I will do one or two more of these since we have a snow day. The following story is as true as my pride and memory have preserved it.
I'm writing these assuming that the Fall of 1982 was the last official season of a JV schedule, even though I know they played individual games at times after that.
After the Marion Military game, we traveled next to Ft Benning, GA. home of American heroes- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gen. Omar Bradley, Senator Robert Dole, Gen. George Marshall, General George Patton and Gen. Colin Powell. While at Fort Benning, Gen. Eisenhower coached the Fort Benning Doughboy football team to an all-Army championship. He later retired as a five-star General.
A couple of vivid memories was how neat it was to go on the base and how impressive their stadium was. It was made like a small bowl and it was a perfect evening for football.
To add to the atmosphere were the packed crowd of cadets- it was a sellout- Alabama was in town.
Not only that, each army fatigued fan had a bunch of red tickets that they were taking to the concession stand. Those tickets were exchanged for cases of beer.
I'm going through pre-game warm-ups and staring at this spectacle. A long line at the concession stand, and soldiers carrying cases of beer under each arm up into the stands. Within 30 minutes, the bowl was standing room only- everyone dressed up like GI Joe- and chanting army cheers- 'AAYEAAAYYEO', 'AAYEAAAYYEO'- we got pumped up pretty good and then the doughboys came out to a loud cheer.
They were huge! And it appeared to me that not many of those boys were college age- they were men! Their QB was tall and good. We were in trouble.
Now. I need to take a little side ramp. Our center (and I am blank to his name, it feel it almost at the front of my deteriorating frontal lobe) was a great guy. But he was was not a great center- He tried- but I think he weighed 185 lbs and snapped the ball real slow. It was like catching a pass... under center!
I had been using him for weeks during scout team and even though Mike Rodriquez was the scariest looking human on the Alabama defense- I was convinced he was a kind-hearted person because my center could still walk after each practice. (And Tommy Wilcox was nice enough to let me live many times during practice).
Ok- Back to Benning. The coaches decided to help our offense this game by bringing center Mike White along. Mike was a real lineman- muscles and tough- (he also had a cool trick where he could put a twist tie in one nostril and pull it out the other nostril- but that is another story).
Now the problem... I had never taken a snap from Mike White... ever. My first worry was when I line-up under him for the first time and said the cadence. We were using a totally different cadence than the real Alabama offense. So we got that straight and then I said "HUT". A heat seeking missile called the football about broke my thumb and the ball ricocheted 10 yds away. HOUSTON WE HAVE A BIG PROBLEM.
Not only was it faster, but the real Alabama offense used a different snap that allowed for the reach and ride of the wishbone. I had done it a few times, but our scout team took the old style snap because that is how Mr ED snapped it (please, my old center, accept my apology now).
The smell of beer in the air, the raucous chants, and an evening in Ft Benning- it was going to get wild.
We received the opening kick-off and we have 3 possessions, 3 one play drives, all turnovers from missed exchanges. It was pure misery. Mike White's face was beat red- he was so mad I thought he was going to throttle me to death. I was sure that 3 or four of my fingers were broken from the practice we were doing in between series. We were working so hard on the QB exchange that I was pouring sweat.
My only saving grace was that they tried the back-up Qb, Mark Jounsoun (sp?). And he screamed bloody murder as were heard his hand crack after Mike White's bicep fired.
The coaches had to make a battlefield correction- Mr Ed was back in the lineup and Mike White was spared as a JV player.
Now the game. Our early turnovers spotted the doughboys an early lead. I think it was 10 or 13 to zip. But again, we had a great defense and good kicking game.
We actually moved the ball a little in the 2nd quarter. I ran an option play for 15 yds. And pitched on the next one for a 20 yds gain. I think I also remember our full back doing well. Thom Whitley had been added to that position and he just willed himself for 5 yds on the dive play.
Again... fading memory.... but it seems like Paul Trodd kicked a long FG right before the end of the half.
Halftime- Coach Rutledge gave a great speech- made us all laugh and then reminded us that Alabama football was all about the 4th quarter.
We intercepted a pass coming out in the 3rd quarter and started the drive deep in the doughboys territory. We lined up and got them to jump offsides. They called timeout.
While we were in the huddle, I heard my offensive linemen talking. "Did you smell what I smelled?"
It seems like the doughboys traded in some red tickets at halftime. I had never been a part of players who had been drinking DURING the game.
As good and crisp as Ft Benning was in the first half- they just wilted in the 2nd. We put in a blitz scheme at halftime and we got some big time hits on their Qb.
The most amazing part of the game was that when we started the 4th quarter, the Cadet crowd changed their chants to a very familiar cheer. They were screaming "Rolllllllll Tide Roll"!
With 2 or 3 minutes to go, we blocked the Ft Benning punt and returned it for a TD and we went crazy... we won the game! It was a major miracle.
The next day at practice, Coach Bryant blew his whistle, and brought everyone up. He had all the JV guys stand up and bragged about our 4th quarter comeback. "That, men, is what Alabama football is all about." Everybody applauded.
My only thought was "If he only knew".
Mike White sneered at me. Coach Bryant blew his whistle, and I ran off to go through the gauntlet. I had the pleasure that day to get hit by Emmanuel King, Dante Bramblett, and Eddie Lowe. Eddie hit me so hard everyday that my whole body got a concussion.
Ahh the memories!