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  • Nick Norris

Legion Field’s Greatest Games

The fall air blowing through Legion Field was a bit warmer than Joe Namath had become accustomed to in New York, but it certainly felt like home. Though he may have been sporting green and white instead of his old crimson jersey, this did not stop him from doing what he did best: Win. On the night of September 22, 1968 at Legion Field, Namath led the Jets to a 47-31 victory over the Boston Patriots. That same year, before the Jets claimed Super Bowl III as their own, the famed quarterback made his iconic guarantee.

In its 92 years of existence since construction began in 1926, Legion Field has been the home of an incredible amount of history. Music legends such as The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd have performed concerts there, and the stadium played host to preliminary soccer matches in the 1996 Summer Olympics.

On December 5, 1974, the now-defunct World Football League (WFL) hosted its first and only “World Bowl,” after which the league immediately collapsed. The Birmingham Americans defeated the Florida Blazers in a stunning one-point victory, 22-21.

A man who molded himself into a true football legend, Herschel Walker, is also part of Legion Field history. In 1984, Walker and his New Jersey Generals took to the field to play the Birmingham Stallions in front of a crowd of 62,500. The Generals won, 17-6.

Of course, the most historic moments have been the result of the many football games played at Legion Field. These are the 15 greatest games ever played at “The Old Grey Lady” in Birmingham.

15.) 1993- Florida Gets Even After the thrilling conclusion that ended in a Florida defeat to the Crimson Tide in the same game only a year prior, Florida was ready for a rematch on December 4th, 1993. They earned the chance, and got their revenge, winning  28-13. The game sent Florida to the Sugar Bowl, where they proceeded to thump West Virginia, 41-7, to conclude an 11-2 season. 

14.)  1948- The Rivalry Returns In 1948, the Iron Bowl was reinstated after a hiatus of 41 years. This year also marks the first ever Iron Bowl played at Legion Field. Make no mistake, this game does not make the list for being fun to watch. Alabama destroyed Auburn in the largest margin of victory ever in the series, 55-0. This game made the list simply for its historic value in reuniting the two teams.

13.) 1971- The Streak is Over After losing four straight to Tennessee, Paul “Bear” Bryant was ready to snap this streak against his most hated team. On October 16th, 1971, that is exactly what he did, as the Tide won 32-15. This game also began a new streak between the rivals. Alabama won the next ten consecutive games in the series.

12.) 2011- The Blazers’ Epic Upset UAB hosted a game on November 17th, 2011 against Southern Mississippi, who went into the game ranked 20th in the nation and would later win the Conference USA title. But the Golden Eagles could not beat the Blazers on this day. After UAB made a 38-yard field goal to take the lead late in the game, Southern Miss was not done. It took Jamie Bender blocking the final pass by Southern Miss to end the drive and seal the win. UAB won at home, 34-31.

11.) 1964- First Televised Iron Bowl Joe Namath was winning at Legion Field long before his win with the Jets. On November 26th, 1964, the Iron Bowl made its first nationwide televised debut. In this game, Ray Ogden made his famous 107-yard untouched return to take the lead. The Tide beat the Tigers 21-14. After the game, the AP poll crowned Alabama as national champions.

10.) 1986- The Sack Alabama needed a bang in the series against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish had won all four games in the previous matches with the Tide. That changed on October 4th, 1986. It was Lou Holtz’s first year coaching at Notre Dame, and Ray Perkins’ second-ranked Tide let the Irish know that they meant business–early. In the first quarter, Cornelius Bennett made a bone-crushing sack on quarterback Steve Beuerlein. This hit went down in history as “The Sack.” Bama won, 28-10.

9.) 1986- Same Year. Different Outcome. Legion Field saw another historic game later that year on November 29th. This time, it arrived the form of the Iron Bowl. Alabama was up with only 32 seconds left in the game, but Auburn refused to give up. Lawyer Tillman ran a reverse around the end for the game winning touchdown, giving Auburn a  21-17 victory. 

