The Sugar Bowl is Almost Like Sweet Home Alabama
By Larry Burton
Alabama is headed to their home away from home, the New Orleans Superdome and the site of the Allstate Sugar Bowl. It is truly one of the places that feels like home to the Tide. The last time they traveled there, they won a BCS National Championship Game against LSU in the famous “Game of the Century, Part Two”.
One of the reasons Tide fans can draw comfort from going to the Sugar Bowl is that the record speaks for itself. Overall the Tide is 9-5 while playing a bowl game in New Orleans. For many years it has been the place where the top SEC team would play their final game if they weren’t involved in a National Championship Game at some other location.
It is also a site that’s easy driving distance for the Tide fans and the dome usually sounds as if it were a home game given the amount of fans that Alabama packs in there.
Alabama has the nation’s best and most envious bowl record. They have appeared in 60 bowl games with an amazing 31 of them being in the top four bowl games of the BCS. Not only has Alabama appeared in the most bowl games, with 34 wins, 22 losses and 3 ties, the Crimson Tide is in first place among all FBS schools for both bowl appearances and victories.
In the Saban era, Alabama is 5-1 with the one loss coming in the Sugar Bowl to Utah.
Here is a brief history of Alabama in the Sugar Bowl, some are great memories for Tide fans and some are sad.
1945 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Duke 26-29 Alabama Loss
There are teams that Alabama doesn’t have a winning record over and against Duke, it’s close with a 3-1 advantage, but that one loss was on a huge stage, here at the Sugar Bowl.
In a game that went back and forth, Duke jumped out to a 7-0 lead but Alabama came back to score 19 unanswered points, but Duke fought back to make it 19-20 Duke by halftime.
Hugh Morrow intercepted the ball in the second half and ran it back for a touchdown and a 26-20 Alabama lead. After a punt kept Alabama near their own goal line, they took an intentional safety so that they could kick the ball deep to Duke and run out the clock.
However, with time running out, Duke had back-to-back 20 yard plays and scored to win 29-26.
1948 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Texas 7-27 Alabama loss
This is one of the teams that Alabama doesn’t have a winning record against and it didn’t start or end well in this game. Texas took an early lead on a 99-yard play but Alabama countered to make the score 7-7.
However, Alabama would not find the end zone again that day while Texas scored another 20 points to embarrass the Tide 7-27.
1962 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Arkansas – 10-3 Alabama win
With the arrival of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, Alabama’s Sugar Bowl record started looking up. In this contest, Arkansas came in as the Southwest Conference Champion and faced a Tide team with a smothering defense.
The game lived up to it’s defensive showdown billing as Alabama shut them out in the first half with a 10-0 score and the second half only saw the Hogs get a third quarter field goal.
1964 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Ole Miss – 12-7 Alabama Win
Alabama entered the game with the same kind of stingy defense it was becoming famous for in the early 60’s and would win another game in a defensive struggle.
Ole Miss had the only touchdown of the game, but the hero for the tide was their kicker, Tim Davis, who booted through four field goals to enable Alabama to win the game 12-7.
1967 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Nebraska – 34-7 Alabama win
Alabama had won the National Championship the two previous seasons, but that and another 10-0 season wasn’t enough to convince voters they deserved another championship. They instead named Michigan State and Notre Dame numbers one and two with 9-0-1 records. Remember, back then they named championship winners before the bowl games.
To show the nation and the voters they were wrong they simply ripped a good Nebraska team apart with a 34-7 thrashing.
1974 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Notre Dame – 23-34 Alabama loss
This is one of the other teams that Alabama doesn’t have a winning record against and this one was one that many thought would go Alabama’s way but didn’t.
The game went back and forth until late in the fourth quarter when Notre Dame got the lead back for good with a short field goal that made the game 24-23. Alabama had one more chance to win but couldn’t get the offense going and lost a one point heart breaker.
1975 Sugar Bowl vs. Penn State – 13-6 Alabama win
In what would become the first of many great Alabama – Penn State battles, two coaching legends slugged out a defensive game that was a brutal nail biter. In the end, Penn State could only manage two field goals and Alabama squeaked out a 13-6 victory.
Alabama quarterback Richard Todd, who had been hot all season, could never get the Tide offense rolling in this one.
1978 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Ohio State – 35-6 Alabama win
This was supposed to have been one for the ages with two of the games great legends going head-to-head. The 1978 Sugar Bowl saw two of the greatest college football coaches of all-time against each other. Paul “Bear” Bryant had coached his Crimson Tide to a 10-1 record and Woody Hayes and the Ohio State Buckeyes were 9-2.
However, the game was a total Alabama blowout and Ohio State was never in the contest from the opening whistle.
1979 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Penn State – 14-7 – Alabama win
This was one of the most memorable of all Sugar Bowls and one that is today steeped in Alabama tradition and glory, “The Goal Line Stand”.
It was a defensive struggle for most of the game. Alabama didn’t score until the second quarter, Penn State until the third, then a special team miracle occurred with a 62 yard punt return that set up an easy touchdown.
