Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football: 'U'
From their 1-0 record in 1897 to the perfect 14-0 national championship year in 2009, undefeated seasons are not unusual for the University of Alabama football team. In fact, the Crimson Tide has totaled as many undefeated seasons (12) as national championships (14).
Here is a look back at each perfect Alabama season.
1897: The One-Win Undefeated Season
Winning one game during a season today means you have a bad team. Back in 1897, one win counted as an undefeated season.
In 1895, the University of Alabama Board of Trustees enacted a law prohibiting all athletic teams from playing off-campus. All three games in 1896 were played in Tuscaloosa, while the lone 1897 contest was also played at home.
Led by head coach Allen McCants, Alabama posted a 6-0 win over the Tuscaloosa Athletic Club in the only game of the season.
1925: The First National Championship
The 1925 Alabama squad arguably had the most dominating year in school history. During the regular season, the Crimson Tide outscored their nine opponents, 277-7. The only team to score was Birmingham Southern in a 50-7 Crimson Tide win in the second game of the season.
Alabama traveled west and became the first southern team to play in the Rose Bowl. Facing powerhouse and heavily-favored Washington, the Crimson Tide trailed 12-0 at halftime. However, two long touchdown receptions by Johnny Mack Brown in the second half sparked Alabama to a 20-19 upset victory.
After completing a 10-0 season, the Crimson Tide shared the national title that season with Dartmouth.
1926: Back-to-Back Undefeated Seasons
Coming off their first national championship in 1925, Alabama continued to roll in 1926. While not as thoroughly dominating as in 1925, it was still an impressive performance.
The defense only allowed 20 points in the regular season and posted six shutouts. The closest game was on Oct. 23 contest against Sewanee. All-American Fred Pickhard's blocked punt went out of the end zone and accounted for all of the scoring in the Crimson Tide's 2-0 win.
A total of 11 players, led by All-Americans Pickard and Hoyt Winslett, were named to the All-Southern Conference team. As Alabama prepared for a return trip to Pasadena in the Rose Bowl against Stanford, the Crimson Tide, Stanford, Navy and Lafayette were declared national champions.
The Crimson Tide settled for a 7-7 tie with Stanford. Alabama blocked a punt with four minutes remaining, setting up a one-yard touchdown run by Jimmy Johnson. The successful point-after-try eventually forced the deadlock, and Alabama finished with a 9-0-1 campaign.
1930: Return to Glory
After undefeated seasons in 1925 and 1926, Alabama lost a combined 10 games from 1927 to 1929. The 1930 team returned the Crimson Tide to the top of the Southern Conference with the school's third undefeated campaign.
Before the season, head coach Wallace Wade announced he would re-sign from Alabama at the end of the season and take over as head coach at Duke in 1931. Some may have believed his announcement would be a distraction during the season. Instead, Alabama was hardly threatened.
The Crimson Tide only allowed 13 points in nine regular season games. The only close call was a 12-7 win over Vanderbilt on Oct. 25. This also marked the last time an opponent scored on Alabama during the season.
Playing in the Rose Bowl for the third time in six seasons, Alabama rolled past Washington State, 24-0, as the Crimson Tide finished 10-0 and claimed their third national championship under Wade. Unbelievably, Alabama dominated the Cougars even though Wade started his second team.
1934: Thomas' First Undefeated Season
After taking over for Wallace Wade after the 1930 season, head coach Frank Thomas lost only four games in his first three years at Alabama. In 1934, everything came together for Thomas and the Crimson Tide.
Alabama was an offensive force by averaging just over 31 points per game. Meanwhile, the defense allowed less than five points per game and totaled five shutouts. The only close game was on Oct. 20 in Birmingham, when the Crimson Tide produced just enough offense to defeat Tennessee, 13-6.
Playing in their fourth Rose Bowl, Stanford held Alabama to only four total yards in the first quarter. However, the Crimson Tide rebounded with a 22-point second quarter en route to a 29-13 victory. With a 10-0 record, Alabama shared the national championship with Minnesota.
Wide receiver Don Hutson, tailback Dixie Howell and tackle Bill Lee earned consensus All-America honors.
1936: A Painful Undefeated Season
Alabama head coach Frank Thomas
It is not often a team is disappointed with an undefeated season. But It only took one game in 1936 to prevent Alabama from a Southeastern Conference title and a bowl appearance.
The Crimson Tide outscored their first three opponents, 65-0, heading into their matchup against Tennessee on Oct. 17. During the game, an Alabama drive stalled at the one-yard line as the first half ended. Another drive in the third quarter ended at the Tennessee 26-yard line as the teams played to an 0-0 tie.
Even though Alabama won their final five games and finished 8-0-1, the Crimson Tide finished second in the conference to LSU, who was 6-0 in the SEC.
1945: The War Babies Win
Players on head coach Frank Thomas's 1945 squad were known as "The War Babies." The group played during World War II, which included the cancellation of the 1943 season.
The Alabama offense tallied an incredible 430 points. Five times during the regular season, the Crimson Tide scored at least 55 points in a game. This included a 60-19 win over Kentucky when All-American Harry Gilmer rushed for 216 yards on only six carries. Alabama also shut out Vanderbilt, 71-0.
Returning to the Rose Bowl, Alabama faced hometown Southern California. The Crimson Tide outgained USC, 351-41, en route to a 34-14 victory. Alabama finished 10-0 and was named the national champion by the National Championship Foundation, the Cliff Morgan Foundation and the Ray Byrne Foundation. However, Alabama finished second in the Associated Press poll to Army.
