On November 28, 1981, legendary coach Bear Bryant became the all time winningest coach in NCAA history when he led his Alabama Crimson Tide to a thrilling 28-17 victory over their inter-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. It was the 315th win of Bryant's career which surpassed Alonzo Stagg's record. Stagg amassed his wins over 57 seasons at Springfield Mass, Chicago, and Pacific. The 68 year old Bryant needed 38 years to win 315 games. He made stops at Maryland, Kentucky, and Texas A&M before becoming the head coach of the Crimson Tide in 1958. His stamp on the team was noticed immediately, before he arrived the team won a total of four games in three years and he would give them instant credibility by guiding them to a 5-4-1 record. In his second season he led the Tide to a bowl game and by 1961 he led them to a National Title. It was the first of six National Titles for Bryant at Alabama as he established a coaching career that would also include 13 SEC Championships. The game against Auburn in 1981 will be one the fans of the Tide will always remember. With the coach on the verge of owning one of the most prestigious records in college sports the matchup couldn't had been any better with the arch rival on the agenda. Pat Dye had served as an assistant coach on Bryant's staff from 1965 to 1973 and was in his first year as head coach of the Auburn Tigers. While his team was unranked they would give the #4 Alabama team a fight that to the end. Throughout the game the Tigers proved that being a 13 point underdog was the farthest thing from their mind, they had beaten Alabama in every aspect of the game besides the scoreboard before they finally took a 17-14 lead with 12:58 left in the fourth. The 78,170 fans that packed Legion Field in Birmingham were about to witness a comeback for the ages as well as a historic milestone in the career of Bear Bryant. With sophomore quarterback Walter Lewis under center, the Alabama offense went to work on a methodical march up the field. Then with a first down at the Auburn 38, Lewis found Jesse Bendross open near the endzone and fired the ball into his waiting arms where he took it in for the score. As Peter Kim split the uprights the Tide had a 21-17 lead and Bryant was mere minutes away from adding an impressive win to his resume. The pumped up crowd chanting "D-E-F-E-N-S-E!!!" "D-E-F-E-N-S-E!!!" would get exactly that out of Alabama as they regained possession at the Auburn 49. Sophomore running back Linnie Patrick pulled a rabbit out of his hat on the first play of the drive as he ran over and around the Auburn defense on a 33 yard dash, two plays later Patrick capped off the drive with a 14 yard run to put Alabama up 28-17. The win came on the last day of the regular season and moved Alabama to 9-1-1 who was in line for a matchup against Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Bryant coached for one more season in 1982 and moved his all time record to 323-85-17, with 232 of those wins coming at Alabama. His record has since been surpassed and today he sits at number 5 for most coaching wins in the college ranks. In my opinion not one of those names that sit ahead of him on that list are as legendary as the one, the only, Bear Bryant.
I said this in a comment on yesterday's post and I'll say it again today; One of the things I am very thankful for is the fact that each and everyone of you follow and support this page. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you and your families.