Alabama looked like they had the game sewn up when Chuck Fusina threw a pass that was intercepted by Alabama in the end zone to kill a late scoring drive and with time running out in the game with less than five minutes on the clock, all Alabama had to do was make a few first downs, run out the clock and win, but they fumbled the ball in that drive and Penn State had the ball at the 19 yard line with four minutes to go.
Penn State drove to eight yard line and a first and goal and was one yard away from a tying touchdown on third down. Alabama held them on the next plays including the final goal line stand where Barry Krauss met Penn State running back Mike Guman at the line of scrimmage and held him there until help arrived to stop Penn State just inches from the goal line.
Not only was it a game for the ages, but one that got Alabama another national championship.
1980 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Arkansas – 24-9 – Alabama win
Once again, the Tide faced the Arkansas Razorbacks won a share of the Southwest Conference with just one loss and went to the Sugar Bowl to face an undefeated Alabama.
The Razorbacks shocked Alabama by taking an early 3-0 lead, but the Tide got to rolling and the Hogs lost a game that was more lopsided than the final score indicated.
1990 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Miami – 25-33 – Alabama Loss
Alabama and Miami may have both been 10-1 entering the game, but Miami was at the height of their dynasty and this was an over achieving Alabama team when they met in the Sugar Bowl in 1990.
Alabama however, shocked everyone for going toe to toe with Miami in this game. Miami jumped out to a 33-17 lead, but the Tide fought back to make it a game at the end, getting it to a one score and two point conversion to tie, but could never close the deal.
1993 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Miami – 34-13 Alabama win
Miami and Alabama were both undefeated headed into the 1993 Sugar Bowl but Miami was the heavy favorite with the Miami fans and all the press. Geno Toretta had won the Heisman Trophy and Miami had the best rush defense in the country, allowing just 200 yards all season long. Even the Miami receivers boasted that there was no man in the Alabama secondary that could hope to cover even one of Miami’s receivers.
The trash talking Hurricanes were humbled more than any team in the history of televised national championship games. Alabama simply run the ball down their throats and humiliated Miami’s defense in a game that Miami never recovered from as a program.
And that Miami offense got a late game mercy touchdown against third team members of the Tide defense in a game that was far worse that the 34-13 score would indicate.
It was the first “post Bryant” national championship and the first and only one for head coach Gene Stallings.
2009 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Utah -17-31 – Alabama loss
After losing a heartbreaking last gasp game to Florida in the SEC Championship Game, Alabama lost a chance to play for a national title. Despite being favorites in this game, the Alabama team that had dominated the nation’s polls for most of the season simply never showed up.
Utah jumped on Alabama early and had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter. It was one of the flattest and least motivated teams to play a bowl game in the Saban era and the score certainly showed what kind of a beating that Utah put on them.
2011 BCS Championship Game in the Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. LSU – 21-0 – Alabama win
Many refer to this as the “Game of the Century” part two as this season saw the best two teams in the nation clash for the second time in one season. It marked the first time one conference had both teams in the BCS game to fight for the title.
Earlier in the season, LSU defeated Alabama at Tuscaloosa by a score of 9-6 in a defensive struggle that saw Alabama miss four field goal attempts.
Many were expecting a battle for the ages in the re-match, but the Tide whipped the LSU offense so bad it only crossed the 50 yard line once in the game. It was a thorough whipping for the Tide and won it another BCS Championship.
2014 Sugar Bowl – Alabama vs. Oklahoma – Who will win? That’s another article for another day….
Alabama and Oklahoma have a great history of success and an interesting record of good games and great sportsmanship between them even though the two teams haven’t met that often. In just four meetings, Oklahoma leads the series 2-1-1.
The first meeting was in 1963 when Alabama beat OU 17-0 in the Orange Bowl en-route to a 10-1 season. The stars on the Alabama team were Joe Namath on offense and Lee Roy Jordan, who had 31 tackles that day on defense.
The second meeting was on December 31st, 1970 at the Blue Bonnet Bowl at the Astrodome in Houston, Texas. It was a 24-24 tie against the #20 rated Sooners. Overall, it wasn’t a good year for the Tide, who went 6-5-1 for the year.
In 2002 and 2003 Alabama had home away games with Oklahoma during the their high period and during Alabama’s low period that came from being on probation. However, both games were hard fought and close earning Alabama much respect from the Sooner team and fans. The scores in those respective years were 37-27 and 20-13 with the Sooners winning both.
One note of great sportsmanship however for Tide fans to know about the Sooners was the warmth, love and respect shown by the team, the fans and even the OU band when we visited Norman, Oklahoma.
Unable to bring their own band, Alabama fans who made the trip and players alike were stunned when Alabama took their field before the game, only to have the OU band fire up and play one of the best renditions of “Yea Alabama” ever heard.
When it was over, the fans burst into cheers and applause and their jumbo screens starting showing moments from Alabama’s glorious past and championships.
Our football players, taken with the gesture of great sportsmanship, stopped and tipped their helmets toward the OU band. That is college football at it’s best and that is just one of the reasons why Alabama is honored to play Oklahoma in this game.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter