Learning the ABCs of Alabama Crimson Tide Football: "O"
The Orange Bowl has always been one of the premier bowl games in college football.
Teams and fans have always enjoyed the warm South Florida weather in late December and early January. In the past, the game has sometimes determined the national champion.
Alabama's Orange Bowl history has had its share of memorable moments and disappointments.
As part of my Alabama ABCs series, let's take a look at those highs and lows of the Orange Bowl...
1943 Orange Bowl: Soaring Past the Eagles
The Crimson Tide's first Orange Bowl appearance was in 1943.
Tenth-ranked Alabama entered the game with a 7-3 record. Boston College, who had been ranked No. 1 before losing to Holy Cross in the regular season finale, was eighth ranked with an 8-1 mark.
The Eagles jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Alabama responded with a 22-point second quarter. Despite Eagles' running back Mike Holovak's three touchdowns in the first half, Alabama outscored Boston College, 15-0, in the second half en route to a 37-21 win.
1953 Orange Bowl: Crushing the 'Cuse
Ten years later in 1953, No. 9 Alabama returned to Miami as they prepared to face No. 14 Syracuse. Both teams entered the game with two losses on the season, but the game turned out to be no contest.
Both teams scored a touchdown in the first quarter, although Syracuse missed their extra point to give Alabama a 7-6 advantage at the end of the first stanza. This would be as close as the Orangemen would get. The Crimson Tide, a 13-point favorite entering the game, scored two second-quarter touchdowns before adding three more in both the third and fourth quarters for an easy 61-6 victory.
Bobby Luna and Tommy Lewis each tallied two touchdowns while Hootie Ingram returned a punt 80 yards for a score. A total of 15 Orange Bowl records were set, including Alabama's 586 yards of total offense and a combined 818 yards of offense by both squads. The next day, some newspapers called the game the worst mismatch in bowl history.
Prior to this game, the largest margin of victory in a bowl game was 49, accomplished twice by Michigan in a pair of 49-0 victories in the Rose Bowl in 1902 and 1948. The 55-point margin of victory stands as the largest margin of victory by Alabama in a bowl game. It was also the largest margin of victory in a bowl game until Tulsa's 56-point triumph in the 2008 GMAC Bowl.
1963 Orange Bowl: The Lee Roy Jordan Show
Continuing their tradition of returning to the Orange Bowl every 10 years, Alabama was back in 1963 to face Oklahoma. Alabama (9-1) was the defending national champions and only a 7-6 loss to Georgia Tech prevented the Crimson Tide from the opportunity to defend their title. Oklahoma (8-2) came in with a 4-1 record in the Orange Bowl.
The game belonged to the Alabama defense in a 17-0 shutout; the Crimson Tide's first bowl game shutout since a 24-0 win over Washington State in the 1931 Rose Bowl. All-American senior and team captain Lee Roy Jordan won MVP honors after a Crimson Tide bowl record 31 tackles. Joe Namath led the offense to a pair of first-quarter touchdowns in the victory.
1965 Orange Bowl: Texas's Goal Line Stand
Instead of waiting 10 years to return to the Orange Bowl, Alabama made two more trips to Miami during the 1960s. Up until the mid-1960s, most people looked at bowl games as just exhibitions. That's because the national champion was announced before the bowl game. In 1965, No. 2 Alabama was named national champion in late November after top-ranked Notre Dame lost to USC in the season finale.
Top-ranked, undefeated and national champion Alabama (10-0) would face fifth-ranked Texas (9-1) in the first Orange Bowl played at night.
The Longhorns opened a 21-7 lead at halftime before the Crimson Tide responded with 10 unanswered points to close the gap. Joe Namath, who didn't start due to a knee injury, led the Alabama offense after replacing an injured Steve Sloan.
With seven minutes remaining in the game, Alabama had a second down and goal from the Texas two-yard line. However, the Longhorn defense held and stopped Crimson Tide quarterback Joe Namath on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line on fourth down. Texas held on for a 21-17 upset victory over the national champions.
Despite suffering the loss, Namath earned MVP honors after 18-of-37 passing for 255 yards and two touchdowns. It should also be noted that the following season, the Associated Press determined the national champion after bowl games. This was done permanently beginning with the 1968 season.
