A Look Back at the 1965 Orange Bowl: Alabama vs. Texas

Dino NicandrosAnalyst IDecember 8, 2009

On Jan. 7, 2010, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas Longhorns will collide in Pasadena, Calif., for college football's ultimate prize.

It has been over 27 years since Alabama and Texas last met (1982 Cotton Bowl, Texas won 14-12). 

Texas is 7-0-1 all time against the Tide, with perhaps the greatest matchup between these two teams coming in the 1965 Orange Bowl.

It was the first time the Orange Bowl had been moved to a prime-time slot on network television, and it featured two of the most dominant teams of the 1960s.

Bama was 48-4-2 (an incredible 91 percent winning percentage) over the previous five years.

They won the national championship in 1961, as well as 1964.

Texas came into the game 46-6-2 (87 percent winning percentage) for the half decade with one national title and another near miss.

Paul "Bear" Bryant's Crimson Tide were national champions in 1964 (this was before the championship was awarded after the bowls) and were poised to cap off an undefeated season.

Quarterback Joe Namath, whom Bryant would later refer to as "the greatest athlete I ever coached," had gone 29-3 over his three seasons with Tide and led them to a national championship victory in 1964. 

His final game would come against the Longhorns in the Orange Bowl.

Darrell Royal's Longhorns came in to the game 10-1(6-1) ranked fifth in the final AP poll and hungry for a win over the newly crowned national champions.

The versatile Tommy Nobis (linebacker, offensive guard) was one of the most feared players in the country and "the best two-way player" coach Royal had ever seen.

The game pitted the 1964 national champs against the 1963 champs.

Bryant and Royal were two of the most recognizable figures in the game.

The table was set for a clash of two of college football's finest.

Royal's Longhorns jumped on the Crimson Tide early, with two first half touchdown runs by running back Ernie Koy, Jr., one of which went 79 yards.

Star quarterback Joe Namath sat most of the first half on the bench with a knee injury (he led an 87-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter), but, with his team down 21-7 and in dire need of an offensive spark against the aggressive Texas defense, he marched back on to the field in the second half.

Namath would have perhaps one of the greatest and most courageous halves by a quarterback in college football history.

On a bum knee, Namath went 18-37 for 255 yards and two touchdowns, pulling the Tide within four of Texas in the fourth quarter.

With the Texas defense on its heels, all Bama needed was one more stop and they would have a chance to win it.

The Tide would get their chance.

With about seven minutes left in the fourth quarter, Texas up 21-17, Alabama recovered a fumble on the Texas 34-yard line. 

With plenty of time left to score the go ahead touchdown, Namath drove the Tide to the Texas one-yard line.

On 4th-and-goal, just inches away from the goal line, Bryant dialed up a quarterback sneak and the athletic Namath attempted to dive in to the end zone.

He ran right in to Tommy Nobis.

Namath still claims he made it in to the end zone, but Nobis had him wrapped up short of the end zone when the whistle blew.

The Tide would have two more chances, but a late Pete Lammons interception and four straight incompletions by Namath on the last drive ended the game, giving the Longhorns the victory over the "national champions."

It is worth noting that 1965 was the last time the national champion was crowned before bowl season.

That classic game pitted two of college football's best teams against each other, and 44 years later, the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas Longhorns will suit up to play for it all once more. 

If history is any indication, we should be in for a real treat.


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