From the back cover: Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1961 National Championship season led by coach Paul "Bear" Bryant, through colorful game program covers from the amazing run to glory. Witness history unfold each month, starting with two of the last games from 1960 (Tampa and Auburn), and continuing on with select game programs from that undefeated year. Each authentic reproduction is printed on 100% recycled paper with soy inks, and is removable for easy framing.
Officially Licensed This is an officially licensed product. Part of the proceeds of each sale goes back to the school.
Inside The Calendar
ALABAMA 1961 INTRODUCTION
by Richard Scott
The first seed of Alabama’s 1961 national championship season was actually sewn on Dec. 3, 1957, the day Paul W. “Bear” Bryant signed a 10-year contract to be the Crimson Tide’s new head football coach and athletic director. Saying “Momma called,” Bryant returned to his alma mater and immediately began laying the foundation for a dynasty.
Forged by his success as a player and coach, Bryant demanded the best of himself and everyone around him. Bryant possessed a knack for understanding what players needed and pushed them beyond what they thought they could do; a determined will and ability to mold and shape a championship team; and a keen eye for both the tangibles and intangibles necessary for success.
Bryant obviously saw something special in his first freshman class when he gathered them together for the first time and vowed that his freshmen would someday, "be undefeated and win the national championship before y'all leave here - if you'll do what I tell you to do."
Many of those freshmen were unable or unwilling to pay the price, but those who stayed were in for a life-changing experience.
"We worked like hell for the first two years," said Billy Neighbors, a senior All-American lineman in 1961. "I think there was something like 118 of us who came in as freshman and eight of us left after four years. But by the time we were juniors he had us where he wanted us: he had us all well trained and we knew how to run his system and we could beat people in the fourth quarter by being in better shape than other teams. He taught us that if we were in better shape than the other team we would win sooner or later.
"And he had something special about him that got you fired up to get ready to play and got his coaches ready to coach, so you'd do anything he told you to do."
That hard work and dedication led to a 7-0 record against Southeastern Conference teams, an SEC championship, and a Crimson Tide that outscored opponents 297-25, shut out six teams, and never allowed more than seven points in any game. Topped off by a 10-3 victory over Arkansas in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama finished the season 11-0 and ranked No. 1 in both major polls with a championship that would prove to be the first of Alabama’s six national championships under Bryant.
| || |
Alabama: 34; Tampa: 6
November 19, 1960
On the way to every winning season, big-time college football programs play the occasional undermanned opponent. For any championship-level team, playing SEC-caliber opponents week after week is challenging enough without playing all of the remaining non-conference games against national title contenders. That explains how Tampa ended up in Tuscaloosa on this day, but it does not explain Alabama's performance. Instead of sleepwalking its way though the afternoon, the Crimson Tide took care of its business and won 34-6, led by quarterback Pat Trammell's 74 rushing yards and two touchdown runs. Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant admitted, "it was a pretty dull game from our standpoint," but the nature of the game also allowed Bryant to rest key players such as linemen Billy Neighbors and Bud Moore, halfback Billy Richardson, and end Tommy Booker the week before the Auburn game.
| || |
Alabama: 3; Auburn: 0
November 26, 1960
An outsider would look at the final score of Alabama's win over archrival Auburn and assume the Crimson Tide barely survived a 3-0 victory over the Tigers. In reality, any objective observer sitting among the crowd of more than 45,000 at Birmingham's Legion Field would have to admit Alabama's defense controlled the outcome from start to finish, and one field goal was all the Tide needed. Auburn played without its star player, fullback Ed Dyas, but even his presence might not have been enough against an Alabama that held the Tigers to 68 yards rushing and slowed the Auburn passing game with two interceptions. Auburn only managed one first down in the first half and never advanced further than the Alabama 41-yard line. In the second half, the Tigers never moved past the Bama 43, with help from halfback Billy Richardson's 70-yard quick kick. When the Tide had the ball, gritty quarterback Pat Trammell led Alabama with 62 yards rushing and directed two drives into scoring territory, but end Tommy Booker, playing for the first time in a month due to an injury, missed his first field goal attempt from the Auburn 23 early in the first quarter. Given a second chance, Booker connected from the Auburn 12 midway through the second quarter. Alabama didn't need any more points. "Jerry Claiborne (Alabama assistant coach) kept telling me all along if we didn't give 'em anything they wouldn't score," Coach Bear Bryant said. "Now, I respect Jerry's opinion as much as anybody's in the country, but I just didn't believe we could keep Auburn from scoring. ... We didn't give 'em anything on our end of the field." At 8-1-1. the victory propelled the Tide into the Bluebonnet Bowl, where it tied Texas 3-3.
