The theme of this blog has always been the history of college football since 1967 because that’s just the first year I remember watching the games. Some people wait until they are a little older to become addicted to crack, but I became a college football addict when I was about 8 years old. It’s been a long and sometimes difficult road. It’s also had it’s extremely enjoyable times.
Alabama started off the 1967 season ranked 2nd in the country behind only defending national champions Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish returned quarterback Terry Hanratty and other talents like running back Rocky Bleier and wide receiver Jim Seymour. But, they also had some huge losses from the talented 1966 team like Alan Page and Jim Lynch. It showed up early when the Irish lost to Purdue in game two and then to the Trojans of USC in game four.
Alabama countered with senior quarterback Kenny Stabler and consensus All American wide
receiver Dennis Homan.
The Crimson Tide didn’t stay on the unbeaten list for long, either, when they tied Florida State in game one. The disappointing tie dropped Alabama from number 2 in the Polls to number 9.
Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide then won 3 straight games before they faced 7th ranked Tennessee on the third Saturday in October as it’s traditionally played.
The Tennessee Volunteers beat Alabama, 24-13. That loss knocked the Crimson Tide out of the top 25 altogether.
Alabama did not play another ranked team all season, but they won 4 straight games leading the Pollsters to reinstall Alabama at number 9 going into their Iron Bowl game against Auburn. The Crimson Tide had a record of 7-1-1.
Alabama had beaten Auburn for 3 straight seasons and 7 out of the last 8 Iron Bowls. This was a situation that Auburn wanted to fix and as soon as possible.
The biggest problem to stopping the Bama win streak was this Auburn team was just not that good. They came into this particular Iron Bowl game with a 6-3 record with losses to Tennessee, Miami and Georgia. They were just coming off of a bad loss to the Bulldogs who had beaten them 0-17.
In the old days, all of the Iron Bowl games were played in Birmingham at Legion Field. Alabama played a lot of their home games there and they felt it was a neutral site. But, Auburn fans felt it was an unfair advantage for the Crimson Tide and they fought to make it home and home which it eventually became.
The 1967 version of the Iron Bowl was the first ever night game.
On December 2nd, 1967 it rained all day in Birmingham, Alabama making this Iron Bowl into
something of a mud bowl. The rain kept coming and the footing was terrible.
Twice in the first half of the game, the Alabama defense rose up and stuffed the Auburn offense inside the 5 yard line preventing a score. It was tied, 0-0 at the half.
If you are a fan of the history of the game, you know that offenses were not as prolific back in these times and it wasn’t that unusual to have a low scoring game. But, with this field, it seemed highly unlikely that anyone would even score.
Auburn did finally manage to kick a field goal in the second half and took a 3-0 lead well into the 4th quarter.
But, this was when history was made.
At the Auburn 47 yard line, Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler ran option right. With the Auburn defender draped all over his running back, Stabler cut upfield. He got an outstanding block from consensus All-American wide receiver Dennis Homan which offered Stabler an open field. With a driving rain falling, Stabler cranked it up and outran the Auburn secondary to the goal line giving the Tide it’s only touchdown of the game.
Kenny Stabler was by far the most notorious player in the game and went on to have a Hall of Fame
career with the Oakland Raiders and helped win Super Bowl XI.
Stabler passed away in 2015 and in the old south, he’s probably more famous for his Run in the Mud play than anything he ever accomplished in the NFL.
It was a dominating time for Alabama in the Iron Bowl. It was the time of Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant and Alabama won 19 out of 23 Iron Bowls between 1959 and 1981. The Bear retired after the 1982 season and the game became more even.
As we come upon the end of another season, the Iron Bowl stands out as one of the biggest rivalries in the country.
It’s an interesting rivalry even for an outsider and The Run in the Mud was one of it’s more famous games.