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92 Days 'Til Kickoff: The 1992 Alabama Football Season

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Gene Stallings' '92 squad showed the Tide could win championships without the Bear.

Right about now, Gino Torretta is peeing his pants.
Right about now, Gino Torretta is peeing his pants.
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images

Alabama Crimson Tide football typically does not have cute little nicknames for individual seasons. But if the season had one, it could be "A Return To Glory". Celebrating the school's 100th year of football, Alabama had a memorable ride in 1992.

THE BACKSTORY

The late Bear Bryant won National Championships in 1961, 1964, 1965, 1973, 1978, and 1979. He retired after the 1982 season leaving behind some massive shoes to be filled. Former New York Giants head coach and former Bama star Ray Perkins attempted to bring back the magic but left for the Tampa Bay Bucs after four seasons and a 32–15–1 (14–9–1) record.

In a baffling move, the administration then turned to Georgia Tech coach Bill Curry who had no ties to Alabama and a 31–43–4 record coaching his alma mater. Three seasons and three straight Iron Bowl losses was more than enough to realize this square peg did not fit.

Frustrated and hungry to return to winning ways, Alabama went back to their Bear Bryant roots hiring former Tide assistant (1958–1964) Gene Stallings who was one of the "Junction Boys" under Bryant at Texas A&M. He even sounded like Bryant when he spoke in his gravelly voice.

After a tough indoctrination season (7-5) in 1990, Stallings found success in 1991 going 11-1 with the sole loss being a 35-0 defeat at the hands of Steve Spurrier and the SEC Champs Florida Gators.

1992

This team was loaded... and pissed off. The Crimson Tide returned a wealth of experience and they all had long memories. The week 2 shellacking in Gainesville, FL from the year before stuck with them and motivated this team.

Curry and Copeland

THAT DEFENSE

When you speak of all time great Crimson Tide defenses, the 1992 version HAS to be in the discussion. Led by All-Americans defensive ends Eric Curry and John Copeland, this team was big, fast, strong, and angry.

Antonio Langham and George Teague led the secondary with six interceptions apiece.

"THE DEUCE IS LOOSE"

The offensive backfield was loaded with talent: Derrick Lassic, Sherman Williams, Chris Anderson, Martin Houston, and Tarrant Lynch. With Jay Barker under center and David "The Deuce" Palmer doing basically everything else, this Tide team was a force.

THE SEASON

Date Opponent Rank Location Result
Sep 05 Vanderbilt #9 Bryant–Denny Stadium • Tuscaloosa, AL W 25–8
Sep 12 Southern Miss #8 Legion Field • Birmingham, AL W 17–10
Sep 19 at Arkansas #9 War Memorial Stadium • Little Rock, AR W 38–11
Sep 26 Louisiana Tech #7 Legion Field • Birmingham, AL W 13–0
Oct 03 South Carolina #9 Bryant–Denny Stadium • Tuscaloosa, AL W 48–7
Oct 10 at Tulane #6 Louisiana Superdome • New Orleans, Louisiana W 37–0
Oct 17 at #13 Tennessee #4 Neyland Stadium • Knoxville, TN W 17–10
Oct 24 Ole Miss #4 Bryant–Denny Stadium • Tuscaloosa, AL W 31–10
Nov 07 at LSU #3 Tiger Stadium • Baton Rouge, LA W 31–11
Nov 14 at #16 Mississippi State #2 Scott Field • Starkville, MS W 30–21
Nov 26 Auburn #2 Legion Field • Birmingham, AL W 17–0
Dec 05 vs. #12 Florida #2 Legion Field • Birmingham, AL (SEC Championship Game) W 28–21
Jan 01 vs. #1 Miami (FL) #2 Louisiana Superdome • New Orleans, LA (Sugar Bowl) W 34–13

After a slow start, the Tide finally got their motor running in a romp over South Carolina in Week 5. Outside of the MSU game, the Bama defense held opponents to 11 points or less in all their regular season games.

