Oct. 16, 2009
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Alabama opened the 1973 season with an impressive 66-0 win over the Cal Bears on a warm and humid Sept. 15 night at Birmingham’s Legion Field. The win also marked an impressive debut for sophomore quarterback Richard Todd.
The Crimson Tide’s offense was simply too much for the Bears as Todd became a household name among the UA faithful. Alabama’s offense rolled up 667 total yards in the win, including 405 rushing yards and 262 passing yards.
Todd ran the wishbone with ease, churning out 106 rushing yards on eight attempts (13.25 per rush) in his debut with the Tide. He also completed 3-of-5 passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The defense was equally impressive, limiting the Cal offense, which featured future NFL stars Vince Ferragamo and Steve Bartkowski at quarterback, along with running back Chuck Muncie, to 250 total yards and zero points in the opener.
Ferragamo completed 15 of 30 passes for 128 yards and threw two interceptions. Bartkowski threw three incomplete passes in a backup role. Muncie had 12 carries for 61 yards and caught two passes for four yards.
Alabama scored on three of five first half possessions to take 21-0 lead. After an exchange of punts to open the game, the Tide offense took possession at its own 49-yard line. It took only five plays to cover the 51 yards, with Wilbur Jackson scoring on a 2-yard run. Bill Davis’ first of nine extra points made it 7-0 with 5:19 left in the opening quarter.
The lead was extended to 14-0 in the next possession when junior quarterback Gary Rutledge capped a 4-play, 56-yard drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Sharpless with 1:44 left in the quarter.
Todd made his debut with 13:30 left in the first half and on his first collegiate snap, Paul Spivey ran off left tackle for a 4-yard gain. Todd completed his first pass on a third-and-four at the UA 31-yard line when he connected on an 11-yard pass to Warren Dyar for a first down the Tide 42-yard line. Two costly penalties stopped the drive and Todd punted 33 yards to the Cal 14.
Cal netted only six yards after the punt and Todd and the UA offense went back to work at the Cal 49-yard line, following a 29-yard punt. Alabama scored in five plays, with Todd picking up his first career TD pass, a 16-yard strike to George Pugh as the Tide took a 21-0 lead with 5:25 left in the half.
At the half, Todd had 58 rushing yards and had completed two passes for 70 yards and one TD.
The second half was more of the same for the Tide. Alabama scored on three of its four third-quarter possessions to take a 38-0 lead. Cal fumbled on its first play from scrimmage when Muncie was hit by Woodrow Lowe at the Bears 24 yard. Wayne Hall jumped on the loose football giving the Tide excellent field position at the Cal 24. Alabama gave the ball back five plays later when Rutledge fumbled at the 13.
Following a Cal punt, Alabama would score on its next three possessions. Sophomore running back James Taylor’s 2-yard TD run with 7:37 left in the quarter made it 28-0. Davis kicked a 21-yard field goal with 4:04 left in the quarter to make it 31-0. Todd capped the scoring in the third quarter with a 46-yard TD pass to Joe Dale Harris, extending the lead to 38-0 with 34 seconds left in the quarter.
Alabama scored on all four possessions in the fourth quarter, including an 86-yard pass from Rutledge to Harris that gave the Tide a 52-point lead with 12:14 left in the game. Todd engineered a three-play scoring drive that ended with Duffy Boles 18-yard run with 10:01 to play. Sophomore running back Willie Shelby scored the final two touchdowns on runs of 32 and 5 yards for the Tide.
Editor’s Note: Former Alabama quarterback Richard Todd will serve as the grand marshal of the 2009 Alabama homecoming parade. Todd played three years for the Crimson Tide from 1973-75 and was named All-SEC in 1975. His teams compiled a 33-3 record and won three SEC Championships and the 1973 UPI National Championship. He later played in the NFL for the New York Jets. His son, Gator, was a member of the Crimson Tide’s 2008 SEC Championship golf team.