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FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Alabama 34, Arkansas State 7



Oct. 31, 2008

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – In what was dubbed as the “Red Bug” bowl in a pregame ceremony, Alabama defeated Arkansas State, 34-7, in front of 67,459 fans at Birmingham’s Legion Field.

The story of this Oct. 2, 1982 meeting was the relationship between Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant and Arkansas State’s Larry Lacewell. 

The ties between the two extend past the football field.  Both Lacewell and Bryant are Arkansas natives, but similarities stretch even further back.  It was a matter of record that Lacewell’s father and Bryant were high school teammates on the same undefeated Fordyce (Ark.) Red Bug high school team in the 1930s.  In fact, the elder Lacewell and Bryant were good friends and when the rainy season came to south Arkansas, and Bryant wasn’t able to walk back to Moro Bottom, he would spend the night in the Lacewell home.  In fact, it was Bryant who got the younger Lacewell into coaching.  It seems Larry wanted to become a lawyer and that summer after his high school graduation, he met Bryant in Fordyce. It was there that Bryant convinced Lacewell to become a coach and he started his career as a graduate assistant under Bryant at Alabama.

Some 20 years later, the son of one of Bryant’s closest friends would stand on the opposite sidelines as the Crimson Tide and Indians met in the “Red Bug” Bowl.

Prior to the game, a delegation from Fordyce, Ark., including Judge Joe Bill Meador, President of the Fordyce Chamber of Commerce, and Mr. Jim Jordan, who played on the same high school team as Bryant and Lacewell’s father, made a presentation to both Bryant and Lacewell.

“The city of Fordyce, Arkansas proudly presents to our native sons, Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant and Larry Lacewell, a gold red bug, symbolizing the first “Red Bug Bowl,” the proclamation read.  “We are very proud of the contributions that both of these outstanding coaches have made to college football.”

The only meeting between Bryant and Lacewell was a big deal to the folks back in Fordyce.  It was a big deal to ASU as well as Lacewell later told the story that when the team arrived at Legion Field most every player had a camera hoping to take a picture of the Tide’s legendary coach.

In addition to the “Red Bug”, the turnover bug also played an integral part in the game as the teams combined for 10 turnovers.   Alabama fumbled eight times and lost six, while ASU fumbled five times and lost three.  The Indians, who attempted only 12 passes, also threw one interception.

“Needless to say, we are happy to win and I’m all for winning,” Bryant said after the game.  “We have a lot of work to do.  Defensively, we played well, we didn’t let them score. (Arkansas State) did well.  They hung in there and battled.”

Alabama took the opening kickoff and promptly scored to take a 7-0 lead.  Paul Ott Carruth gained 34 yards on the first play from scrimmage and then capped the 10-play, 80-drive with a 12-yard run with just over three minutes off the scoreboard clock.

The Crimson Tide was forced to punt on its next possession and the Indians blocked the kick for their only score of the game.  Clyde Dumas blocked Malcolm Simmons punt from the UA 22-yard line and Bill Bowers covered the ball in the end zone as the Indians knotted the score at 7-7 with 8:25 left in the first quarter.

Alabama’s offense finally began to click in the second quarter as the Tide scored 20 points to the take a 27-7 halftime lead and put the game away.

Back-up quarterback Perry Cuda fired two touchdown passes to junior split end Joey Jones in a span of 23 seconds as UA took a 21-7 lead. The first score came with 12:28 left in the first half as Cuda fired a 20-yard TD pass to Jones to cap an 8-play, 43-yard drive set up by a short punt. 

“My first touchdown came when the play was designed for me to run an out pattern,” Jones explained after the game. “One man was playing on my outside and the other two defensive backs came toward me.  But the coverage was designed to take the inside and when I ran my route, I was wide open and the ball was right there.”

On its next possession, ASU quarterback Rick Spivey’s pass was intercepted by Craig Florence as the Indians 37 and was returned 20 yards to the ASU 17.  The Tide scored on the very next play as Cuda teamed with Jones again, this time on a 17-yard TD pass, as the Tide took a 21-7 lead with 12:08 left in the half.

Alabama would add two Peter Kim field goals to take a 27-7 halftime lead.  Kim’s 39-yard field with 4:21 left on the clock gave the Tide a 24-7 lead.  He later added a 31-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the half to push the lead to 20 points.

The Crimson Tide’s lone second half touchdown came with 4:39 left in the third quarter when Craig “Touchdown” Turner capped a 6-play, 81-yard drive with a 6-yard TD run. Turner ran four times on the drive for 21 yards.

In a battle of wishbone offenses, Alabama outgained the out-manned Arkansas State squad 423-187 in the game.  The Crimson Tide ran for 340 yards in the win, more than twice as many rushing yards as ASU (140 yards). The Crimson Tide had 11 different runners carry the ball in the win, lead by quarterback Walter Lewis’ 76 rushing yards and Carruth’s 65 rushing yards.  Jones had three catches for 52 yards and two scores as UA’s top receiver.

Linebacker Eddie Lowe led the UA defense with nine tackles in the game.  Linebacker Steve Booker, backup linebacker Jimmy Watts, backup defensive end Anthony Smiley and backup linebacker Robbie Jones all had seven tackles for the Tide.