| || |
Alabama: 32; Georgia: 6
September 23, 1961
After finishing 5-4-1 in 1958, 7-2-2 in 1959, and 8-1-2 in 1960, the national sportswriters and coaches took notice and Alabama entered the 1961 season ranked third in the preseason football polls behind Iowa and Ohio State. The Crimson Tide immediately validated its high ranking by winning 32-6 at Georgia, Alabama's most one-sided win over the Bulldogs since 1926. Alabama led only 10-0 at halftime, but used its superior depth on a hot, humid afternoon to wear down the Bulldogs. Alabama played 43 of the 44 players it brought to Athens, Ga. "I think it was the hottest game we've ever been in," Coach Bear Bryant said. "I think we played 40 in the first half." The defense did its part by holding Georgia to just one first down in the first half and five overall, and the Bulldogs' lone score came on the final play of the game against the Tide reserves. On offense, Bama rushed for 167 yards, highlighted by two touchdowns from junior fullback Mike Fracchia, senior quarterback Pat Trammell threw a 37-yard touchdown pass to halfback Butch Wilson, and sophomore kicker Tim Davis connected on a 41-yard field goal.
| || |
Alabama: 35; Vanderbilt: 6
October 7, 1961
For the two previous seasons, quarterback Pat Trammell's conservative play calling often frustrated Alabama followers. It turns out Trammell knew what he was doing all along. "As a quarterback, Pat had no ability," Coach Bear Bryant said. "He was not a great runner, but he could score touchdowns. He didn't pass with great style, but he completed passes. All he could do was beat you." Trammell did just that in a 35-6 victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville, directing a relentless Crimson Tide attack with three touchdowns, 110 yards rushing on just nine carries, and 95 yards passing while completing six of 10 attempts. "I suspect it was Trammell's best game," Bryant said. Add a 66-yard run by junior Mike Fracchia, and the Tide's 421 total offensive yards were simply too much for a Vanderbilt team that also failed to mount much of an offensive effort against an Alabama defense that allowed only eight pass completions in 26 attempts and intercepted four passes. "It was one of the best games we've played," said Bryant, whose fourth-ranked team improved to 3-0. How good? Vanderbilt coach Art Guepe had caught part of top-ranked Iowa's 35-34 victory over USC on TV that day, and insisted, "(Alabama) just ran over us, around us, and anyway they could go. Alabama rates a top rating. They did as good as Iowa did on TV today."
| || |
Alabama: 26; North Carolina State: 7
October 14, 1961
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa, Alabama rededicated newly expanded Denny Stadium and expanded its own national reputation in the process. North Carolina State came to town riding the arm of star quarterback Roman Gabriel, but it was Alabama quarterback Pat Trammell and the Crimson Tide defense that carried the day for a 26-7 victory. In the first half, Gabriel completed nine of 12 passes for 93 yards and scored the Wolfpack's lone touchdown, but Alabama's halftime adjustments held Gabriel in check through most of the second half. Meanwhile, Trammell, unheralded as a passer in comparison to Gabriel, completed 10 of 14 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another score. Alabama's ends also did their part: Richard Williamson caught three passes for 72 yards and a touchdown, Tommy Booker grabbed two for 32 yards, Raymond Abruzzesse hauled in two for 19 yards, and Bill Battle caught a touchdown pass. "I would say we just got whipped," N.C. State coach Earl Edwards said. Four games into the season, the undefeated Tide defense had allowed just 19 points, and the offense was gaining ground just in time for a critical SEC showdown with Tennessee.
| || |
Alabama: 34; Tennessee: 3
October 21, 1961
Despite four impressive wins by a combined score of 102-19, perhaps no one but Coach Bear Bryant himself understood how good Alabama really was entering its fifth game of the season, against rival Tennessee at Birmingham's Legion Field. The press didn't seem too impressed, dropping the Crimson Tide from fourth to fifth in the national rankings. By the time Alabama dominated Tennessee for a 34-3 victory, most doubters understood – including some of the Tide players. "We beat Tennessee 34-3 in Birmingham and after that game he came on the bus after the game and told us we had a great football team," All-American lineman Billy Neighbors says. "Three or four weeks before he had told us we wouldn't win a game, that we were sorry as hell." Bryant, known to be cautious with public praise, admitted "I'd say that was the best game an Alabama team has ever played against Tennessee since I've been here. In fact, it must be one of the best games Alabama ever played." It helped to have a defense that held Tennessee to a 53-yard field, 38 rushing yards, and 23 passing yards, as well as a senior quarterback in Pat Trammell, who completed 13 of 19 passes for 156 yards. "You can't really single out anyone until after you've looked at the films, but goodness, you had to notice Trammell," Bryant said.