8.) 1969- The Legends are True Archie Manning. Scott Hunter. Before college football had aired on national television, companies were uncertain fans would watch. ABC took a chance and aired the first major primetime game on national television from Legion Field on October 4th, 1969. Alabama took on Ole Miss and Archie Manning in one of the greatest classics of all-time. Quarterback Scott Hunter for Alabama took a shot on 4th-and-14 to win the game and the rest is history. With a 33-32 victory, Alabama proved to the nation that all the talk surrounding the greatness of their program was true. With a stellar performance of his own, passing for 436 yards and running for 104 more, Archie Manning did the same. 

7.) 1984- Wrong Way Bo This was, without a doubt, another high stakes Iron Bowl with another climatic ending. On December 1st, 1984, Alabama and Auburn met once again at Legion Field, the second such contest after the passing of Bryant. The entire game was fierce and every point was earned. The game came down to a goal line stand by Alabama. Luckily for the Tide, Bo Jackson ran the wrong way on 4th and 1 and Alabama survived, 17-15.

6.) 1981- 315 The 1981 Iron Bowl, held on November 28th, resulted in Bryant’s 315th win, deeming him the winningest coach of all-time. This was also the final win in the 9-game winning streak Alabama held over Auburn, the longest in the series. The Tide rolled, 28-17. After the game, Bryant needled Auburn’s Pat Dye, a former assistant under Bryant and native of Georgia. “Governor Jimmy Carter just called me,” Bryant said. “Governor Reagan?” Dye said confusedly.  “Well, Regan too,” Bryant added. 

5.) 1967- The Run in the Mud December 2nd, 1967 was a cold, rainy night. A night prepped for college football history. After the Tide offense had stalled for three quarters, quarterback Kenny Stabler ran for a 53-yard touchdown to win the game, 7-3. Stabler’s run is considered one of the most iconic plays in Tide history. 

4.) 1982- Bo Over the Top Bo Jackson made history in many ways throughout his career. A play on November 27th, 1982, however, is so enduring that artwork depicting the play sells to this day. With only 2 minutes left, the Tigers needed to score to snap the 9-year losing streak in this series. Bo came through–or over actually–by leaping linemen for the game-winning touchdown. Auburn won a huge one at Legion Field, 23-22. It was Bear Bryant’s last Iron Bowl. He died less than two months later. 

3.) 1972- Punt Bama Punt On December 2nd, 1972, Alabama arrived at the Iron Bowl undefeated, and Auburn was entering the game with only one loss. The Tigers were a 14-point underdog, and for the first three quarters, that seemed to be a fair prediction. With the Tigers down 16-3, Alabama lined up for a punt in the 4th quarter, but Bill Newton blocked the punt and David Langner scooped it up for a 25-yard touchdown. On the very next drive, the Tide was forced to punt again. Incredulously, the same result happened once more: Newton blocked it and Langner returned it for another touchdown. The game went down as “Punt Bama Punt.” Auburn won, 17-16.

2.) 1992- The Pick This game was historic before it was even played. Legion Field was home to the first ever SEC Championship on December 5th, 1992, and the game pitted two powerhouses: Florida and Alabama. For Alabama, much was at stake. The Tide needed the win to advance to the national championship. The game came down to a moment that would be forever etched in Tide history. In the 4th quarter, the score was tied at 21 and Florida had the momentum. Antonio Langham changed that with a pick-six of a Shane Matthews pass. On a frigid night, Alabama won the first ever SEC Championship, 28-21, and went on to defeat Miami in the USF&G Sugar Bowl for the 1992 national championship. 

1.) 1985- The Kick This game-winning field goal on November 30th, 1985 was a magnificent a powerful moment in the history of Alabama football. Van Tiffin completed a 52-yard field goal as time expired for the win. Though it is not Tiffin’s longest successful field goal, it is his most famous. The Tide won again, 25-23. H&A 

This article was originally posted by Hall & Arena.

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