Linebacker Cornelius Bennett and quarterback Mike Shula have completed their careers at Alabama. Tailback Bobby Humphrey and Coach Ray Perkins have not.
All four played integral parts as flu-stricken Alabama trounced Washington, 28-6, in Thursday’s Sun Bowl, a record 22nd postseason victory for the Crimson Tide.
“I was concerned before the game because seven guys were sick,” Perkins said. “I’m not hoarse from hollering, I’m hoarse because I got flu-bit. I wondered about what kind of stamina we would have.”
The Taiwan flu has been prevalent in Texas recently. Among those to get it was Humphrey, Alabama’s sophomore tailback, who scored on runs of 64 and 3 yards and caught one of Shula’s two third-period touchdown passes. His three touchdowns tied the Sun Bowl record.
Shula--whose father, Miami Dolphin Coach Don Shula, saw his son play in person for the first time as a collegian--fired a 32-yard scoring pass to Greg Richardson midway through the third quarter and threw a 17-yarder to Humphrey with 13 seconds left in the period as the Crimson Tide pulled away from a 7-6 halftime lead.
In the first half, it was the Taiwan flu. In the second half, Alabama just flew.
Shula completed 15 of 26 passes for 188 yards, while Bennett, who led Alabama with 11 tackles and pressured quarterback Chris Chandler at least as many times, was named the game’s most valuable player as Washington was held without a touchdown for the first time since early last season.
“We have done a lot of things this year that no other team has done,” Bennett said. “It’s great to end my college career by being named MVP.”
“I couldn’t have gotten a nicer Christmas gift,” said Perkins, who again denied rumors that he was leaving Alabama to take over the National Football League’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I fully expect to be at Alabama for a long, long time,” he said. “I haven’t spoken to anybody and nobody has contacted me about another job. I don’t know how I can put it plainer than that.”
Washington Coach Don James, whose team committed three turnovers, two of which led to Alabama touchdowns, said: “It would have been hard enough to beat them without any mistakes.
“Our defense played good the first half, but our offense played poorly the whole game. I think overall it was the best defense we faced this year. Alabama had a lot to do with our poor execution.”
Humphrey, who set seven Alabama records this season, including 1,471 rushing yards, finished with 159 yards on 28 carries after a slow start. He was held to 18 yards on his first eight carries.
But on third-and-two from his 36 on the third play of the second quarter, Humphrey took Shula’s pitchout, spun away from weak safety Tim Peoples at the 42 with a nifty move and sped the rest of the way untouched to give Alabama a 7-0 lead.
“It was a third-and-short, and everybody just blocked their man,” Humphrey said. “When I got to the corner, I made him miss and I was off to the races.”
Washington’s Jeff Jaeger, the NCAA record-holder with 80 career field goals, connected from 31 and 34 yards later in the period for the Huskies’ scoring.
The win gave 13th-ranked Alabama, playing in its record 39th bowl game, a 22-14-3 postseason record. The Crimson Tide, 10-3 overall this season, had been tied for the most postseason victories with USC, which meets Auburn in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Washington, which was ranked No. 12 at the end of the regular season, finished 8-3-1.