Most college football fans thought that the main story lines of the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl would be whether Gene Stallings could get his first bowl win at Alabama against the reigning national champions, Colorado, and the Crimson Tide offense being led by a redshirt freshman starting only his fourth game, Jay Barker.
It turned out the Buffaloes had a surprise in store for the Crimson Tide when the teams met in Miami: A new offense.
After being known for years as an option-running team, Colorado showed up with a one-back, pass-oriented offense.
But Alabama adjusted pretty quickly.
Thanks to a second-half rally and three Barker touchdown passes the Crimson Tide came from behind to win 30-25 at Joe Robbie Stadium in South Florida.
David Palmer won the “Brian Piccolo Award” as the game’s most valuable player and he put the Crimson Tide on the scoreboard first with one of his spectacular trademark punt returns.
Palmer fielded the ball on Alabama’s 48-yard line, ran through four Colorado defenders and scooted down the right sideline 52 yards for the score.
Colorado’s Ron Woolfork blocked an Alabama punt to give the Buffaloes the ball on the Alabama 3-yard line and two plays later Scott Phillips ran it in for a 1-yard touchdown with 1:34 remaining in the first quarter.
Two possessions later, Colorado took the lead when linebacker Ted Johnson tackled Alabama running back Martin Houston in the end zone for a safety with 13:15 until halftime.
Mark McMillian's 49-yard yard interception return set up a Matt Wethington field goal, but the Buffaloes matched it with a last-minute drive and 33-yard field goal as the first half closed.
The Alabama offense woke up at halftime.
An apparent Palmer touchdown was called back because of an illegal substitution, but the momentum still swung. On the subsequent play, third-and-13, Barker and Siran Stacy connected on a 13-yard pass for six points. After the two-point conversion failed, Alabama led 16-12.
It didn’t last long. The Buffaloes scored just 18 seconds later on a 62-yard pass from Hagan to Michael Westbrook to put Colorado back in front, 19-16.
Alabama countered with a 75-yard dive, and took the lead for good on a 12-yard Barker to Kevin Lee touchdown.
Still up 23-19 in the fourth quarter, a 15-play drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Barker to Palmer.
The Buffaloes cut into the 30-19 deficit with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Hagan to Charles Johnson with 3:30 left. They got the ball back with 1:49 to go and drove to the Alabama 33-yard line before Colorado was stopped on fourth-and-1 with 40 ticks to go.
Although Barker started the final four games of the season after senior quarterback Danny Woodson was suspended for breaking team rules, the Crimson Tide still finished 11-1, and fifth in the AP Top 25.
It also helped set the Crimson Tide up for the undefeated 1992 season and national championship.