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Great Plays in Shula Play Calling History: Wilson to McClain

When deciding to start this series of posts about less remembered, but still great plays in Alabama history, I didn't really take into account how recent most of the stuff on YouTube is. Sure, there is a lot of older Bama stuff on YouTube, but most of it's classic stuff that EVERYBODY knows. Since we're going for stuff that's not remembered as much, these plays typically aren't on YouTube as much. So, while there's nothing particularly great about this play (other than it sealed only one of two SEC victories that year), it was certainly great at the time. What greatness it does possess is primarily by virtue of its unexpectedness.

Though Alabama is currently riding a seven game winning streak against Col. Reb, Admiral Akbar Ole Miss (yes, I know three of them were "vacated"), they often haven't been the prettiest of wins. Ole Miss always seems to be a thorn in Alabama's side--forcing us into ugly and/or terribly boring close games. For some reason, we've seldom been capable of decisively beating this team lately despite often having vastly superior personnel. 

2006 wasn't a particularly glorious year for either program. Both Alabama and Ole Miss ended up going 2-6 in the conference (both beat Vanderbilt) and both had 1-5 divisional records. Alabama finished fourth in the West that year by virtue of the head to head tiebreaker with Ole Miss. Only Mississippi State, 1-7 in SEC play that year (with a win over us!) had a decisively worse season. Needless to say, this wasn't one of the Crimson Tide's glory years. Anyway, onto this game...

Mike Shula and company were never known for particularly creative play calling. We've all made our fair share of "Darby up the middle" jokes and even our daily links post, "The Jumbo Package" derives its name from Shula's favorite short yardage formation. Tim Castille, the featured back in the the Jumbo Package, had four carries this day, all of them from inside Ole Miss' 10 yard line. 

Castille's rushing stat line for the day is about as unsurprising as an unsurprising thing:

4 carries - 6 yards - 1.5 average - 1 touchdown

As mentioned earlier, our games against Ole Miss aren't particularly pretty or satisfying for the most part and this game was no exception. Besides two big passing TDs (one from each team), this was a game of field goals and 2 yard TD runs (both teams' other regulation time TDs came from 2 yard runs.) At the end of the fourth quarter, the game stands tied at 20-20 with neither side looking particularly impressive. Despite having no turnovers and racking up over 400 yards of offense, Alabama just couldn't get the ball into the endzone on a regular basis. Both of Christensen's field goals that day were 26 yarders that came off of solid drives of 51 yards and 63 yards. Alabama was moving the ball, but experiencing red zone woes as was so often the case during these years. 

In overtime, Ole Miss picks up 9 yards on their first play, but picks up a five yard false start penalty before 2nd down, now leaving them at 2nd at 6. They complete a four yard pass and then lose 2 yards on a rushing play on 3rd and two. At fourth and four, Orgeron makes the smart call and opts for the field goal. 23-20 Ole Miss.

On Alabama's possession, you get exactly what you expect. The first two plays are rushes from Darby for a combined seven yards. Alabama picks up a first down on third and three on a five yard pass to possession receiver Will Oakley. With a new set of downs, it's Darby again on first and second down for a combined 9 yards. John Parker Wilson does the QB sneak for a yard to pick up the first down. It's now first and goal at three and we all know what that means: JUMBO PACKAGE! And you know what, we did all know it was coming as did Ole Miss. Castille was held to a combined one yard on first and second down. We all know there ain't no party like a jumbo package party 'cause a jumbo package party don't stop. I remember sitting there in the stands thinking, "Well, Castille might get a yard on this next carry and then it'll be a FG and then double overtime." And then we did the unthinkable, we passed in a short yardage the fullback! Wilson hits Le'Ron McClain almost the second he's out of the backfield and it's a 26-23 win for Bama. Here is that play in all of its home footage glory:


Looking back over our long illustrious history, this win was but a blip on the radar screen, but it felt like the world at the time given how badly that season was going. We had no idea how bad it would be three weeks later with a home loss to Mississippi State. I personally have fond memories of this victory over Ole Miss because it's the only time my brother's Auburn fan wife has ever been to a game with us. All I could think of when it went into overtime was "This will be the crappiest car ride home ever if we lose this game...we can't lose this game." Thankfully the football gods smiled on Bryant-Denny that day and prevented that scenario for me.