When the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide kick off on Saturday in Tuscaloosa it will begin the 11th all-time football meeting between the schools. Most of those past matchups have been in bowl games, and today’s game will be UT’s first-ever visit to Bryant-Denny Stadium and its first road game at Alabama since 1902.
The shared football history between Texas and Alabama includes, among other things, several high-profile bowl game matchups, a fateful national championship game in 2010, eight long-ago seasons in which they were both members of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1896-1903), at least six players who have suited up for both schools, more than a dozen coaches who have worked for both schools, and the wishbone triple-option offense that both schools employed for most of the 1970s.
Alabama fielded its first football team in 1892, and Texas did so a year later. (Later in this post you’ll learn about a player who was a member of the first teams at both schools.) Now in their 131st seasons of playing football (Alabama started a year earlier but did not have a team in 1918), the two schools rank second (Alabama) and fifth (Texas) in all-time wins by a college football program, and they have claimed a combined 22 national titles.
The two schools first met on a football field in 1902 in a game that Texas won 10-0. Texas later hosted Alabama a pair of times in 1915 and 1922, winning both times. The Longhorns and Crimson Tide met in bowl games six times between 1947 and 2010, but did not play a regular season game again until last year’s 20-19 win by Alabama in Austin. Texas holds a 7-2-1 advantage over Alabama in their all-time series.
Below, I present a history of the Texas-Alabama football series, starting with a review of those first ten matchups (with several historical notes and bits of trivia interspersed), then going into some players and coaches who’ve been part of both programs.
All-time games between Texas and Alabama
Texas 10, Alabama 0 (in Tuscaloosa)
UT’s 1902 team traveled to Tuscaloosa for its first-ever meeting with Alabama. At that time, Alabama’s teams had not yet adopted the Crimson Tide moniker, and Texas was not yet known as the Longhorns. This contest was played on Wednesday, November 19, and was the second game of a three-engagement road trip by Texas. In that era and for many years afterward, traveling for road games usually meant taking a train, and when those road games were against an opponent from a few states away it was common practice for Texas to schedule multiple games in relatively quick succession to make the time and finances for the trip work. Thus, in the 1902 season, Texas played and won road games at Nashville University, Alabama, and Tulane within a 10-day period, then returned home and played Texas A&M in Austin just three days after their game in New Orleans against Tulane. UT’s 12-0 loss that Thanksgiving represented their first-ever loss to A&M.
Texas had an even more arduous stretch a year earlier to close out its 1901 season, one in which it played four road games in three states before returning to Austin to host A&M on Thanksgiving, and those five games were played in the span of 13 days. Later, in both the 1905 and 1906 seasons Texas played games at Vanderbilt, Arkansas, and Oklahoma in a seven-day stretch, but these multi-state, short-turnaround road trips were not a feature of UT football schedules any more after the 1906 season.
According to contemporary reports, the Texas-Alabama game in 1902 was pretty evenly-matched. Alabama twice drove deep into Texas territory in the first half but turned the ball over on downs both times. Texas scored its first touchdown with 13 seconds left in the first half and added a second touchdown in the second half for a 10-0 final score. (From 1898 to 1911, touchdowns were worth five points and a successful PAT kick was worth one.)
“The Alabama boys are by no means dissatisfied with the result,” said a newspaper report that was published in both Austin and Montgomery, Alabama, “as everyone expected Texas to win by a larger score.”
Texas 20, Alabama 0 (in Austin)
Hosting Alabama for the first time, Texas used a dominating run game to defeat a Crimson Tide team that had spent two days traveling to Austin by train from Tuscaloosa. The game was played in wet conditions that made outside runs difficult and passes virtually impossible, and the teams combined for just one completed pass on 15 attempts. Alabama had a talented kicker in their All-American right tackle William “Bully” Van de Graaff, but he went 0-for-5 on field goal attempts and was not a factor in the end. (Fun fact: Bully Van de Graaff was the older brother of the famous physicist Robert Van de Graaff, for whom is named the Van de Graaff generator that you may remember from science class.)
Due to the muddy conditions of Clark Field, Texas’s offense relied mostly on straight-ahead runs, and the Austin Statesman‘s report of the game stated — in an unfortunate reference to military ordnance that the paper hopefully didn’t re-use in the years after three Longhorns died on European battlefields during World War I — that due to the work of the Longhorn offensive line, “time after time holes were made in the Alabama line resembling the progress of a 42-centimeter shell.”
