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On this day in sports history


The Greenville Standard


Today, I will discuss the University of Alabama 1973 UPI National Championship Team.

Alabama’s 1972 team was undefeated and ranked #2 entering the Auburn game. Up 16-0, Auburn kicked a 42 yard field goal, 16-3. Then Auburn blocked two punts in a row to win 17-16.

Then Alabama played Texas in the Cotton Bowl. They were up 13-3 and lost 17-13. A possible national championship went down the drain.

That sting motivated the 1973 team. Alabama finished seventh in the final AP Poll in 1972. They were ranked number six in the preseason AP poll.

Alabama lost five starters on offense and three on defense. Alabama opened the season on Sept. 15 at Legion Field vs California. It was the nightcap of a double-header at Legion Field with Auburn playing Oregon State in the afternoon and winning 18-9. It was last double header at Legion Field.

Alabama blasted California 66-0. Alabama gained 667 yards to Cal’s 250.

On Sept. 22, Alabama traveled to Kentucky. Alabama trailed 14-0 at the half. Willie Shelby returned the second half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Alabama dominated the second to win 28-14. Alabama gained 401 yards offense, Kentucky 181.

Sept. 29, Alabama traveled to Vanderbilt. Alabama dominated from the get go winning 44-0. Alabama gained 574 yards, Vanderbilt 160.

On Oct. 6, Georgia visited Denny Stadium. Alabama led 13-3 at the half. Alabama had two touchdowns called back and missed three field goals. Georgia blocked a punt for a safety, then kicked a field goal to make score 13-8. Georgia then scored a touchdown to go up 14-13 with around three minutes left in the game.

Willie Shelby made a long run to set up touchdown for the win. Alabama went for two and made it. Georgia turned the ball over on downs. Alabama scored another touchdown to win 28-14. Alabama gained 382 yards and held Georgia to 172 yards.

On Oct. 3, Alabama traveled to Florida. Alabama’s first touchdown was recovering a blocked punt. The offense scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win 35-14. Alabama gained 248 yards, Florida 233 yards.

On Oct. 20, Tennessee (10) visited Legion Field. It was an early kickoff because of the World Series. On the opening play of the game, Gary Rutledge connected with Wayne Wheeler for an 80-yard touchdown pass. Going into the fourth quarter, the score was 21-21.

Then an avalanche hit Tennessee. Robin Cary returned a punt 64-yard punt for a touchdown. Alabama got the ball back and Wilbur Jackson scored on an 80-yard run.

Tennessee fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Alabama recovered. A few plays later, Paul Spivey scored a touchdown.

When the smoke cleared, the score was 42-21. Alabama could have scored again. The ball was on the Tennessee nine when the game ended. Alabama gained 524 yards, Tennessee 295.

On Oct. 27, Virginia Tech visited Denny Stadium. Alabama had four runners to gain over 100 yards each. Alabama set NCAA records for rushing and total offense, 748 and 833 yards.

Both have been broken since then. Virginia Tech gained 289 yards.

On Nov. 3, Alabama faced Mississippi State in Jackson. It was another doubleheader, Ole Miss-LSU day game. Alabama had 487 yards, Miss State had 283 yards.

On Nov. 17, Homecoming, Alabama faced Miami. Willie Shelby and Duffy Boles returned punts for touchdowns. Alabama won 43-13.

On Nov. 22, Alabama played LSU on Thanksgiving night. The game was on national TV. Both teams were undefeated.

QB Gary Rutledge was named National Back of the Week. He was 5-6 passing for 175 yards. He had two touchdowns and a 19-yard touchdown run. Alabama won 21-7.

On Dec. 1, Alabama played Auburn at Legion Field. Revenge was on Alabama’s mind. Alabama blasted Auburn 35-0. Alabama gained 405 yards to Auburn’s 192.

Alabama won The UPI National Championship after the Auburn game. They went to the Sugar Bowl to play for the AP National Championship. Notre Dame was the opponent.

The Sugar Bowl kicking game haunted Alabama. They gave up 93 kickoff return yards and Notre Dame made a two point conversion, which was big for Notre Dame.

Alabama missed the last PAT. Notre Dame barely making a field goal broke Alabama’s heart. It was the best offense of the wishbone era.

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