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Bryant 'simply the best there ever was'

Dent: Training camp from hell

ESPN Movie: The Junction Boys

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Goal-line stand propels Bryant's Tide to title
By Mike Puma
Special to

Signature Game

Jan. 1, 1979 - Coach Bear Bryant's concerns about his defense were proven pointless as Alabama made a goal-line stand midway through the fourth quarter to lead the Crimson Tide to a 14-7 victory over No. 1 Penn State in the Sugar Bowl. After the game, Alabama was voted national champion.

Before the game, Bryant was worried about his banged-up defense, especially the secondary. But the Crimson Tide held the Nittany Lions to 19 yards of total offense. Bryant called it as good a defensive performance as any he's seen from any of his teams.

The biggest stop came on fourth-and-goal with Penn State needing 10 inches. Tailback Mike Guman was leveled by linebacker Barry Krauss for no gain.

Bryant called the victory one of his proudest moments. "(We) could have beaten any team in the country (today)," Bryant said.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Bryant caught three passes in the 1935 Rose Bowl as Alabama defeated Stanford, 29-13.

  • One of Bryant's classmates at Alabama was Mel Allen, who would become "the voice of the New York Yankees." The two remained friends after graduation.

  • In 1937, Bryant and former teammate Don Hutson bought a dry cleaner's in Tuscaloosa, Ala. For more than two years, Bryant divided his time between coaching and managing the store.

  • While head coach at Kentucky, Bryant left his starting backfield home as a psychological ploy for a game at Marquette. The Wildcats won.

  • Gene Stallings and Jack Pardee were two of the Junction Boys who survived Bryant's brutal preseason camp at Texas A&M in 1954.

  • Only four teams coached by Bryant won fewer than six games in a season. Only once did a Bryant-coached team win fewer than five games (1-9 in 1954 with Texas A&M).

  • The only Heisman Trophy winner Bryant coached was Texas A&M running back John David Crow in 1957.

  • Bryant's last game at Texas A&M was a 3-0 loss to Tennessee in the 1957 Gator Bowl.

  • Bryant had unbeaten and untied teams in 1961, 1966 and 1979. Thirteen other Bryant teams finished with one defeat or unbeaten with a tie.

  • Bryant's Alabama teams went 19-6 against arch-rival Auburn. The Crimson Tide won nine straight in the series from 1973-81.

  • In bowl games, Bryant had a 15-12-2 record. His teams appeared in the Sugar Bowl nine times, the Orange Bowl six times and the Cotton Bowl five times.

  • Bryant employed as many as 18 assistant coaches while at Alabama.

  • In the 1960s, Bryant's teams allowed an average of 8.2 points per game. His 1961 team allowed only three touchdowns the entire season.

  • In a 1963 Saturday Evening Post article, Bryant was accused of conspiring to fix the game against Georgia the previous season. The article said Georgia's athletic director, Wally Butts, gave Bryant the plays, allowing Alabama to roll 35-0. The charges were never proven and Bryant won a libel suit against the magazine.

  • Alabama went 9-1-1 in 1965 and became the first team crowned national champion with a loss and a tie.

  • Until the late 1960s, Bryant did not allow water breaks at practice.

  • In his 38 years as a head coach, Bryant never fired an assistant.

  • Bryant surprised USC for a game in 1971 by scrapping the pro set and running the wishbone. The Crimson Tide pulled an upset and Bryant stuck with the new offense.

  • In the 1970s, Bryant donated $200,000 to the university for faculty raises.

  • From 1971-81, the Crimson Tide were in the top 10 every season.

  • After his 60th birthday, he won 103 games. His last contest was a 21-15 win over Illinois in the 1982 Liberty Bowl.

  • Bryant won 13 SEC titles in his 25 years at Alabama.

  • He was named national coach of the year three times (1961, 1971 and 1973) and SEC coach of the year 10 times.

  • Bryant's record at Bryant-Denny Stadium was 72-2, including 57 consecutive wins from Oct. 26, 1963 until Nov. 13, 1982.

  • His record at Alabama homecoming games was 25-0.

  • His record against his pupils (either they played for him or were an assistant coach under him) was 43-6. One loss was to Stallings' Texas A&M team, 20-16, in the 1968 Cotton Bowl.

  • Eight members of Bryant's 1982 Alabama team served as pallbearers at his funeral.

  • It's been estimated between 100,000 and 250,000 people lined the procession route between Tuscaloosa and the Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham.

  • When Bryant died, the only piece of jewelry he wore was a gold ring inscribed "Junction Boys."

  • He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986.

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