Every Alabama fan old enough to have used a rotary phone remembers the 1992 season. the stifling defense, Derrick Lassic, Gene Stalling’s coat (although that was the same for every year he coached) were all integral threads in a rich tapestry of perfection.
But for many fans it is forgotten the toughest game the Tide played was not Miami in Sugar Bowl or Florida in the inaugural SEC Championship Game, but it was arguably Sept. 26 of that year — against Louisiana Tech.
The Crimson Tide had been cruising along to that point and had just come off a complete spanking of Arkansas with then- President Bill Clinton in attendance. He had apparently heard about an upcoming spanking and Air Force One rushed him straight to the stadium. Imagine his disappointment when it was not the spanking he was thinking of.
Anyway, with a record of 3-0 and Louisiana Tech, South Carolina and Tulane as the only teams standing in ’Bama’s way to being undefeated heading into Knoxville against Tennessee, which was really good at the time, most fans were pretty confident.
Unfortunately, no one told us our water boys would try out new Ambien-flavored Gatorade for the La. Tech game. ’Bama could not get any offense going. It was like watching your recently divorced uncle at a single’s bar — everything we tried got thrown back in our faces.
The good news was the only thing inepter than our offense was La. Tech’s offense. The two teams sputtered through the driving rain at Legion Field for most of three quarters (’Bama held a 6-0 lead) until Bulldog quarterback Sam Hughes hit a wide receiver behind the Tide’s vaunted defense and he raced inside the ’Bama 10. If defensive back Tommy Johnson doesn’t run like a man possessed and catch the receiver, La. Tech takes a 7-6 lead and that lead may have been insurmountable.
But that is why watching any game with the 1992 defense in it could make a lasting impression. As it turns out, La. Tech missed a 22 yard field goal and the score stayed 6-0.
Meanwhile, it continues to rain — not real hard rain, but a, “Hey, I just wanted to see us score a lot and cover the spread, not watch a defensive struggle at Legion Field” rain.
For those of us who were fraternity pledges at the time, Legion Field games sucked like a leech on steroids anyway. We had to get drinks for the actives and rent buses for all frat members, etc. Then we all have to sit there and possibly watch ’Bama lose to a technical school.
So why does this game make my most-fond memories list then? Well, it really was a “You had to be there” kinda thing. See, amidst all of bad weather and lack of scoring, the fourth quarter rolled around and the game was still 6-0. Louisiana Tech was backed up in their territory facing a fourth down and it was punting.
Now, maybe I am embellishing this story or maybe I was just drunk then (and/or now), but I distinctly remember everyone in the stadium chanting “Deuce, Deuce, Deuce” because waiting at the other end of that punt was Alabama’s true version of “offense:” the David Palmer. (I also remember my being particularly handsome that day, but I am almost positive that was the alcohol talking.)
Palmer makes the catch, heads right — my left — and 63 yards later, he has scored the game’s only touchdown. Then, almost immediately, it started raining again — this time, it was raining Legion Field souvenir cups (and at least one half-eaten hot dog that hit my date). Seriously, there hasn’t been that much plastic tossed in the air since “The Man Show” got canceled.
Of all of Palmer’s great moments that is the one I remember most — not only because of his return, but because I literally thought to myself, “If the offense just won’t screw this up, we may have a shot at the whole thing—as long as we don’t have to play Miami. God, they’re good.”
So we all celebrated for beating a relatively cupcake-y team at a stadium that should have long since been condemned in a complete deluge. It seems a little silly when I put it that way I guess.
However, not all great games have to be against great opponents. A great game just has to be one that makes you remember a great time.