Texas led 13-0 at halftime, and added a third-quarter touchdown to make the score 20-0. Texas had 13 first downs to Alabama’s four, and according to the Statesman’s report the UT defense held Alabama to 76 total yards. The win over Alabama gave that Texas team a 6-1 record, but the Longhorns ended the season with a 13-0 loss to Texas A&M and a 36-7 Thanksgiving Day loss to Notre Dame, the first time Texas had lost in consecutive games in seven years.
Texas 19, Alabama 10 (in Austin)
The 1922 Texas team won its first three games handily before suffering a 20-10 loss in Dallas to an undefeated Vanderbilt team whose captain that year was Jess Neely, later the head football coach at Rice from 1940 to 1966. Vanderbilt would finish the year 8-0-1, and a pair of ratings systems have retroactively named the Commodores national champions for that season.
Texas starting quarterback Franklin Stacy suffered a sprained ankle in the loss to Vanderbilt, and taking his place was 23-year old George Gardere, whose grandson Peter Gardere would play quarterback for the Longhorns from 1989 to 1992 and famously become first Longhorn signal-caller to lead the team to four straight victories over Oklahoma. The son of a French immigrant father and a Texan mother, George Gardere came to UT from Marlin in central Texas and was a member of the Longhorn football team for a number of years but did not see the field enough to win a letter prior to the 1922 season.
Alabama opened that season with its most lopsided win ever, a 110-0 demolishing of a team from the Marion Military Institute, but two weeks later the Crimson Tide lost 33-7 to Georgia Tech, and then tied Sewanee 7-7 in the week before traveling to Austin to face Texas at Clark Field. Alabama’s top passer was Charles Bartlett, who was also from Marlin. Gardere and Bartlett had been teammates on the Marlin High School football team, and the two of them had also competed together at the 1915 Texas state tennis tournament. The Birmingham News reported that 33 Marlin residents traveled to Austin to cheer for Bartlett and the Crimson Tide, but there were no doubt some who also cheered for the hometown boy wearing UT’s colors. Sources differ on whether Bartlett started the game at quarterback or left halfback for Alabama, but in that era the quarterback was not always the default passer on a team. The two teams were closely matched, but Texas was helped by several Alabama miscues, including one interception and five fumbles.
Alabama scored first to take a 7-0 lead after a 25-yard touchdown pass from Bartlett to Alabama’s right halfback. Gardere scored UT’s first touchdown after catching a pass from left halfback Ivan Robertson. Texas added another score in the 1st quarter to take a 13-7 lead, and never trailed again. Two Robertson field goals later in the game improved UT’s score to 19 points, while a field goal was all Alabama was able to add to its total after its touchdown to begin the game. This game was evidently played in unusually warm conditions; the Birmingham News reported that Alabama’s starting center and right tackle both had to be helped off the field during the course of play and were unable to return to the game, with the heat cited as a factor in their exits.
In addition to his running, passing, and field-goal kicking, Ivan Robertson’s punting in the game was also given specific praise by reporters from both Texas and Alabama. At the end of that season, Robertson was named an honorable mention All-American by Walter Camp.
After helping lead Texas to a win over Alabama and his former high school teammate, George Gardere started at quarterback in UT’s next two games, both decisive shutout wins over Rice and Southwestern, but in the game against Southwestern he suffered a broken jaw and missed the season’s final two games. He was awarded his first and only football letter after the 1922 season.
Texas 27, Alabama 7 (Sugar Bowl)
The 1947 Longhorns were led by senior quarterback and consensus All-American Bobby Layne. Playing in their first season under head coach Blair Cherry following the retirement of Dana Bible, the Longhorns won their first six games and were ranked as high as third in the Associated Press poll, but suffered their only defeat in a 14-13 loss in Dallas to an SMU team led by All-American halfback Doak Walker. That SMU team would win its first eight games before a 19-19 tie against TCU to close out the regular season and a 13-13 tie versus fourth-ranked Penn State in the Cotton Bowl, and it was ranked third at the end of the season.
After their one-point loss to SMU (which came as a result of a missed PAT following a 4th quarter touchdown), the Longhorns scored double-digit victories over Baylor, TCU and Texas A&M to finish the regular season 9-1, and they were ranked seventh in the final AP poll. To close out the season they faced sixth-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama had lost a pair of early season games at Tulane and Vanderbilt, but finished the regular season on a seven-game winning streak.
