida, at Tuscaloosa, W 17-14
Oct. 31: Mississippi State, at Jackson, W 23-6
Nov. 7: LSU, at Birmingham, W 17-9
Nov. 14: Georgia Tech, at Atlanta, W 24-7
Nov. 26: Auburn, at Birmingham, W 21-14
Jan. 1, 1965: Texas, at Orange Bowl, L 17-21
Record: 10-1; Total points: 250-88
Ranking (AP): Preseason No. 6; Postseason No. 1.
Leaders: Rushing _ Steve Bowman (536 yards, 106 carries); Passing _ Joe Namath (64 of 100, 757 yards); Receiving _ David Ray (19 catches, 271 yards).

Tommy Tolleson/Ray Perkins, end
Ron Durby/Cecil Dowdy, tackle
Jimmy Fuller/Ken Mitchell, guard
Paul Crane/Gaylon McCullough, center
Wayne Freeman/Creed Gilmer (DE), guard
Dan Kearley/Jim Simmons, tackle
Charlie Stephens/Wayne Cook, end
Joe Namath/Steve Sloan, quarterback
Les Kelley/David Ray, halfback
Hudson Harris/Ray Ogden (WR), halfback
Steve Bowman/Jackie Sherrill (LB), fullback
David Ray, kicker
Buddy French, punter
Ray Ogden/John Mosley, kick returns
John Mosley/Hudson Harris, punt returns

All-American: First team _ Wayne Freeman, guard; Dan Kearley, defensive tackle; Joe Namath, quarterback; David Ray, halfback. Second team _ Mickey Andrews, back. Academic _ Gaylon McCollough, center.
All-SEC (first team): Steve Bowman, back; Wayne Freeman, guard; Dan Kearley, defensive tackle; Joe Namath, quarterback; David Ray, end.

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

Final rankings
Associated Press (Only 10 teams ranked)
1. Alabama

2. Arkansas
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Texas
6. Nebraska
7. LSU
8. Oregon State
9. Ohio State
10. Southern California

1. Alabama

2. Arkansas
3. Notre Dame
4. Michigan
5. Texas
6. Nebraska
7. LSU
8. Oregon State
9. Ohio State
10. Southern California
11. Florida State
12. Syracuse
13. Princeton
14. Penn State
(tie) Utah
16. Illinois
(tie) New Mexico
18. Tulsa
(tie) Missouri
20. Ole Miss
(tie) Michigan State

Heisman Trophy Voting
1. John Huarte, Notre Dame, QB, 1,026
2. Jerry Rhome, Tulsa, QB, 952
3. Dick Butkus, Illinois, C, 505
4. Bob Timberlake, Michigan, QB, 361

All-American Team
E Jack Snow, Notre Dame, 6-2, 210, Long Beach, Calif.; E Fred Biletnikoff, Florida State, 6-1, 186, Erie, Pa.; T Larry Kramer, Nebraska, 6-2, 240, Austin, Minn.; T Ralph Neely, Oklahoma, 6-5, 243, Farmington, N.M.; G Rick Redman, Washington, 5-11, 215, Seattle, Wash.; G Glenn Ressler, Penn State, 6-2, 230, Dornsife, Pa.; C Dick Butkus, Illinois, 6-3, 237, Chicago, Ill.; B John Huarte, Notre Dame, 6-0, 180, Anaheim, Calif.; B Gale Sayers, Kansas, 6-0, 194, Omaha, Neb.; B Lawrence Elkins, Baylor, 6-1, 187, Brownwood, Texas; B Tucker Frederickson, Auburn, 6-2, 210, Hollywood, Fla.

SEC Conference Overall
School .......... W-L-T Pct. Pts. Opp. W-L-T Pts. Opp.
Alabama ........ 8-0-0 1.000 188 60 10-0-0 233 67

Georgia ......... 4-2-0 .667 52 59 6-3-1 123 98
Florida ........... 4-2-0 .667 101 64 7-3-0 181 98
Kentucky......... 4-2-0 .667 95 97 5-5-0 150 194
LSU................ 4-2-1 .643 83 70 7-2-1 115 79
Auburn........... 3-3-0 .500 43 65 6-4-0 123 91
Ole Miss ...... 2-4-1 .357 113 104 5-4-1 210 113
Mississippi State ...... 2-5-0 .286 82 102 4-6-0 155 143
Vanderbilt....... 1-4-1 .250 37 67 3-6-1 79 122
Tennessee....... 1-5-1 .214 32 87 4-5-1 80 121
Tulane ............ 1-5-0 .167 31 82 3-7-0 79 147
Bowls: Orange (Texas 21, Alabama 17), Sun (Georgia 7, Texas Tech 0), Sugar (LSU 13, Syracuse 10), Bluebonnet (Tulsa 14, Ole Miss 7).

(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 2011 Football Records Book)

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