Throwback Thursday: Missouri Once Held Surprise Party at Alabama's Expense in 1968 Gator Bowl

J. Bank

If you've ever wondered where Paul W. "Bear" Bryant got the idea to do the football equivalent of a Trojan Horse on Southern California in 1971, i.e. show up with an entirely different offense, the 1968 Gator Bowl might have had something to do with it. 

Missouri startled Alabama with a newly-installed Power I offense that the Tigers secretly installed during bowl practices and played tough defense en route to a 35-10 victory at the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.

Missouri head coach Dan Devine said the Tigers made the surprise switch  “to give us stronger running.” The switch paid off as Greg Cook churned out 179 rushing yards. 

It was the worst beating a Bryant-coached Alabama team had suffered. Alabama had minus-45 yards rushing and a total offensive output of just 23 yards. The Crimson Tide made just six first downs compared to 21 for the Tigers. 

Although Alabama had given up just 104 points all season, Missouri quarterback Terry McMillan scored three touchdowns on short runs and frustrated the Crimson Tide defense with his deft pitchouts on the option. 

Missouri banged out 402 yards rushing. The Tigers didn’t complete a pass, but also didn't really need to, either. 

The 10 points came off of turnovers. Defensive back Donnie Sutton raced 38 yards with an interception for a touchdown in the second quarter, and Mike Dean’s fourth-quarter interception set up his own 25-yard field goal. 

Two fumble recoveries also helped keep Alabama in the game.

The Missouri defense, anchored by ends Elmer Benhardt and Bill Schmitt, notched nine sacks.  Quarterback Scott Hunter hit only seven of 25 throws and was thrown for losses totaling 61 yards.

Roger Wehrli, Missouri’s All-American safety, set up McMillan’s third touchdown, a 2-yard run, with a late interception. In the closing minutes, Greg Cook ran 37 yards from scrimmage and Dennis Poppe raced 47 yards with an interception to pad the margin.

Alabama lost three games in a season for the first time since 1958, Bryant's first year leading the Crimson Tide. 

It's one of two times that the Tigers have managed to pull out a win in six meetings, including the 2014 SEC Championship Game (a 42-13 victory for the Crimson Tide in Atlanta). The other Missouri win was the first time they met in a season opener, 1975, a 20-7 home victory.

Alabama kicks off the 2020 season at Missouri on Sept. 26.  

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