In the Sugar Bowl, Layne passed for 183 yards and one touchdown despite windy conditions and rushed for 34 more yards in his final game as a Longhorn, leading Texas to a 27-7 win in what was at that time Alabama’s most lopsided loss in a bowl game. His passing figures would have been more impressive if not for several drops by Longhorn receivers. UT’s top receiver on the day was junior end Ralph “Peppy” Blount, a 23-year-old from Big Spring who had already won letters at Texas in both football and basketball, served as a pilot during World War II, and had been elected to the first of what would be three terms of office in the Texas House of Representatives.
Texas 3, Alabama 3 (Bluebonnet Bowl)
The 1960 season, UT’s fourth under head coach Darrell Royal, began with the Longhorns ranked fourth in the AP poll, but they fell out of the rankings after a 3-3 start that included narrow losses to Nebraska, Arkansas and Rice by a combined margin of nine points. They won four straight games to close out the regular season and set up a Bluebonnet Bowl meeting with ninth-ranked Alabama, which sported a record of 8-1-1.
The game was a defensive struggle, with the two teams combining for less than 400 offensive yards and gaining barely 2.5 yards per carry. Texas’s defense held Alabama to just four first downs. Alabama’s best chance at a touchdown came after a 49-yard pass that advanced the ball inside the UT 10-yard line, but a goal-line stand by the Longhorns resulted in a turnover on downs. The vast majority of UT’s possessions began deep on their own side of the field, and Alabama’s defense, which included future Dallas Cowboys linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, rarely let Texas have sustained drives. Jordan, a sophomore who played center and linebacker for the Crimson Tide, was voted the game’s outstanding lineman after its conclusion.
A third quarter field goal gave Alabama a 3-0 lead, which it held until Texas was able to put together a 71-yard drive that burned much of the 4th quarter’s clock and ended with a game-tying field goal by Dan Petty with 3:44 remaining. That field goal was set up two minutes earlier by a fourth-down conversion on a screen pass off a fake field-goal attempt, a play Texas had used earlier that year against Texas A&M and which Alabama was ready for but was still unable to stop. Petty later missed a would-be game-winning field-goal attempt in the game’s final seconds.
Petty, a senior from Texarkana, spent most of his time at UT as a reserve tackle, but his talent for kicking was discovered toward the end of his career. As a senior in 1960 he was the team’s primary placekicker and made 5-of-6 field-goal attempts and 10-of-15 PAT attempts during the regular season, and one of his field goals provided all of UT’s points in a 3-2 win over TCU on November 12.
Texas 21, Alabama 17 (Orange Bowl)
The 1964 Longhorns were one of Darrell Royal’s best teams to not win a national championship. Texas, the defending national champion from the 1963 season, won its first four games and ascended to the top of the AP rankings, but lost 14-13 on October 17 to eighth-ranked Arkansas in a game that was decided by an incomplete pass on a two-point conversion try following a Texas touchdown with 1:27 left in regulation. Texas won the rest of its regular season contests to improve its record to 9-1 and reach the No. 5 spot in the rankings.
Alabama’s team, led by senior quarterback and future Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Namath, won all 10 of its regular season games and held the top spot in the AP poll going into the bowl games. Alabama had spent much of the season in the top three, then took over the No. 1 ranking after that spot’s previous holder, Notre Dame, was upset by USC in its regular-season finale.
In their Orange Bowl matchup, Texas took a 21-7 lead into halftime, with two touchdowns from senior halfback Ernie Koy (who finished the game with 133 rushing yards) and a 69-yard TD pass from senior quarterback Jim Hudson to receiver George Sauer.
Alabama added 10 points to its total in the second half while keeping Texas out of the end zone, and Namath finished the game with 298 passing yards, but Texas held on for the 21-17 win. Despite the loss to Texas, Alabama was recognized as the season’s national champion due to finishing No. 1 in the final AP and Coaches Poll (UPI) rankings (which were taken before the bowl games), though Arkansas, which went undefeated and was ranked second in both of those polls at the close of the regular season, also claims a national championship by virtue of a poll by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).
Jim Hudson had played both ways early in his UT career, then was a starting safety on the 1963 national championship team and led the Southwest Conference with five interceptions. But he was moved to quarterback as a senior in 1964 and spent most of that year as a backup, only appearing in five regular season games. (Mack Brown would have known to keep that quarterback at safety!) After being inserted at quarterback in the second quarter of the Orange Bowl, Hudson connected with Sauer for a long scoring pass that gave Texas a 14-0 lead. After the end of his college career, Hudson signed with the AFL’s New York Jets as an undrafted free agent and played safety for that team for six seasons.
in 1968, Hudson and Sauer, along with their former Longhorn teammates John Elliott and Pete Lammons and their one-time Orange Bowl nemesis Joe Namath, were all starters on a New York Jets team that won that season’s AFL Championship and then upset the NFL’s Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.