THE SEC CHAMPIONSHIP

The inaugural SEC Championship Game, the first football conference championship game ever, was a huge gamble for then commissioner Roy Kramer but it turned out to be a thrilling game that changed the face of college football forever.

Alabama was 11-0 and ranked #2 in the nation. They had nothing to gain by playing the dangerous 8-3 Gators. Florida looked to wreck the Tide's season, but Bama remembered how Spurrier poured it on last year and Bama would not go down without a fight.

Behind the running of Errict Rhett and the passing of Shane Matthews, the Gators tied the game up with 8:09 left. With 3:16 remaining and the Gators driving, Antonio Langham picked off a Matthews pass and returned it for a touchdown. Another Matthews interception at the 2:54 mark sealed the victory. David Palmer had 101 receiving yards and Derrick Lassic rushed for 117 yards. It was Alabama's 20th SEC Championship.

THE GREATEST PLAY THAT DIDN'T COUNT

Alabama entered the Sugar Bowl game as an underdog to the brash Miami Hurricanes. The players from the "U" danced around and trash talked but when the first whistle blew, it was the Crimson Tide that was the biggest baddest headknockers in the land.

Derrick Lassic

On the offensive side, Alabama did what Alabama has done since the days of Wallace Wade and Frank Thomas and that is "run the dang ball!" And run they did - right at the 'Canes defense. Derrick Lassic had an electric 135 yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries. Along with Lynch, Williams, Houston, and Palmer, Alabama tallied 267 yards on the ground to Miami's 48.

THE HEISMAN FLOP

Fresh off a Heisman win, Gino Torretta looked like a high school sophomore with eyes as big as saucers. Bama Defensive Coordinator "Brother" Bill Oliver dialed up some schemes that confounded and terrified the 'Canes quarterback. The Tide put nine and sometimes as many as eleven men on the line of scrimmage. They lined up Curry and Copeland on the same side. They blitzed. They bluffed blitz. It was like nothing Torretta and Miami had ever seen.

The Miami quarterback finished 24 of 56 for 278 yards (most of it in garbage time), 0 TD with three interceptions - two by Tommy Johnson and one returned by George Teague for a touchdown.

But the biggest highlight of the night was a "play that didn't count". Five plays after the pick-six, Miami completed a long pass to wide receiver/trash talker Lamar Thomas. As he raced towards the end zone, Teague came out of nowhere and stripped the ball from Thomas in full stride, maintaining possession of the ball as he returned it upfield. Although the play was called back on an offsides penalty against Alabama, it effectively squashed Miami's effort to regain their offensive momentum. Miami was forced to punt soon afterward, and never mounted another substantial offensive threat in the Crimson Tide's 34–13 victory.

Many of the Tide players from this team would go on to the NFL:

Year Round Pick Overall Player name Position NFL team
1993 1 5 5 John Copeland Defensive end Cincinnati Bengals
1993 1 6 6 Eric Curry Defensive end Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1993 1 29 29 George Teague Safety Green Bay Packers
1993 3 6 62 Antonio London Linebacker Detroit Lions
1993 4 10 94 Derrick Lassic Running back Dallas Cowboys
1993 6 23 163 Derrick Oden Linebacker Philadelphia Eagles
1994 1 9 9 Antonio Langham Cornerback Cleveland Browns
1994 2 6 35 Kevin Lee Wide receiver New England Patriots
1994 2 11 40 David Palmer Wide receiver Minnesota Vikings
1994 2 31 60 Jeremy Nunley Defensive end Houston Oilers
1994 5 28 159 Roosevelt Patterson Guard Los Angeles Raiders
1994 7 26 220 Lemanski Hall Linebacker Houston Oilers
1995 2 14 46 Sherman Williams Running back Dallas Cowboys
1995 4 4 102 Sam Shade Safety Cincinnati Bengals
1995 4 10 108 Dameian Jeffries Defensive end New Orleans Saints
1995 5 26 160 Jay Barker Quarterback Green Bay Packers
1995 7 17 225 Bryne Diehl Punter New York Giants