In the final installment of Championships of the Past, we look at the 1992 Alabama Crimson Tide. This team went 13-0 beating the Miami Hurricanes in the Sugar Bowl 34-13 to claim its then 12th National Title. What makes this team significant is that it was the first Crimson Tide team to win 13 games in a season. 1992 was the first year of the SEC Championship Game so they played one extra game. You can read about this game here. It was also the first championship played since the passing of legendary coach Paul “Bear” Bryant 10 years earlier.
The 1992 Alabama team was led by a strong defense, some say the best in the last 30 years. Anchored by All-American defensive ends John Copeland and Eric Curry along with cornerbacks Antonio Langham and George Teague, this defense held their opponents to a scoring average of 9.2 points a game. Copeland and Curry had 10.5 sacks each. Head coach Gene Stallings went conservative on offense relying on the running game of Derrick Lassic and Sherman Williams. He also had a game manager at quarterback, Jay Barker, who rarely made mistakes to put the team in a bad situation. This combination of offense and defense was a perfect match that allowed the team to thrive and go undefeated as they would meet the Miami Hurricanes in the 1993 Sugar Bowl to decide the national championship.
The Tide was a heavy underdog to the defending national champions. Miami entered with a 29 game winning streak and Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Gino Torretta. The game information from Wikipedia: “Though Miami were favorites to claim the victory, Alabama’s defense held the Hurricanes to just 13 points, while intercepting Torretta three times, in route to a 34–13 victory to claim their 12th National Championship. Alabama rushed for 267 yards—67 more yards than the Hurricanes had allowed all season. A legendary play in Alabama football lore, known as “The Strip”, occurred when Miami wide receiver Lamar Thomas caught a pass and sprinted for an 89-yard touchdown throw from Torretta, when Alabama’s George Teague caught him from behind, stripped the ball from him, and started running the other way before being tackled. The play became famous following Thomas’s pre-game comments regarding the SEC, the superiority of the Miami receiving corps, and the manhood of the Alabama defensive backs. The play was negated by an Alabama offside penalty, but the strip was still successful in preventing a Miami touchdown on the play, as Miami would have simply declined the penalty had the strip not taken place. At one point, the Tide lined up all eleven players up to the line of scrimmage, confusing Torretta, which led to an interception returned for a touchdown.”
This team has a special place in the hearts of Alabama fans. It was the first national championship since “The Bear.” It was the team that ended the era of “The U” and the Miami Hurricanes mystique. It proved that Bama could be back on top and not just reliving championships from the past.