With the kickoff of the 2018 college football season fast approaching, the question distressing Alabama fans most is, who will be the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback when it meets Louisville on September 1?
Will it be the Hawaiian passing sensation Tua Tagovailoa, who saved Alabama’s national championship chances when it looked like they were about to go aloha against Georgia? Or Jalen Hurts, the solid, if increasingly less spectacular Tide starter in each of his first two seasons on the Capstone? Or could Nick Saban decide to — sharp intake of breath here — go with a two-quarterback system?
If Saban does chose the latter, it certainly won’t be unprecedented at Alabama, and it might not be as bad as everybody thinks. Here’s a look at four other instances when the Tide experienced great success with two guys taking the snaps:
1978: Jeff Rutledge and Steadman Shealy
The duo of senior Rutledge and junior Shealy complimented each other nicely in a Tide offense that rolled up 4,433 total yards, 11 wins and a national championship.
Shealy was the punch on the ground, rushing for 323 yards and four touchdowns on 59 carries. Rutledge was the passer, completing 73-of-140 for 1,078 yards and 13 TDs. He did have 10 interceptions, but all that was forgotten in the glory of an 11-1 season and a 14-7 win over Penn State in the Sugar Bowl that featured the legendary Barry Krauss goal-line stand to seal the deal.
1973: Richard Todd and Gary Rutledge
Five seasons earlier, it had been Gary Rutledge, Jeff’s older brother, and Todd who almost led the Tide to another title. Bama finished the regular season 11-0 and faced Notre Dame in a classic Sugar Bowl matchup at old Tulane Stadium on Dec. 31, 1973, a game the Irish won 24-23 to ring out the old year and ring in a national championship.
Todd, a sophomore from Mobile, caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in that game, but Notre Dame’s Bob Thomas ruined the New Year’s party when he booted the 19-yard game winner with 4:19 left to play.
At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Todd was the second-leading rusher in a Wishbone offense that produced 4,027 yards rushing on the season. Todd had 88 carries for 560 yards (he lost 44 yards on sacks) and scored two TDs (senior fullback Wilbur Jackson led the team with 95 carries for 752 yards and eight TDs).
Rutledge, a junior from Birmingham, was the passer, leading the Tide with 33 completions in 57 attempts for 897 yards and eight TDs. Todd was 18-of-33 for 325 yards and four TDs.
Overall, 1973 was a great year for both QBs and Bama…except for danged ol’ Notre Dame.
1964: Joe Namath and Steve Sloan
Ok, so technically this collaborative effort was necessitated by a Joe Willie knee injury, but it was still two of Bama’s best ever sharing time under center with great success. With Namath and Sloan at the controls, Bama registered a perfect 10-0 regular-season record and earned an Orange Bowl bid to play Texas. At the time the Associated Press and United Press International wire services named their national champions prior to the start of bowl season, and they chose the Crimson Tide, which promptly lost to the Longhorns 21-17 in Miami.
Amazingly, even with his gimpy knees, Namath scored six rushing TDs – second-best on the team – and had 44 carries for 133 yards. Sloan was second on the team in rushing with 351 yards on 95 carries and scored two rushing TDs.
Namath led the way in passing with 64 completions in 100 attempts for 756 yards ands and five TDs. Sloan was 45-for-72 for 574 yards and one TD.
2002: Tyler Watts and Brodie Croyle
In Dennis Franchione’s second year, Bama finished 10-3 and won the SEC West, but was ineligible to compete in the SEC Championship Game or in a bowl because of NCAA penalties.
The senior Watts was the more productive of the two QBs, completing 112-of-181 pass attempts for 1.414 yards and seven TDs and rushing for 356 yards and three touchdowns on 130 carries. But freshman Croyle made his presence felt with 60 completions in 123 attempts for 1,046 yards and five touchdowns.
The season was highlighted by a 31-0 win over LSU in Baton Rouge and a 21-16 win over Hawaii in Honolulu in what was basically Bama’s bowl game. But it also featured high-profile losses at Oklahoma, at Georgia and to Auburn at home – deficits which shone a hard light on Franchione, his staff and his squad.
So, it came as no real surprise when Franchione provided perhaps the season’s biggest highlight by bolting for Texas A&M on Dec. 5, 2002, and many Bama fans said, “Good riddance.” H&A
Cover photo courtesy University of Alabama Athletics.