ALABAMA STUNS CORNHUSKERS, 39-28, TO WIN ORANGE BOWL — AND NATIONAL TITLE
Miami, Fla. — (Jan. 1, 1966) — If anyone would have suggested Nebraska would score 28 points on Alabama in the 1966 Orange Bowl game and LOSE, chances are the ding-dong wagon would have been summoned pronto.
But that's exactly what happened as the Crimson Tide exploded dramatically in the second quarter to open a 24-7 halftime lead and then rolled for a shocking 39-28 decision.
With 74,214 fans — including some 13,000 Nebraskans — on hand for the colorful night contest, the stage was set for all the national marbles. No. 1 Michigan State had been upset by UCLA and No. 2 Arkansas had been upset by LSU, leaving No. 3 Nebraska as the only unbeaten power.
When the firing stopped — and it was a game of unbelievable offensive excitement — the Cornhuskers had become the third unbeaten team of the day to fall, and Alabama was able to jump from its pre-game No. 4 ranking to a second straight national title by virtue of its win over Nebraska.
Alabama led 7-0 midway through the first quarter as Quarterback Steve Sloan warmed up for a brilliant aerial performance with a 21-yard TD pitch to Ray Perkins. Nebraska countered early in the second quarter as Bobby Churchich came off the bench to launch a brilliant aerial show of his own. Churchich tossed a 33-yard TD strike to All America end Tony Jeter to even the count at 7-7. Nebraska's defense forced Alabama to punt from its own 10, but a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Tide a new lease and Alabama used the break to good advantage — Sloan passing the Tide the length of the field for the go-ahead TD.
It was the same story the next time the Tide got the ball, a 93-yard aerial drive that gave Alabama a 21-7 lead with 1:42 left in the half. This set the stage for two straight successful Alabama on-side kicks, the first setting up an 18-yard field goal to give the Tide a 24-7 halftime bulge that the Cornhuskers simply couldn't overcome.
Despite the demoralizing first half, Churchich fired the Huskers to repeated offensive excellence during the second half. His 49-yard pitch to Ben Gregory early in the third quarter pulled NU up, 24-13, but Alabama countered with a 69-yard infantry drive to make it 32-13.
Back tore the Huskers, with Churchich hitting passes of 20 and 16 yards before plunging for a personal TD, making it 32-20 early in the final quarter.
But once again, Sloan and the Tide riddled the Husker defense and marched 55 yards to score and take a 39-20 lead.
Churchich countered with a 52-yard aerial drive that wound up with a 14-yard TD pass to Jeter. It was Bobby's third TD pass of the game, tying the Orange Bowl record. All told, Churchich turned in a tremendous relief performance — 12 of 17 passes for 232 yards and three touchdowns. Jeter equaled the bowl mark with two TD catches.
But Alabama's Sloan was also magnificent — hitting 20 of 28 passes for a record-breaking 296 yards and two TDs. Perkins also matched Jeter's TD reception output, and snared nine tosses for 159 yards for another record.
It was an offensive show of the first order, with Alabama getting the best of the Huskers in all departments en route to the Tide's well-deserved upset. Coach Bear Bryant's Tide out-downed NU, 29 (Orange Bowl record) to 17, out-rushed the Huskers, 222-145, out-passed the Huskers 296-232, and out-totaled the Scarlets, 518-377.
SOURCE: 1966 NU MEDIA GUIDE