3 Alabama

September 10, 1978

OFFENSE

Wishbone
Starters returning: 6
Yards gained:
Rushing—3,268
Passing—1,316

DEFENSE

Style: 5-2
Starters returning: 7
Yards allowed:
Rushing—1,527
Passing—1,245

In Bear Bryant's .33 years as a head coach there have been seasons when, he says, he didn't know what to expect. This is not one of them; Alabama is loaded. Last year's loss to Nebraska, 31-24, in the team's second game wrecked the Tide's chances for the national championship, despite an otherwise perfect record that included a 35-6 Sugar Bowl rout of Ohio State. Already this year Bryant has made sure Nebraska will not play spoiler again. Last Saturday night 'Bama opened against the Cornhuskers with a devastating 20-3 win and made a believer out of Husker Coach Tom Osborne. "I thought we'd score one TD," Osborne said. "I see no reason why they shouldn't be ranked No. 1."

"Last year I was unsure about our defense," says Bryant. This year it was the offensive line. Led by 6'3", 224-pound Center Dwight Stephenson, a defensive end in 1976, and Tackle Jim Bunch, another junior, that line will prove to be a far greater worry to rival coaches, as Osborne will attest.

Jeff Rutledge is a quality quarterback (the first Tide touchdown of the season came on a Rutledge pass). He threw only five interceptions last season and his 59.8% completion rate was tops in the SEC. Tony Nathan, whom a Tuscaloosa newspaper columnist called "a ballerina with a stick of dynamite on his fanny," was the conference rushing leader with a 6.2-yard average and 15 TDs.

The defense is impressive throughout, featuring a linebacking corps that may be the best in the nation. Seniors Barry Krauss, Rich Wingo and Rickey Gilliland were one-two-three in tackles last season for the Tide with 91, 75 and 63, and are all contenders for All-America honors. On a defense noted for quickness, perhaps the speediest man is Cornerback Don McNeal, a former split end who had three interceptions and broke up 11 passes in 1977.

Bryant is over one hurdle but has others coming up soon: Missouri, USC and Washington in three of the next four games. "I can't blame anyone," says Athletic Director Bryant. "I made up the darn schedule."

TWO ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)