Momentum is important in college football. With each big play, a team has an opportunity to get the crowd on its feet. The more clutch plays a team makes, the better its chances are at winning.
Whether the plays came via luck or skill, Alabama’s had players to step up at key moments in history and make clutch plays. Here is a list of the top 15 plays in Alabama football history.
Top 15 Plays in History
15. Amari Cooper vs. Georgia’s Secondary (Alabama vs. Georgia—2012)
Summary: The 2012 Southeastern Conference Championship Game pitted Georgia’s tough defense against Alabama’s potent offense. Despite a huge performance on the ground from T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy, Cooper made his mark by shredding the Bulldogs’ secondary. Cooper recorded eight receptions for 128 yards and a touchdown. He had a 45-yard reception in the first quarter, in which he took the ball away from Georgia’s defensive back, Barcari Rambo. Cooper’s biggest reception came with 3:15 remaining in the fourth quarter. Alabama trailed Georgia 28-25. AJ McCarron hooked up with Cooper on 37-yard touchdown pass. The score gave the Crimson a 32-28 lead and helped them notch an SEC title.
14. The Christion Jones Show (Alabama vs. Virginia Tech—2013)
Summary: The 2013 college football season didn’t start with pure dominance from Alabama’s offense. Virginia Tech’s defense had everything under control, well almost everything. While the Tide’s offense struggled, Christion Jones strapped up his shoes, tightened his chinstrap and went to work. He provided the spark that Alabama desperately needed. Jones totaled 256 all-purpose yards (100 punt return yards, 109 kick return yards and 47 receiving yards) and three total touchdowns. His instant offense along with Alabama’s defense propelled the Tide to a 35-10 victory in week one of the season.
13. Greg McElroy Does It All (Alabama vs. Florida—2009 SEC Championship Game)
Summary: Alabama witnessed its dream season come to an end after losing to Florida 31-20 in the 2008 SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide wanted revenge in 2009 and Greg McElroy set the tone offensively. McElroy completed 67 percent of his passes (12-18) for 239 yards and a touchdown. Alabama led Florida 9-3 in the second quarter. On second down and 10, Trent Richardson gets the handoff from McElroy. Richardson’s run was supposed to go for a three yard loss; instead he picked up seven yards because McElroy set a block for him. The Crimson Tide faced a third and five in the same quarter. McElroy rolled to his right and tight roped the sideline for six yards to pick up a first down. He outplayed Tim Tebow and guided Alabama to a 32-13 victory over Florida.
12. McCarron to Yeldon Screen Pass “Make a Man Miss” (Alabama vs. LSU—2012)
Summary: Every quarterback dreams of having a Heisman moment. AJ McCarron’s moment came in the 2012 regular season meeting against LSU. The matchup was McCarron’s worst game statically. He completed 51.8 percent of his passes (14-27), but came up huge when Alabama needed it. The Crimson Tide trailed the Tigers 17-14 with 1:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. Alabama was backed up on its own 20-yard line. Against a record crowd, Mike the Tiger, Les Miles and the ominous moon, Alabama went on a 5-play, 80-yard drive. Kevin Norwood was huge. He caught three passes on the drive. Norwood’s third reception set up a 28-yard screen pass from McCarron to Yeldon. Yeldon sets up his blocks well, makes two guys miss and goes in for the game-winning touchdown. Alabama won 21-17.
11. Roman Harper Saves the Day “Rocky Stop” (Alabama vs. Tennessee—2005)
Summary: Mike Shula received a contract extension after Alabama went 10-2 in 2005. Part of the extension was owed to Roman Harper. Harper finished second on the team in tackles with 69 and was a game changer on defense. His defining moment came against Tennessee. With the score tied at three late in the fourth quarter, the Volunteers drove the ball into Alabama’s territory. Tennessee’s quarterback Rick Clausen set up a screen pass to Cory Anderson. Anderson thought he had a clear path to the endzone; however, No. 41 in crimson and white appearance. Harper puts the crown of his helmet on the football and knocked out the back of the endzone for a touchback. The Crimson Tide gained possession, drove down the field and set up a 34-yard field goal attempt for Jamie Christensen. Christensen nailed the field goal to give Alabama a 6-3 lead with 13 seconds remaining. The Tide went onto win the game 6-3.
10. Marcell Dareus: MVP Performance against Texas (Alabama vs. Texas—2010 BCS National Championship Game)
Summary: To some people, defensive linemen aren’t fast. Don’t let Dareus hear you say that. He was huge contributor for Alabama in the 2009 season, but saved his finest performance for the 2010 title game against Texas. Before the game, Dareus said that he was going to win the MVP award. His actions backed up his claim. Dareus provided the first big play of the game when he gave Longhorns quarterback Colt McCoy a shot in the arm. The Crimson Tide led 17-6 in the second quarter when Dareus pulled out his most memorable play. Texas wanted to go into halftime down 17-6, but Dareus had other plans. He intercepts a Garrett Gilbert screen pass and goes 28 yards for a touchdown. Alabama defeated Texas 37-21 to win a national title and Dareus took home defensive MVP honors.