| || |
Alabama: 17; Houston: 0
October 28, 1961
Shutouts were the theme for top-ranked teams on Oct. 28, 1961, with No. 1 Michigan State defeating Indiana 35-0, No. 2 Ole Miss beating Vanderbilt 47-0, and No. 5 Iowa losing 9-0 at unranked Purdue. Of course, strong defensive performances were nothing new for a fourth-ranked Alabama team that traveled to Houston leading the nation in defense, having allowed just 22 points in five games. Once again, Bama’s defense, led by linebackers Lee Roy Jordan and Darwin Holt and lineman Billy Neighbors, overwhelmed its opponents on the way to a 17-0 victory. On the other side of the ball, quarterback Pat Trammell produced another winning performance by accounting for both Crimson Tide touchdowns, scoring on a run and completing nine of 14 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Halfback Mike Fracchia added 86 yards of rushing.
| || |
Alabama: 24; Mississippi State: 0
November 4, 1961
Fourth-ranked Alabama managed to win twice on Nov. 4, 1961, but Coach Bear Bryant was hardly impressed. Following a businesslike 24-0 homecoming victory over Mississippi State in front of 39,000 rain-soaked fans, Bryant looked ahead to that evening’s LSU-Ole Miss game and insisted, “I doubt very, very seriously if there’ll be an undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference when it’s all over.” Bryant, for the moment, was at least correct about Ole Miss; the No. 2 Rebels lost 10-7 at No. 6 LSU, leaving Alabama as the lone undefeated team in the SEC. Even then, Bryant was quick to downplay his team’s standing. “I think Georgia Tech’s the best team in the league,” he said. “I’ve said that all along.” Perhaps the fans and the press were quick to dismiss his statement, but the Crimson Tide players got the message as they turned their attention to the next game against unheralded Richmond. Despite a defense that recorded a second consecutive shutout and 116 rushing yards from halfback Mike Fracchia, Bryant said, “The first team that takes advantage of all our mistakes is going to beat us good if we keep on making ‘em.” With an eye on the long-range plan, Bryant vowed the Tide would practice in full pads on the next Monday and spend its week hitting. “We’re going to get the harness out and correct a few of these things.”
| || |
Alabama: 66; Richmond: 0
November 11, 1961
The combination of losses by No. 1 Michigan State and No. 2 Ole Miss the previous week allowed Alabama to move from fourth to second in the national polls, and a visit from undermanned and overwhelmed Richmond gave the Crimson Tide what it needed on this day in Tuscaloosa. Coach Bear Bryant was able to play 50 players while his defense recorded its third consecutive shutout, lowering its points-per-game total to an astonishing 3.33 over eight games. The offense also did its part, setting team records with 616 total offensive yards and 330 passing yards. Between the rankings and the impressive victory, it’s no wonder the fans and the media were starting to look past the next opponent, Georgia Tech, and forward to the possibility of a national championship and a major bowl appearance. Bryant, however, would have none of it. “I’m not interested in talking about bowls right now,” Bryant said. “I’m more interested in talking about the Richmond game and Georgia Tech.”
| || |
Alabama: 10; Georgia Tech: 0
November 18, 1961
Less than a month after Alabama coach Bear Bryant insisted that Georgia Tech might be the best team in the Southeastern Conference, the Crimson Tide not only proved itself to be the SEC’s best, but rose to the top of the national polls. On the same day TCU knocked off top-ranked Texas 6-0, No. 2 Alabama relied on yet another crushing defensive performance to beat Georgia Tech 10-0 in front of 53,000 fans at Birmingham’s Legion Field. The relentless Crimson Tide defense, led by linebackers Darwin Holt and Lee Roy Jordan and linemen Billy Neighbors and Jimmy Sharpe, recorded its fourth consecutive shutout by allowing the Yellow Jackets to earn just six first downs, 30 rushing yards, and 66 passing yards, while recording two interceptions and one fumble recovery. Georgia Tech coach Bobby Dodd was impressed, calling the Alabama defense, “Undoubtedly, the best in the nation.” Alabama’s only scores came on a 16-yard touchdown run by halfback Mike Fracchia and a 32-yard field goal by Tim Davis, but a running game that produced 170 yards and a punting game that held Tech to three return yards combined to control the ball and establish the field position. Bama ran 65 plays while Tech ran only 44, including just six in the third quarter. “There’s the top example of ball control,” Bryant said. “I thought (quarterback) Pat Trammell did an excellent job of play calling and keeping the football for us.” The combined effort proved to be enough to persuade even the most demanding critic. “They convinced me today they are a great team,” Bryant said. “I am convinced that this football team has class. It’s just a great team.” How great? “This (Alabama) team,” Dodd said, “has got to be the No. 1 team in the nation.”
