Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football: "G"

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Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football:
Craig Jones/Getty Images

The Gator Bowl is not considered one of the elite bowl games.

Yes, the game is now played on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, but sometimes the participants can have anywhere between three and five losses.

Alabama has played in two Gator Bowls with two interesting outcomes.

The first Gator Bowl appearance for the Crimson Tide was in 1968. Alabama posted an 8-2 record during the regular season, losing two to Mississippi and Tennessee by a combined three points. The 1968 Crimson Tide defense never allowed an opponent to score more than 16 points.

However, the defense masked the offensive deficiencies, as Alabama scored fewer than 20 points in six games. 

Their opponent in the Gator Bowl would be Missouri. The Tigers, led by future College Football Hall of Fame head coach Dan Devine, entered the game with a 7-3 record.

On Dec. 28, 1968, Alabama and Missouri faced each other in Jacksonville before 68,011 fans. Missouri scored a touchdown on their first possession before Alabama tied the game at 7-7 on Donnie Sutton's 38-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Missouri quarterback Terry McMillan scored his second rushing touchdown late in the second quarter to give the Tigers a 14-7 halftime lead. Missouri took that lead into the final stanza after a scoreless third quarter.

Even though Missouri held a significant advantage in total yards, Alabama only trailed by four after Mike Dean's field goal early in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to 14-10. But the Tigers put the game away with 21 unanswered points en route to a 35-10 triumph.

The statistics were shocking for a Bear Bryant-coached team. Alabama recorded -45 yards rushing and only 23 total yards. Despite not completing a pass, Missouri totaled 402 yards and tallied 21 first downs to Alabama's six.

It was Bryant's worst bowl game loss until a 38-6 defeat to Nebraska in the 1972 Orange Bowl. 

Twenty-five years after their Gator Bowl loss, Alabama returned to Jacksonville.

After winning the national championship in 1992, the Crimson Tide posted an 8-3-1 record in 1993. However, Alabama entered the Gator Bowl on a two-game losing streak. The Crimson Tide ended the regular season with a 22-14 loss to Auburn and a 28-13 defeat to Florida in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

Their opponent was Mack Brown's North Carolina Tar Heels, who entered the game with a 10-2 record.

Alabama prepared for the 1993 Gator Bowl without two of their top players. Quarterback Brian Burgdorf started in place of the injured Jay Barker. In addition, consensus All-American defensive back Antonio Langham was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for the SEC Championship Game and the Gator Bowl.

After a scoreless first quarter, Alabama opened the scoring with a field goal. North Carolina responded with a one-yard touchdown run by William Henderson.

The Crimson Tide immediately answered as Burgdorf ran up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 10-7 lead. The Tar Heels added a field goal just before halftime, and both teams went into the locker room tied at 10.

The Alabama defense dominated the second half by shutting out North Carolina. Meanwhile, Burgdorf tossed a pair of touchdown passes in the Crimson Tide's 24-10 win.

For his efforts, Burgdorf earned MVP honors.

What makes the 1993 Gator Bowl unique is that it turned out to be Alabama's only victory in 1993.

Two years later, in 1995, the NCAA determined that Langham received improper benefits after signing with an agent after the 1992 season.

Thus, Alabama was forced to forfeit their eight wins and one tie in 1993 in which Langham played. Since Langham was not eligible for the Gator Bowl, it was the only victory in what turned out to be a 1-12 season.

Since Alabama appears to regularly finish in the Top 10 over the next several seasons, it doesn't appear the Crimson Tide will be returning to the Gator Bowl anytime soon.

It will be interesting to see what strange events are in store for the Crimson Tide the next time they play in Jacksonville.     

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