9. McElroy to Upchurch “The Drive” (Alabama vs. Auburn—2009)
Summary: Auburn started off with trick plays and opened with a 14-0 lead. Alabama stayed strong and held its own. The Crimson Tide tied the game at 14 after a rushing score from Trent Richardson and a 33-yard touchdown from McElroy to Colin Peek. When Chris Todd hooked up with Darvin Adams for a 72-yard touchdown, fans thought Auburn had the game won. Leigh Tiffin connected on two field goals and cut Auburn’s lead to one. Trailing 21-20, Alabama fans witnessed the resiliency of its team. With 7:03 remaining in the game, McElroy led Alabama down the field. It was a 15-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off with a game-winning 4-yard touchdown pass from McElroy to Roy Upchurch.
8. Thomas Rayam Denies Penn State (Alabama vs. Penn State—1989)
Summary: Bill Curry compiled a 26-10 record in his tenure at Alabama, but the Tide’s victory over Penn State in 1989 was one of the most impressive wins on his resume. Before 2011, the last Alabama faced Penn State in Beaver Stadium “Happy Valley” was in 1989. With 13 seconds remaining in the game, the Nittany Lions trailed the Tide 17-16. Joe Paterno decides to kick a field goal to win the game. Senior Ray Tarasi lined up a 17-yard field goal. The snap and hold were good, but 6’7” Thomas Rayam had other ideas for the kick. Rayam blocked the kick and Alabama won 17-16.
7. Tyrone Prothro’s “The Catch” (Alabama vs. Southern Mississippi—2005)
Summary: In the matchup against Southern Miss, Prothro showed the world that he could do the impossible. Down 21-10 late in the first half, Brodie Croyle lobs the ball deep for Prothro. USM’s defensive back Jasper Faulk had the coverage. Despite decent coverage, Prothro makes a blind reception as he catches the ball on the back of Faulk’s helmet. Prothro puts the ball of Faulk’s neck and both of them rolled into the endzone. The referees ruled it a catch and a touchdown. The score got the Tide back in the game and helped Alabama win 30-21.
6. Alabama’s Defense Dismantles LSU (Alabama vs. LSU—2012 BCS National Championship Game)
Summary: Alabama suffered a heart-breaking 9-6 loss against LSU in the 2011 regular season meeting. The Crimson Tide rebounded in round two. In 2012 title game, Alabama’s defense stifled the Tigers offense. The Tide allowed 92 total yards of offense and shut LSU off the scoreboard. The Tigers had two turnovers and crossed the 50-yard line once in the contest. Alabama won the game 21-0.
5. Fear Terrence Cody “Rocky Block” (Alabama vs. Tennessee—2009)
Summary: Sometimes, you need to have a little luck to get to a national title. Alabama’s luck came in the form of a 400 pound warrior. Terrence Cody blocks two Daniel Lincoln field goals and prevents Tennessee a chance to upset Alabama. The Crimson Tide defeated the Volunteers 12-10 and rode the momentum into the national title game.
4. Cornelius Bennett Levels Steve Buerlein “The Sack” (Alabama vs. Notre Dame—1986)
Summary: In his tenure at Alabama, Cornelius Bennett was huge. He had 287 tackles and 21 ½ sacks. Against Notre Dame in 1986, Bennett would be immortalized in history. He leveled Steve Buerlein and made him fumble the ball. Artist Daniel Moore created the painting and simply titled it The Sack.
3. Antonio Langham Changes History (Alabama vs. Florida—1992 SEC Championship Game)
Summary: The first inaugural SEC title game would have been meaningless if not for a little drama. With the score tied at 21, Antonio Langham was tired at getting pick at by Florida’s quarterback Shane Matthews. Late in the fourth quarter, Langham jumps a route and intercepts Matthews pass. He takes it 28 yards for a touchdown. Alabama won 28-21. The Crimson Tide won its first SEC since Paul Bryant and changed the landscape of college football.
2. Van Tiffin Answers “The Kick” (Alabama vs. Auburn—1985)
Summary: Van Tiffin became a legend after the 1985 Iron Bowl. Down 23-22 late in the fourth quarter, Alabama quarterback Mike Shula drove Alabama into Auburn territory. With two seconds left, Tiffin connected on a 52-yard field goal. The Crimson Tide won 25-23.
1A. Barry Krauss Leads the Way “Goal Line Stand” (Alabama vs. Penn State—1979 Sugar Bowl)
Summary: Penn State had a chance to win a national title in the 1979 Sugar Bowl. Barry Krauss stood in their way. Alabama led 14-7 in the fourth quarter. The Nittany Lions had the ball and it was fourth and goal from a yard away. Mike Guman got the carry and tried to go over the top, but he was met by Krauss and did not get in. The Crimson Tide won 14-7.
1. Kenny Stabler “Run in the Mud” (Alabama vs. Auburn–1967)
Summary: A win is a win. It doesn’t matter how pretty or ugly it is. On a wet and muddy field, Kenny Stabler became a legend for Crimson Tide fans. He took the snap and ran 53 yards in the mud for a touchdown. It was the only touchdown of the game, but it was enough. Alabama won 7-3.
Honorable Mentions: George Teague’s “The Strip” (1993), Shaun Alexander’s four touchdown performance (LSU-1996), Rashad Johnson’s 54-yard interception returned for a touchdown (LSU-2008), Trent Richardson’s 76-yard touchdown run (Ole Miss-2011), Julio Jones’s 73-yard touchdown reception (LSU-2009) and Tana Patrick’s strip (LSU-2013).