Texas 17, Alabama 13 (Cotton Bowl)
In 1968, following three straight seasons with four losses, Texas unveiled the wishbone triple-option offense and proceeded to go 30-2-1 with two recognized national championships over the course of three seasons.
In 1971, following two straight five-loss seasons, Alabama secretly made the switch to the wishbone, with an assist from members of the Texas coaching staff. Alabama opened that season with a 17-10 upset of fifth-ranked USC, and reeled off 11 straight wins before losing 38-6 to top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl. Picking up where the previous year’s team left off, the 1972 Crimson Tide won their first ten games and were second in the rankings before a 17-16 loss to eighth-ranked Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl.
Texas rambled over a weak Southwest Conference slate in 1972, running the table on their seven foes while every other conference team had at least three losses. UT was 9-1 and ranked seventh at the end of the regular season, with their only loss a 27-0 shutout at the hands of Oklahoma, which had adopted the wishbone two years earlier.
In their Cotton Bowl matchup, Alabama led 13-3 at halftime, but Texas held the Crimson Tide scoreless in the second half, and two touchdown runs by quarterback Alan Lowry gave Texas a 17-13 win. The game-winning score came at the end of a seven-play, 80-yard drive that left 4:22 on the clock in the fourth quarter. Lowry and running back Roosevelt Leaks combined for 237 rushing yards on 41 carries. Texas was third and Alabama seventh in the final AP rankings.
Texas 14, Alabama 12 (Cotton Bowl)
In 1981, Fred Akers was in his fifth season as UT’s head coach, while Bear Bryant was in his 24th and penultimate season at Alabama. The previous year’s Texas team had started off promisingly and was ranked second after a 5-0 start, but then proceeded to lose five of its last seven games. The 1981 Longhorns won their first four games, including two over ranked teams from Oklahoma and Miami, but after rising to the No. 1 ranking, they suffered an embarrassing 42-11 loss to unranked Arkansas. They rebounded to beat eighth-ranked SMU, but later had a 14-14 tie with Houston. Texas finished the regular season 9-1-1 and was second in the SWC standings, but since 10-1 SMU was on NCAA probation and banned from the postseason, Texas was the conference’s representative in that season’s Cotton Bowl.
Alabama was ranked fourth to start that season, but two weeks in the Tide had an inexplicable 24-21 loss to a Georgia Tech team that did not win another game that year. Four weeks later, Alabama tied Southern Miss 13-13, but had no other regular season setbacks, and after finishing the regular season 9-1-1 with no SEC losses they were named co-champions with Georgia, a team not on Alabama’s schedule that season. Third-ranked Alabama got a Cotton Bowl invite, while second-ranked Georgia went to the Sugar Bowl.
Alabama led Texas 7-0 at halftime and took a 10-0 lead after a field goal early in the fourth quarter. After being bottled up by Alabama’s defense for most of the game, Texas responded with a 60-yard drive that was finished off with a 30-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw by Robert Brewer on a 3rd-and-10 play that caught the Alabama defense completely off guard. The middle of the Alabama defense was so wide open “Brewer could have run to Plano,” wrote Jim Carley of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Eight minutes later, an eight-yard TD run by Terry Orr put Texas ahead 14-10 with 2:05 left in regulation. Alabama advanced to the Texas 38-yard line on its ensuing possession, but a long pass into the end zone was intercepted by Longhorn safety William Graham with 1:47 left to end the Crimson Tide threat. Graham had picked off seven passes in the regular season to tie UT’s single-season record in that stat (since broken by Earl Thomas). The ball was spotted at the one-yard line after Graham’s interception, and three snaps moved the ball slightly forward and got the clock down to 56 seconds. On fourth down with the ball inside their own five-yard line, Texas lined up to punt, and after receiving the snap punter John Goodson darted around the end zone for eight seconds before stepping out of bounds for an intentional safety, which cut the lead to 14-12 but allowed Texas a free kick to put the ball much further from their end zone than it would have been with a normal punt. The Texas defense didn’t allow Alabama to threaten on their last possession.
Texas went from sixth to second in the final AP rankings, while Alabama slid from third to seventh.
Alabama 37, Texas 21 (BCS National Championship at the Rose Bowl)
Yeah, there’s no need to re-live that game, but if you care to re-visit the most consequential play of UT’s eventual loss to Alabama in the 2009 BCS Championship, you can read what Wescott wrote about it at the time.
