Needless to say, Alabama and Penn State have a lot in common. We both have had (and in their case still have) one of the most legendary coaches to ever grace a sideline. We both have simple, classic uniforms. We're both renowned for smothering defenses and offenses that would rather run it down your throat than wow you with flash through the air. We've also shared some incredibly significant moments on the football field as competitors, with none more important than the 1979 Sugar Bowl (featuring the famous goal line stand) that Alabama won 14-7 for the national championship for the 1978 season. In 1981, the two teams began a 10 game series that featured some legendary moments for both programs. Alabama came out of that 10 game series with a 6-4 record. Fans of both teams were overjoyed when the rivalry was finally reborn in Tuscaloosa last fall. When trying to decide what clip to showcase this week, I decided on going with something from Bobby Humphrey. I have a good friend from Denver that is a HUGE Broncos fan. As a little kid growing up in Denver, he said he adored Humphrey, but that he didn't realize until moving to Alabama as an adult that Humphrey played at Alabama. I told him I'd find a way to work Bobby Humphrey into a blog post, so here it is.
This play appears in the TRADITION video that's played before all home games, but I figured that while most fans have probably seen the play because of that video, that there are probably quite a few that don't know what game it was from and what the context of that play in that particular game was. We here at RBR always love a bit of history, so sit back and enjoy.
To say that Penn State was enjoying a bit of success in the early to mid-1980s would be a bit of an understatement. The Nittany Lions won a national championship in 1982 (their only loss coming to Alabama) and then again in 1986, when they went 11-0 in the regular season before knocking off Miami 14-10 in the Fiesta Bowl. Two national championships in five years along with quite a few recent 10 win seasons found the Penn State program among the nation's truly elite.
Coming into the 1987 game against Alabama, Penn State was 24-1 since the start of the 1985 season--their only loss coming against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl at the end of the '85 season. With Alabama rolling into Happy Valley in early 1987, Penn State was on 13 game winning streak. Both teams came into the contest 1-0. Alabama was ranked #19 and Penn State was ranked #10.
Bobby Humphrey's TD run came in the first quarter. After receiving the quick pitch, Humphrey cut the ball to the interior right where six would be tacklers made contact with him. This run had it all: the power to break tackles, a spin move to fake out tacklers and then breakaway speed that left Penn State defenders staring at the back of the #26 jersey on the way to a 7-0 Alabama lead. Though Alabama won the game comfortably (24-13), it was significant to score on the defending national champions so early and in such convincing fashion. Alabama snapped Penn States's 13 game win streak and Humphrey had an absolutely massive day: 36 carries for 220 yards and he was 1 of 1 passing for 57 yards. Humphrey's pass was one yard shy of a TD. Both teams went on to slightly above average seasons with Alabama finishing at 7-5 and Penn State at 8-4. While it may not have been a landmark year for Alabama as a team, Humphrey had a solid season rushing for 1,255 yards and 11 TDs. His 1987 campaign brought us this highlight and a tenth place finish in Heisman voting.