1966 Orange Bowl: The Unexpected National Championship
One year after losing to Texas in the Orange Bowl, No. 4 Alabama was back in Miami for the 1966 game against No. 3 Nebraska.
When the day started, neither team expected to have a chance to win the national championship. However, top-ranked Michigan State lost to No. 7 UCLA in the Rose Bowl while LSU upset No. 2 Arkansas. Thus, the winner of the Orange Bowl would be named the national champion.
Tied at seven in the second quarter, Alabama pulled away with 17 consecutive points to lead 24-7 at halftime. Nebraska responded with three second-half touchdowns, but it was not enough as Alabama claimed the national championship with a 39-28 victory.
Quarterback Steve Sloan completed 20-of-29 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Ray Perkins, who finished with nine catches for 159 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Alabama outgained Nebraska, 518 to 377.
1972 Orange Bowl: The Cornhusker Express
Six years after meeting for the national championship, the title was on the line again in Miami as No. 1 and defending champion Nebraska faced second-ranked Alabama.
The rankings may have indicated a memorable game, but Nebraska ran away with the contest early. The Cornhuskers scored 14 points in the first quarter, highlighted by a Johnny Rodgers 77-yard punt return.
Another 14 points in the second quarter gave Nebraska a 28-0 halftime advantage. Alabama's only score of the game was a three-yard touchdown run by Terry Davis. Nebraska was in control the entire game as their 38-6 triumph sealed the Cornhuskers' second consecutive national championship.
Alabama lost despite an advantage in first downs (16-15) and rushing yards (241-183). The loss was the Crimson Tide's worst bowl game defeat. The previous mark was set only four years earlier in a 35-10 loss to Missouri in the Gator Bowl.
1975 Orange Bowl: National Championship Hopes Dashed
The 1975 Orange Bowl featured two of the best programs in college football history. Alabama, ranked first in the UPI poll and second in the AP poll, came in undefeated at 11-0. Their opponent was ninth-ranked Notre Dame (9-2) in head coach Ara Parseghian's final game.
In the previous season, Notre Dame edged Alabama, 24-23, in the Sugar Bowl. This game proved to be another exciting contest.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 13-0 lead, scoring one of their touchdowns after a muffed punt return by Alabama. Trailing 13-3 entering the fourth quarter, Russ Shamun hauled in a 48-yard touchdown pass. The successful two-point conversion cut the Fighting Irish lead to 13-11.
Alabama drove to the Notre Dame 38-yard line late in the game. However, quarterback Richard Todd was intercepted, and the Fighting Irish held on for the win to deny the Crimson Tide another national championship.
Alabama outgained Notre Dame, 285 to 204, but the Crimson Tide hurt themselves with four turnovers.
2000 Orange Bowl: A Heartbreaking Loss
For the first time in 25 years, Alabama (10-2) returned to the Orange Bowl against Michigan (9-2). In the first BCS Bowl Game for Alabama, it was a contest remembered for two Michigan comebacks and an unfortunate ending for the Crimson Tide.
Shaun Alexander's two second-quarter touchdown runs gave Alabama a 14-0 lead, but Michigan rebounded to tie the game at 14 in the third quarter. The Crimson Tide responded with a pair of third-quarter touchdowns, including Freddie Milons 62-yard punt return, to open up a 28-14 advantage. The Wolverines refused to go away and added two more third-quarter touchdowns to tie the game at 28.
After an Orange Bowl record 35 combined third-quarter points, neither team scored in the fourth quarter. Michigan kicker Hayden Epstein lined up for a game-winning field goal with two seconds remaining, but his attempt was blocked by Phillip Weeks.
In the first BCS overtime game, Michigan scored first and the ensuing extra point gave the Wolverines a seven-point lead. Alabama answered with Clifton Carter's 21-yard touchdown reception. However, Ryan Pflugner missed the extra point, and Michigan held on for a 35-34 win. It was Alabama's third consecutive Orange Bowl loss.
Alexander finished with 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns while Milons finished with 107 punt return yards.