Alabama 20, Texas 19 (in Austin)
Another heart-breaker of a game that was recent enough that there’s no real need to re-hash it for any regular visitors of this site, but you can read Evan Kirschner’s Sunday Armchair QB post from the day after.
So there have been some classic games between Texas and Alabama, with most of them being Longhorn wins, one a tie, and the other two heartbreaking losses in which Texas looked very good early before an injury to its starting quarterback threw a wrench into the offensive game plan. Hopefully today’s game more closely resembles the first eight of those games than the two that have been played within the past 40 years.
I’ll leave you with a few more bits of trivia and historical info on the Texas-Alabama series.
University of Texas football lettermen who were from Alabama: 7
University of Alabama football lettermen who were from Texas: at least 57
Football players who suited up for both Alabama and Texas
Graves was a substitute on the first Alabama team in 1892, and after graduation he enrolled at Texas as a law student in 1893. That year he was a substitute on UT’s first varsity football team, though how much he played is unclear. Graves is a recognized football letterman at Alabama but not at Texas. He only attended Texas for a year before completing the rest of his legal studies at Yale. He was later elected to two terms as Governor of Alabama in 1926 and 1934.
McMahon, a native of Sumterville, Alabama, attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a B.A. in 1903, at age 19. He received an M.A. a year later, then moved to Texas and enrolled at UT as a law student. Contemporary reports stated that he had played football while at Alabama and was thus ineligible to play during his first year as a Texas student, but he is not named on Alabama’s all-time lettermen list. He played quarterback for Texas in 1906, the first season that the forward pass was legal, and he is recorded as having thrown the first forward pass in team history that year.
Moore, a 6’5 defensive tackle, signed with Alabama in 2009 out of George Washington Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama. He won a letter with the Crimson Tide in 2010, but left the program and transferred to East Mississippi Community College. He transferred to Texas in 2012 and played for one season with the Longhorns, recording 18 tackles in 12 games.
Robinson, a speedy running back, signed with Alabama in the 2019 recruiting class and played in eight games as a freshman that fall. After redshirting during the 2020 COVID season he transferred to Texas in 2021. Now in his third year with the Longhorn program he has appeared in 25 games and is a fifth-year senior.
Billingsley signed with Alabama’s 2019 recruiting class as a highly-rated tight end. He appeared in 36 games over three seasons with the Crimson Tide, then transferred to Texas in 2022. He played in just four games with the Longhorns, and after the season he declared for the 2023 draft, but was not selected.
A four-star wide receiver prospect coming out of high school, Hall played in seven games with Alabama in the 2021 season, then transferred to Texas. While in Austin his presence was felt much more by the UT Parking and Transportation Service than by opposing defenses, as he made just one catch in three games played with the Longhorns, and he entered the transfer portal last December.
Football coaches who have worked for both Texas and Alabama
It’s not just the above-named student-athletes who have competed for both UT and Bama. More than a dozen football coaches have worked for both schools in some capacity.
Offensive coordinator at Alabama (2019-20), and head coach at Texas (since 2021)
Offensive line coach at Alabama (2019-20), and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach at Texas (since 2021)
Tight ends/special teams coach at Alabama (2018-20), and assistant head coach/special teams coordinator/tight ends coach at Texas (since 2021)
Offensive Analyst at Alabama (2019-20), and quarterbacks coach at Texas (since 2021)
Cornerbacks coach at Texas (2020), and cornerbacks coach at Alabama (2021)
Defensive line coach at Alabama (2011-13), and assistant head coach and defensive line coach at Texas (2014)
Defensive line coach at Alabama (2007-10 and 2014-15), and defensive tackles coach (2011-13) and defensive line coach (since 2021) at Texas
Analyst at Texas (2020), and analyst at Alabama (2021-22)
Head coach at Texas (2014-16), and defensive analyst at Alabama (2020 and 2023)
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach (2007) and analyst (2019-20) at Alabama; and running backs coach (2008-12), co-offensive coordinator (2011-13), and quarterbacks coach (2013) at Texas
Assistant strength & conditioning coach at Texas (2004), and graduate assistant at Alabama (2008)
Assistant at Alabama (1987-88), and offensive line coach at Texas (2002-10)
Assistant (1981-83) and wide receivers coach (2014) at Texas; and assistant (1984) and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach (2001-02) at Alabama
In a category of his own is Leon Fuller, a southeast Texas native who played on Alabama’s football teams in 1959 and 1960, then had a long coach career that included two separate five-season stints as defensive coordinator at Texas from 1977-81 and 1989-93.
If I’ve missed anyone else who should fall into this category, please let me know in the comments.