Alabama SI Cover Tournament: Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn vs. Promised Land (Kenyan Drake)
There's one final spot left in the Final Four of the Alabama SI Cover Tournament, the winner of the All Things Bama Regional.
The final pairs two Crimson Tide running backs, Johnny Musso vs. Kenyan Drake.
Specifically, it's Musso's gutsy performance against Auburn in the 1971 Iron Bowl against the Promised Land, the cover from Alabama's 2015 national championship victory over Clemson, with Kenyan Drake's kick return for a crucial touchdown.
Fresh off a tiebreaker to advance, it's back up, with a chance to advance to the tournament semifinals later this week.
BamaCentral is in the final matchups of its 48-field single-elimination tournament to determine the best Alabama Sports Illustrated cover.
All Things Bama Regional Final
Game 44: Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn vs. Promised Land (Kenyan Drake)
Alabama Challenges Nebraska For No. 1
Story headline: Alabama Poses Another Threat
Subhead: Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn
Excerpt (by Pat Putnam): The pattern of the game was set early, to Bryant's delight and Jordan's dismay, and it never varied. When Auburn had the ball it was harassed badly. When Alabama had it, it kept it. And kept it. And kept it. Auburn had possession just 18 minutes and 11 seconds, lost one fumble and had two of Heisman Trophy winner Pat Sullivan's passes stolen, and managed but 179 yards. Before Alabama, the Tigers thought they were having an off day if they didn't gain more than that in one quarter. "One thing we have to do," Bryant had said, "is control the ball." Control it? Alabama owned it; owned it for a fantastic 41 minutes and 49 seconds, and most of the time it was hurtling through the Auburn defenses in the arms of Johnny Musso (see cover), who was running on a disjointed big left toe that would have put a lot of other running backs on crutches.
Three weeks ago, against LSU, Musso's big toe was wrenched from its socket, and from then until he started against Auburn the best the 196-pound All-America senior halfback could manage was a half-speed limp in tennis shoes. And he couldn't even do that until three days before the game. When Alabama went through its final light workout on Friday, Musso watched from the sidelines in street clothes. In nine games he had scored 14 touchdowns and gained 921 yards. With that toe, he didn't figure to gain 921 inches against Auburn's band.
"Don't worry," said the handsome 21-year-old. "I'll play. I've got this gadget Trainer Jim Goostree rigged up for me." And he held up a red plastic cast that had been molded to fit his foot. "I'll just tape it on and away I'll go. Auburn has this banner out that says: STOP THE WOP. I've got one hanging over my bed." He smiled thinly. "I'm going to be there to give them a chance."
Promised Land: The Alabama Dynasty Rolls On
Story headline: This One Is Special
Subhead: An audacious onside kick. An electrifying kickoff return. A breakout by an underused tight end. Alabama needed something beyond its usual formula to hold off Clemson, but the end result was familiar: a fifth national title for coach Nick Saban
Excerpt (by Andy Staples): Nick Saban's game face typically ranges from stone to snarl, but the corners of his mouth turned north even as his team remained deadlocked with Clemson in the fourth quarter of Monday's national championship game. Was it relief? Joy? Or a knowing smirk?
At the team's hotel earlier in the day Saban had told Crimson Tide junior kicker Adam Griffith to be prepared to execute the pop kick onside protocol against the Tigers. Saban had noticed on film that when Clemson expected the ball to be booted deep into the corner, the Tigers squeezed to one side of the field. When Clemson lined up that way several times on Monday, Saban knew the pop kick could work — as long as freshman defensive back Marlon Humphrey, the play's target, didn't drop the ball the way he had in the Tide's walk-through practice. Tied at 24, with his defense panting from chasing Clemson sophomore quarterback Deshaun Watson — who was dazzling with 405 yards passing and 73 on the ground— Saban decided Alabama needed to gamble. "He pushed all the chips in," strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran growled later.
Griffith tapped the ball skyward in a perfect arc. Humphrey, with nary a Clemson player in arm's distance, caught it on the 50, unleashing a (brief) grin from Saban. "He told us we're not allowed to smile during games," special teams coordinator Bobby Williams cracked. Two plays later senior quarterback Jake Coker hit junior tight end O.J. Howard down the left sideline for a 51-yard touchdown. The Tide had wrested the momentum away from a worthy opponent, and Alabama gutted out a 45-40 win to claim its fourth national title in seven seasons. Saban, who also won the 2003 title at LSU, moved one behind Bear Bryant, who won six championships. Saban brushed off questions about one day surpassing the Tide icon, but he couldn't hide his pride in a team that was written off in September but rose to win a title anyway, using a mix of new and old schemes and an attitude that has produced champions for as long as games have had scoreboards.
Promised Land def. Johnny Musso Attacks Auburn, 82.4-17.6 percent