But while there’s little doubt that one of the more recent champions would win a head-to-head matchup against its leather helmeted predecessors, for sheer star power and accomplishment it’d be hard to beat coach Frank Thomas’s unbeaten 1934 team, a storied eleven that capped a perfect season with one of the greatest aerial displays in Rose Bowl history.
Consider just three of the stars who wore the Crimson and White that year. First there was quarterback Dixie Howell, a consensus All-American, later named on the roster of the all-time Rose Bowl team and picked for the College Football Hall of Fame. Then there was Howell’s main receiver, Don Hutson, who was named by Sports Illustrated as the greatest player in NFL history — not the greatest end, but the greatest player, period.
Oh, and that “other” end? Just some Arkansas country boy named Bryant. Christened as Paul, but sometimes answered to the name of “Bear.” You may have heard of him, too.
After storming through nine regular-season opponents by a combined score of 287 to 32 in an era not known for high powered offenses, the Tide accepted an invitation to meet Claude Thornhill’s Stanford Indians in the Rose Bowl. Stanford had also gone unbeaten, and was looking to avenge its stunning loss to Columbia in the previous year’s game.
But any hope the Indians had of taking out their frustrations on the Tide were quickly ended in the second quarter, when in rapid succession Howell shot a touchdown pass to Bryant, Riley Smith booted a field goal, Howell broke through with a 67-yard touchdown gallop, and then wound up by capitalizing on a Smith interception by hitting Hutson with another scoring pass just before the halftime gun went off.
By the time the dust had cleared and the teams went to their respective locker rooms, Stanford was seeing triple trouble, and when the second half proved a standoff the Tide went back to Tuscaloosa the proud owners of a 29-13 win. It was their fourth Rose Bowl victory in five tries, with the fifth being a tie, and needless to say there would be many more New Year’s Day triumphs to follow.
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