1961: Bear's First Undefeated Season
In 1955, Alabama was 0-10 under head coach J.B. Whitworth. Three years later, Paul "Bear" Bryant was named head coach to return Alabama to respectability. By 1961, Bryant not only produced another undefeated season, but a national championship as well.
In the four years before Bryant arrived in 1958, Alabama only won eight games. The Crimson Tide gradually improved from 1958 to 1960, winning five, seven and eight games, respectively.
The hard work paid off in 1961. Lee Roy Jordan and Billy Neighbors led an Alabama defense that only allowed 22 points during the regular season. The 17-0 win at Houston on Oct. 28 began a stretch of five consecutive shutouts, capped by a 34-0 victory over Auburn.
In the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas, Alabama led 10-0 at halftime, and the defense made the lead stand en route to a 10-3 win. The victory clinched an 11-0 record and the first of six national championships under Bryant.
1966: Undefeated but No National Championship
Despite losing one game in both 1964 and 1965, Alabama won the national championship each year. In 1966, the Crimson Tide were undefeated, but there would be no three-peat.
The Alabama defense was once again dominant by only allowing 37 points. After defeating Mississippi State, 27-14, on Oct. 29, the Crimson Tide posted four consecutive shutouts over LSU, South Carolina, Southern Mississippi and Auburn.
The closest Alabama came to losing was at Tennessee on Oct. 15. The Volunteers led 10-0 in the fourth quarter before quarterback Kenny Stabler's one-yard touchdown run. The successful two-point conversion cut the deficit to 10-8. Steve Davis then connected on a 17-yard field goal with 3:23 remaining to give Alabama an 11-10 lead.
Tennessee had a chance to win, but the Volunteers missed a 20-yard field goal in the waning seconds to keep the Crimson Tide undefeated.
Alabama capped off their 11-0 season with a convincing 34-7 win over Nebraska in the Sugar Bowl. However, the Crimson Tide finished third in the Associated Press poll behind No. 2 Michigan State and national champion Notre Dame.
1979: The First 12-Win Season
Alabama won the national championship in 1978 despite losing in the regular season to Southern California. The 1979 squad was not only the first Crimson Tide squad to finish 12-0, but they also proved their upset over Penn State in the national championship game the year before was no fluke.
Over the first five games of the season, Alabama outscored their opponents, 219-9. The undefeated season appeared to be in jeopardy on Oct. 20, when Tennessee jumped out to a 17-0 second quarter lead. However, running back Major Ogilvie led the comeback with 109 rushing yards and two touchdowns as Alabama earned a 27-17 come-from-behind win.
After knocking off Auburn, 25-18, in the Iron Bowl, Alabama faced Lou Holtz's Arkansas Razorbacks in the Sugar Bowl. Arkansas recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff and kicked a field goal for the early lead, but Alabama dominated the rest of the game en route to a 24-9 triumph. It was Bear Bryant's sixth and final national championship as Crimson Tide head coach.
1992: Stallings Ends Drought
For the first time since the 1950s, the 1980s did not produce an undefeated season or national championship. As the 1990s dawned, new head coach Gene Stallings looked to return Alabama to greatness.
Alabama was 6-0 and ranked fourth in the nation as they prepared to face No. 13 Tennessee in Knoxville. The Crimson Tide defense limited the Volunteers to only 194 yards and seven first downs. Meanwhile, running back Derrick Lassic rushed for 142 yards and two touchdowns to lead Alabama to a 17-10 victory.
After shutting out Auburn, 17-0, in the Iron Bowl to improve to 11-0, No. 2 Alabama faced 12th-ranked Florida in the inaugural Southeastern Conference Championship Game at Birmingham's Legion Field. With the game tied at 21 with just over three minutes remaining, Antonio Langham's 27-yard interception return for a touchdown sealed the 28-21 win.
In the Sugar Bowl, Alabama faced top-ranked Miami for the national championship. The Crimson Tide broke open a close game at halftime and rolled to a 34-13 victory and a 13-0 record.
The 1992 campaign marked the first undefeated season since 1979 and the first time Alabama won 13 games in a season. It would also be their last undefeated season until 2009.
2009: Saban's Success
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Three head coaches led Alabama football from 2000 to 2006. This does not include Mike Price, who resigned in disgrace before coaching a game in 2003. When Nick Saban was hired after the 2006 season, his goal was to erase the bad memories of the previous six seasons.
After a 12-win season in 2008, Alabama was a national title contender in 2009. Beginning the season ranked fifth, the Crimson Tide opened the campaign with a 34-24 win over No. 7 Virginia Tech in Atlanta. Six consecutive victories followed, but the undefeated season was in doubt during the Oct. 24 home game against Tennessee.
Alabama led 12-10 with 1:19 remaining in the game. Lee Tiffin accounted for all of the Crimson Tide points on four field goals. Earlier in the quarter, Terrence Cody had blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by the Volunteers Daniel Lincoln.
Now, Lincoln had a chance to redeem himself on the final snap with a game-winning 44-yard field goal. However, Cody broke through the line and blocked his second field goal of the quarter to preserve the undefeated season.
Alabama went on to win their next five games, including a 26-21 win at Auburn and a 32-13 thrashing of No. 1 Florida in the SEC Championship Game.
In the BCS National Championship Game against Texas at the Rose Bowl, Alabama fell behind early, 6-0. But, the Crimson Tide scored 24 points in the second quarter and never looked back en route to a 37-21 victory and a perfect 14-0 record.
Alabama clinched their 13th national championship while winning 14 games for the first time in school history.