I liked it better before we knew that the correct pronunciation of Brian Daboll actually rhymes with table.
From an offensive standpoint, Alabama football was built on running the ball. Sure, we had some great passers through the years. Harry Gilmer, Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler, & Scott Hunter to name a few, and we won our share of national titles along the way.
But after Coach Bryant secretly installed the wishbone, then unveiled it in a 17-10 upset of Southern Cal to open the 1971 season, Bama went 124-19-1 over the next 12 seasons and won three national championships.
The wishbone attack under Bryant was not conducive to the production of star running backs. Instead, it was a team offense, relying more on execution and less on five star talent. It wasn’t uncommon for him to substitute the entire second unit on offense during the first half of games, well before the outcome was in hand.
Against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Bama ran the ball a whopping 66 times for a total of 496 yards (including 3 kneel-downs, that pulled it back under 500).
Neither of those numbers get you into the all-time Alabama top 5 for a single game. (Note that 8 of the 10 rushing records listed below took place during the Bryant Era)
Alabama Top 5: Rushing Attempts
#4: 77 10.17.81 38-17 over Tenn.
#4: 77 11.18.72 52-13 over Va. Tech
#3: 79 9.8.79 30-6 over Ga. Tech
#2: 80 9.30.72 48-21 over Vandy
#1 82 9.22.79 45-0 over Baylor
Alabama Top 5: Rushing Yards
#5: 502 9.21.74 52-0 over So. Miss
#4 514* 11.1.86 38-3 over Miss. St.
#3 531 10.2.71 40-6 over Ole Miss
#2 572 11.3.45 60-19 over Kentucky
#1 748 11.3.73 77-6 over Va. Tech
* I witnessed this one from the sideline as a student equipment manager
We live in a different day and age of offensive football.
Not only are defenses are more complicated, as populations everywhere have grown, talented athletes may play defense from the time they start Pop Warner football as a youngster, bred to be a linebacker or a strong safety.
To counter this, the best offenses now focus on balance. From formations to play calling to execution, the goal is to have the opposing defense not be able to recognize whether any given play is a run or pass.
But running the ball is a constant.
I always look at teams that rely almost exclusively on the pass and know that it’s not a matter of if they’re going to have a bad Saturday, but when. Not only does the sheer timing involved in the passing game lend itself to too many variables, even factors like wind or rain can throw off the quarterback to receiver mojo.
My favorite part about running the ball against the opposing defense?
It’s downright demoralizing.
Let’s face it, football is a game of manhood. These days, that manhood is usually exerted on the defensive side of the ball. There aren’t many things better than watching a wideout tiptoe over the middle and extend the ‘alligator arms’, for fear of being decapitated by a middle linebacker if he were to make an honest effort to catch the ball.
But running the ball…when you can run the ball, against guys with the talent and machismo I alluded to above…you break their will. The guys that are accustomed to delivering punishment are the ones now being hit in the mouth.
They have no answer. Even when they know it’s coming, they have no answer.
So some of you younger folks now have a little history lesson about why us older guys love the running game so much. Watching Bama run the wishbone as a kid, the passing game was practically a foreign concept.
I watched week after week as Bama not only won games, but demoralized the opposing defense. Took their manhood. Every single week.
Oh…and the Ole Miss coach may want to issue a gag order this week, before one of his players decides to inform Bama that we are “next”…
Michael J. Upton, Attorney at Law