| || |
Alabama: 34; Auburn: 0
December 2, 1961
One year after a 3-0 victory over Auburn that wasn’t nearly as close as the final score indicated, top-ranked Alabama left no room for doubt against its archrivals. The Crimson Tide, in its first week atop the national polls, recorded its fifth consecutive shutout and its sixth in 10 regular-season games with a dominating 34-0 victory over Auburn at Birmingham’s Legion Field. Bama’s defense intercepted four passes and recovered a fumble, while senior quarterback Pat Trammell accounted for two touchdowns (one run, one pass) and halfback Billy Richardson ran for two scores. “I figure it would be an anti-climax to say this was the best football team we played all year, but it sure was,” said Auburn coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan, “and they definitely should be the national champions.” The Tide only had to wait a few minutes after the game to accept an invitation from the Sugar Bowl to play Arkansas on New Year’s Day, but it had to wait three more days to learn what most college football followers already expected: Alabama had earned the national championship in both major polls, making good on Bryant’s vow to his first freshmen, now seniors, that they would someday, "be undefeated and win the national championship before y'all leave here - if you'll do what I tell you to do." In the afterglow of the Auburn win, Bryant acknowledged the contributions and commitments of those seniors, saying, “I’m tremendously proud of this football team and tremendously proud of the seniors. They had enough confidence in their state university to go all the way. They came here four years ago when football was at the low ebb. They came with a purpose, and I think it’s very fitting they should graduate with a national championship.”
Alabama: 10; Arkansas: 3
January 1, 1962
New Orleans, LA
Having already faced and lost to Texas and Ole Miss earlier in the season, No. 9 Arkansas figured it knew what it was getting into when it accepted an invitation to play No. 1 Alabama in the Sugar Bowl on January 1, 1962. After all, the Razorbacks were co-champions of the Southwest Conference and entered the Sugar Bowl ranked ninth in the nation in total defense, allowing only 177.4 yards per game. Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, nothing had prepared them for a 10-0 Alabama team with a defense that allowed only 22 points during the regular season, led the nation in three categories, set 10 school defensive records, and recorded six shutouts, including five straight to end the season. "They played,” said Alabama Coach Bear Bryant, “like it was a sin to give up a point.'' That defense proved to be the biggest difference between the two teams as Alabama defeated Arkansas 10-3 to secure a perfect finish to its season. The Crimson Tide held the Razorbacks to seven first downs, intercepted three passes, recovered one fumble, and limited Arkansas star Lance Alworth to 15 rushing yards on 10 carries. Films of the game (http://www.allstatesugarbowl.org/site138.php) show All-American lineman Billy Neighbors (No. 73) and All-American linebacker Lee Roy Jordan (No. 54) busting through blocks and having their way with Arkansas ball carriers. “We knew when we went into the game that we were going to have trouble grinding out yardage against this team.” Arkansas coach Frank Broyles said, “but, we never thought it would be this hard. We just couldn’t get our offense going. I guess the main reason was Alabama’s great defense.” Even though Alabama scored only 10 points, the Crimson Tide offense controlled the ball most of the game by rushing for 234 yards on 49 carries, including 124 yards on 20 carries from halfback Mike Fracchia and 69 yards on 18 carries from quarterback Pat Trammell, who scored the game’s only touchdown on a 12-yard rumble six plays into the game. “I thought it was a great game.” Bryant said. “I’m as proud of them as if the score had been 100-0. We came to play. Our boys rose up real well and stopped them on the big plays. Fracchia didn’t let them catch their breath with his shots up the middle and Trammell, like always, did whatever he had to do. Our boys did a good job stopping Lance Alworth. He’s a good competitor, but we just didn’t give him a chance today. If we had, it could have been a different ball game.”
Richard Scott is an award-winning author with more than 25 years experience in books, newspapers, magazines, and Internet media. His books include Legends of Alabama Football, Tales From the Auburn 2004 Championship Season, and SEC Football: 75 Years of Pride and Passion. He has covered a wide variety of sports, from professional football, baseball, basketball, golf, auto racing, and tennis to college football, basketball, and baseball, we well as major events such as college football national championships and NCAA Tournaments.
You might be interested in the following related items: