TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Alabama officially opens the Nick Saban era Saturday night when the Crimson Tide meets the Western Carolina Catamounts at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The kickoff is set for 6:07 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.
Coach Saban was named the school’s 27th head football coach on Jan. 3, 2007. Excitement surrounding his arrival was exhibited before the season even started as an NCAA record 92,138 fans attended the annual A-Day game on Saturday, April 21, 2007.
“We certainly appreciate the passion and spirit we have been welcomed here with,” Saban said following Wednesday’s practice. “But, at the same time, our focus has always been on trying to make our team better and we are excited about having the opportunity to go play a game. The focus of this program should be on The University of Alabama and all the people that make it what it is. I feel like as a representative of that I have an important responsibility to do things correctly. I am glad that the focus is on the season now and this opening game.”
Saban will also be looking to add to the school’s impressive opening day record. Alabama is 88-21-3 (.799) in season openers and first-year coaches are 20-6 (.769) in the Alabama debuts. Below is a look at each head coach’s debut with the Crimson Tide.
E.B. Beaumont (Nov. 11, 1892) - Alabama 56, Birmingham Athletic Club 0 (Birmingham)
The first game in Alabama football history was played in Birmingham against local high school all-stars. The Crimson Tide scored 28 points in each half. David Grayson, a native of Gurley, Ala., scored the first touchdown in school history with a 75-yard run.
Eli Abbott (Oct. 14, 1893) - Birmingham Athletic Club 4, Alabama 0 (Tuscaloosa)
The Birmingham Athletic Club scored the only touchdown of the game (TDs were worth four points in this era) for the win over Alabama. Bill Little, the captain of the Crimson Tide’s first team in 1892, played for the Birmingham Athletic Club.
Otto Waggonhurst (Oct. 24, 1896) - Alabama 30, Birmingham Athletic Club 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Alabama took advantage of four turnovers for an easy win over the Athletics. Putnam (first name unknown) recovered two fumbles and returned one for a 50-yard touchdown.
Allen McCants (Nov. 13, 1897) - Alabama 6, Tuscaloosa Athletic Club 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Allen McCants won his only game as head coach at Alabama, leading the Crimson Tide to 6-0 win over the Tuscaloosa Athletic Club. The UA Board of Trustees would not allow the football or baseball teams to play off campus, so the football team chose to play only one game and did not field a team in 1898. No details of the game were available.
W.A. Martin (Oct. 21, 1899) - Alabama 16, Tuscaloosa Athletic Club 5 (Tuscaloosa)
The two teams played to 5-5 tie in the first half, before Alabama scored two second half touchdowns en route to the win. Matthews (first name unknown) gave UA the lead for good on a short touchdown run following a blocked punt.
M. Griffin (Oct. 21, 1900) - Alabama 35, Taylor School 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Donahoo (first name unknown) scored two touchdowns, while Earl Drennen, James Forman and Arthur Stewart scored one each in the win over the Taylor School of Birmingham.
G.H. Harvey (Oct. 19, 1901) - Alabama 41, Ole Miss 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Arthur Stewart ran for 85 yards and one touchdown in the Tide’s 41-0 win over Ole Miss. He also kicked six extra points.
W.B. Blount (Oct. 3, 1904) - Alabama 29, Florida 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Alabama outmanned Florida, playing its first game in school history, 29-0 in Tuscaloosa. William Ward scored two touchdowns to lead the Crimson Tide, while Auxford Burks and Chamberlain (first name unknown) added one each in the easy win.
Jack Leavenworth (Oct. 3, 1905) - Alabama 17, Maryville 0 (Tuscaloosa)
A number of Alabama turnovers kept the game close as the two teams played a scoreless first half. T.S. Sims scored the first touchdown of the day. Auxford Burks added a 95-yard return for a touchdown in the win.
J.W.H. Pollard (Oct. 6, 1906) - Alabama 6, Maryville 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Again turnovers plagued the Crimson Tide, who escaped with a 6-0 win. After the game, Coach Pollard ran his team through a tough scrimmage and “Chick” Hannon, UA’s 120-pound quarterback, benefitted from the additional work.
Guy Lowman (Oct. 1, 1910) - Alabama 25, Birmingham Southern 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Adrian VanDeGraff scored two touchdowns to lead Alabama to victory in Lowman’s debut. Farley Moody kicked two field goals and the Crimson Tide defense added one safety.
D.V. Graves (Sept. 30, 1911) - Alabama 24, Howard 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Farley Moody scored two touchdowns, including a 40-yard punt return, and added four extra points in Coach Graves’s successful debut. Charlie Joplin, who was killed in France during World War I, caught a 65-yard touchdown pass for the final score of the game.
Thomas Kelly (Oct. 2, 1915) - Alabama 44, Howard 0 (Tuscaloosa)
William Harsh scored two touchdowns, including the first ever at the newly christened Denny Field, to lead Alabama to an easy win over Howard in Thomas Kelly’s coaching debut. E.W. Maynor, Riggs Stephenson (who later starred for the Chicago Cubs and played in the famous 1932 World Series), L.D. Morton and Irvine (first name unknown) all added touchdowns. Bully VanDeGraff kicked five goals and one field goal in the win.
Xen Scott (Oct. 4, 1919) - Alabama 27, Birmingham Southern 0 (Tuscaloosa)
A pair of first-quarter touchdowns by “Mully” Lenoir and Barlett (first name unknown) sent the Tide to a 27-0 win in Xen Scott’s debut. A.M. Boone kicked three goals after touchdowns.
Wallace Wade (Sept. 29, 1923) - Alabama 12, Union 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Alabama overcame a ragged start and scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in the win over Union. “Pooley” Hubert scored on a one-yard run midway through the fourth quarter for the first score of the game. Ben Hudson’s six-yard touchdown catch with 15 seconds left made the final 12-0.
Frank Thomas (Sept. 26, 1931) - Alabama 42, Howard 0 (Tuscaloosa)
Leon Long scored three times and Hillmon Holley added two touchdowns in the Tide’s easy win over Howard. Larry Hughes capped the scoring for the Crimson Tide. Howard avoided the shutout with late third quarter score.
Harold “Red” Drew (Sept. 20, 1947) - Alabama 34, Southern Miss 7 (Birmingham) (N)
Alabama defeated Southern Miss, 34-7, at Legion Field in Coach Drew’s debut with the Crimson Tide. Drew also became the first Alabama coach to make his coaching debut at night.
J.B. “Ears” Whitworth (Sept. 24, 1955) - Rice 20, Alabama 0 (Houston) (N)
Nothing went right for Alabama, who fell 20-0 to Rice in Coach Whitworth’s debut. Whitworth became just the second Alabama coach to make his debut on the road and the first to coach his first game outside the state of Alabama.
Paul “Bear” Bryant (Sept. 27, 1958) - LSU 13, Alabama 3 (Mobile) (N)
A hard-charging Alabama line stopped the powerful LSU running attack in the first half, but All-American running back Billy Cannon led the Tigers to a pair of second half touchdowns for a hard-fought 13-3 win over the Crimson Tide. Alabama, which had won just four games in the previous three years, led 3-0 at halftime when Fred Sington, Jr. kicked a 22-yard field goal in front of an overflow crowd at Ladd Stadium in Mobile. Warren Rabb’s nine-yard pass to Johnny Robinson gave LSU a third-quarter lead. Cannon, who led all rushers with 89 yards, scored on a 12-yard run in the fourth quarter to make the final 13-3.
Ray Perkins (Sept. 10, 1983) - Alabama 20, Georgia Tech 7 (Birmingham)
Alabama, taking advantage of the game’s first turnover, took a 7-0 lead on Walter Lewis’ 15-yard pass to Joe Carter for the first score in the Perkins’ era. Van Tiffin, who would earn All-American status in 1986, kicked two field goals and two extra points in his debut. Stan Gay also returned a blocked punt 32 yards for a touchdown.
Bill Curry (Sept. 5, 1987) - Alabama 38, Southern Miss 6 (Birmingham)
Alabama racked up nearly 400 yards of offense en route to a 38-6 win over Southern Miss in Curry’s head coaching debut. Bobby Humphrey scored three touchdowns in the win. He led all Tide rushers with 17 carries for 84 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught a 43-yard pass in the second quarter as the Tide built a 24-0 halftime lead. Quarterback David Smith completed 13 of 21 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. Smith’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Clay Whitehurst with 7:20 left in the first quarter was the first points in the Curry era.
Gene Stallings (Sept. 8, 1990) - Southern Miss 27, Alabama 24 (Birmingham)
Alabama suffered its first opening day loss since 1984 with a 27-24 setback to Southern Miss at Legion Field. Alabama had four turnovers, a punt return for a touchdown called back due to a clipping penalty and USM scored on a 75-yard interception return. Jim Taylor’s 52-yard field goal with 3:35 left in the game was the deciding points for the Golden Eagles.
Mike DuBose (Aug. 30, 1997) - Alabama 42, Houston 17 (Birmingham) (JP Sports)
Curtis Alexander scored three touchdowns as Alabama gave Coach Mike DuBose a successful debut with a 42-17 win over Houston on a hot, steamy day at Legion Field. Alabama scored on the first possession of the DuBose era when Alexander capped 54-yard drive with an 11-yard run. He also added a 43-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter as the Tide built a 28-7 halftime lead. Alexander also tallied an 18-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Dennis Franchione (Sept. 1, 2001) - UCLA 20, Alabama 17 (Tuscaloosa) (ESPN, N)
The Dennis Franchione era started with a bang as the Crimson Tide built an early 10-point lead, but UCLA rallied for a three-point win behind the running of All-American running back DeShaun Foster, who led all rushers with 110 yards. Tyler Watts’ 78-yard pass to Antonio Carter put Alabama in front 7-0 midway through the first quarter. The Tide made it 10-0 in the second quarter before UCLA scored the next 20 points. Andrew Zow’s 75-yard pass to Freddie Milons with just over two minutes left in the game pulled the Tide to within 20-17, but the comeback ended when the Bruins covered the ensuing on-side kick.
Mike Shula (Aug. 30, 2003) - Alabama 40, South Florida 17 (Birmingham) (espn2)
Shaud Williams had 177 all-purpose yards and scored three touchdowns as Alabama won Mike Shula’s coaching debut. The Crimson Tide trailed 17-7 with 26 seconds left in the second quarter, but tied the game with two quick scores before halftime before rolling past the Bulls in the second half. Alabama scored 26 points in a 12-minute span to build a 33-17 lead. Williams sparked the comeback with a 73-yard punt return. He also added a three-yard and one-yard touchdown run in the win.