Twenty points may not seem like much. But the twenty scored by Alabama in the 1926 Rose Bowl rocked the college football world.
The early years of the college game were dominated by Ivy League teams. In the early 20th century it was taken over by midwest teams like Michigan and Notre Dame. A former Penn fullback named Andy Smith went west and soon turned Cal into a powerhouse and many west coast teams followed suit. And this is where most of the nation's attention (outside the southeast) remained in the first quarter of the century. Little respect was given to the teams in the southeast region of the United States.
By the early 1920s, the Rose Bowl became the first "MNC" (Mythical National Championship) game, often matching up the two best teams in the nation. The 10-0-1 Washington Huskies were perceived as the biggest baddest team of the 1925 season. As the Pacific Coast Conference champs, they were invited to play in the Rose Bowl on January 1, 1926. But who would oppose them?
Dartmouth was invited but turned down the invitation, complacent with their 8-0 season and their status as the recognized "eastern champions". Tulane (9-0-1) also rejected an offer when the school administration felt their players were too small to compete with the massive Huskies. Princeton and Colgate were also offered and declined. The next move was to the perceived southern champs - Alabama.
In late 1925, Coach Wallace Wade put his Alabama Crimson Tide team on a train and traveled 2,000 miles across the country to Pasadena, California to face Goliath.
The season had been a dominating one for the Crimson Tide as they had a perfect 9-0 record giving up only seven points on the entire season (against Birmingham-Southern in a 50-7 rout). Despite this excellent season, Bama was not making a lot of headlines outside the region.
Most observers assumed that the Tide would be destroyed. Some say the Huskies did not even work hard in their preparation for the game. Meanwhile, Wade trained his team like they were going into war, even making them do drills at train stops along the way.
50,000 fans watched as Alabama fell behind Washington 12-0 in the first half. But the Tide came out inspired in the second half exploding for 3 straight touchdowns totaling 20 points. It was enough to hold off the heavily favored Huskies 20–19, changing the college football landscape forever.
The game sent shock waves through the nation, generating a new found respect for southern football and the South in general. Some would say it aided in reconstruction, healing harsh feelings of the Civil War still fresh on the minds of some Americans. It brought back pride back to the South.
Quarterback Allison "Pooley" Hubert, guard Bill Buckler, and halfback Johnny Mack Brown were named All-Americans. Buckler was also the team's kicker who converted two vital extra points that made the difference in the game (cue the kicking jokes). The Huskies missed two of their three chances.
Brown quickly became the toast of the sporting world. A few months after this game, he would sign an acting contract with MGM and went on to star in 167 feature films, most of them westerns, and two TV guest starring roles. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Following Alabama's 1926 Rose Bowl victory over Washington, the student newspaper, The Rammer-Jammer, held a contest for the composition of a fight song. The winning entry was the song we all know so well: "Yea Alabama".
The fight song we sing today is a shorter version of the original but it still tells the history of this game and what made Alabama football what it is today:
Yea, Alabama! Drown 'em Tide!
Every 'Bama man's behind you,
Hit your stride.
Go teach the Bulldogs to behave,
Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave.
And if a man starts to weaken,
That's a shame!
For Bama's pluck and grit have
Writ her name in Crimson flame.
Fight on, fight on, fight on men!
Remember the Rose Bowl, we'll win then.
Roll on to victory,
Hit your stride,
You're Dixie's football pride,
Crimson Tide, Roll Tide, Roll Tide!!