| FTBL Crimson Tide Comebacks: Alabama 29, Georgia 28 At Night In 1994


Almost no one remembers Jay Barker having a role in Alabama’s 1992 national championship game win over Miami in the Sugar Bowl. They remember George Teague, and with good reason. They remember the plan devised by Bill Oliver to thwart Hurricanes Heisman Trophy winner Gino Torretta. Barker? He was 4-13 passing for 18 yards with 2 interceptions.

Barker, however, was a sophomore in 1992, and the plan for success under Coach Gene Stallings was for the defense and kicking teams to make good plays, the offense to avoid bad plays. First priority for Barker and his teammates was to not make mistakes that would jeopardize victory.

As such, the highlight of Barker’s reputation in his senior season was “All he can do is win.” Bama entered its fifth game on the night of October 1, 1994, Alabama’s record with Barker under center was 27-1-1.

That all changed in what was then a rare night game as Barker orchestrated a dramatic 29-28 victory over the Bulldogs.

When Georgia invaded, the contrast at quarterback was expected to be dramatic. Alabama had won its first four games, but Barker had been mediocre, 37 completions in 63 attempts for 423 yards with only three touchdowns. On the Georgia side would be Heisman Trophy candidate Eric Zeier, who had completed 93 of 150 passes for 1,307 yards and nine touchdowns. Bama knew about Zeier from 1991. Alabama had won that game, but the enduring memory was of Zeier, then a freshman, getting hammered again and again by an Alabama defense, but Zeier getting up and fighting on.

Alabama was more run-oriented, and Georgia was determined to stop the Tide ground attack. That task was made easier by the fact that Bama’s top rusher, Sherman Williams, was hampered with a sprained ankle. An offense has to take what is given. Barker was happy to accept.

Bama would get fewer than 100 yards rushing against the Bulldogs, and Alabama hasn’t often won a game with low rushing numbers. That lack of production on the ground, though, was more than offset by Barker through the air.

Barker was outstanding. He completed 26 of 34 passes for 396 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Zeier was as good as expected, 25-33 for 263 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. The Bulldogs had another weapon. Freshman Hines Ward had been moved from quarterback to slotback and had 22 rushes for 137 yards, five pass receptions for 24 yards, and returned two kickoffs for 42 yards, a total of 203 all-purpose yards.

Alabama junior wide receiver Toderick Malone had been a solid, though less than spectacular, receiver. Going into 1994 he had a total of nine receptions. Through the first four games he ranked as Alabama’s fourth receiver, seven catches for 73 yards. He had a decent first half, three catches for 54 yards, but also had allowed two passes to escape through his hands. He would have a second half to remember.

Georgia had an outstanding secondary led by safety Will Muschamp, who became an excellent defensive coach and is now head coach at South Carolina. The Alabama offense devised by offensive coordinator Homer Smith confused the Bulldogs.

“We got our signals crossed,” Muschamp said. “I’m the quarterback out there in the secondary, and it’s my job to make sure everyone is lined up right. Any breakdown and it’s my fault.”

Alabama had played with its back to the wall from the opening drive, when Zeier drove the Bulldogs 80 yards to a touchdown. Although Alabama tied the game at 7-7 on a six-yard Tarrant Lynch inside handoff, Georgia would take the lead with two more touchdowns before halftime. With the score 21-7 with less than a minute until intermission, Barker completed six passes and got Bama to the Georgia 15. Alabama’s last-play field goal was almost scuttled by a bad snap, but holder Bryne Diehl scooped up the ball and got it positioned. Placekicker Michael Proctor’s timing was thrown off by the mishap, but he managed to get the kick away. The ball squirted right, but fortuitously hit the inside of the upright and went through the goalposts to close the score to 21-10.

In the second half, Barker and Malone went to work. Quickly. Malone took a pass for 29 yards on the first play of the third quarter and caught an eight-yard pass on second down. A short run put the Tide at the Georgia 35.

Malone, lined up on the right side, gave an inside feint, then sprinted past Georgia defenders. He took Barker’s pass in stride for a touchdown that cut the lead to 21-16.

That was a great play. Incredibly, Barker and Malone would do it again. Same play, same result.

While Bama’s offense was beginning to exploit the Georgia defense, Zeier continued to make life miserable for Alabama’s stop troops. Going into the game, the Tide had not given up a touchdown pass. Zeier would throw four against gimmick defenses that included five and six defensive backs. Early in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs had expanded the lead to 28-19.

Barker and Co. were at the Tide 28, needing to score quickly because Bama had to score at least twice. Barker opened the drive with a Homer Smith special, a toss to fullback Lynch that gained 23 yards. Then it was back to Malone. Again, lined up on the right side, Malone gave the same feint and got the same result. He was behind the Georgia defensive backs and Barker took advantage, hitting him on a pass that would carry the remaining 49 yards. Score quickly? The “drive” took 42 seconds and pulled Alabama to within 28-26.

Malone would finish the day with eight receptions for 173 yards, two of them on the inside-out route for 84 yards and two touchdowns.

It took a little more to get the victory.

With three minutes to play, Alabama was at its 48 facing fourth and 12. Alabama Coach Gene Stallings decided to punt, and Diehl delivered a beauty, a 50-yard effort that went out of bounds at the Georgia two. The Bulldogs might have been able to run out the clock, but a third-down pass was dropped and Georgia had to punt back to Bama.

Alabama started at midfield with 2:10 to play. Barker saved the possession when he escaped from trouble and ran for 13 yards. Moments later he completed a pass to tight end Tony Johnson, who ran it down to the Georgia 16, a 22-yard gain. From there the Tide positioned the ball for Proctor’s game-winning 32-yard field goal.

“There’s none better than Michael Proctor,” said Stallings.

Malone said, “We hung in there. I think our tradition had a lot to do with it. And Jay was throwing the ball exceptionally well.”

Barker spread credit. He said, “Coach (Homer) Smith continued to say we would explode, and we did. I’m proud of the way that I played, but I’m even more proud of the offensive line, and the entire offense. There was a lot of confidence in our huddle.”

Smith returned the compliment. “Jay Barker had it in him. He’s a tremendous player. He looked like (Joe) Montana in his prime.”

Barker knew he had won a heavyweight fight. “It does raise the ante a little bit when a quarterback like Eric Zeier comes into town,” Barker said. “Eric is the best quarterback I’ve ever been around.”

Barker also remembered the game as the only one in which he was benched for poor play. “Coach Stallings said to just watch for a few minutes. It was exactly what I needed.”

In three years as a starter (1992-94), Barker quarterbacked Crimson Tide teams that went 34-2-1. He was on Alabama teams that won 45 games in four years. When he finished his college career, he held Alabama records for passing yards (5,699), completions (402), and attempts (706). He was given All-America recognition and following his senior season was presented with the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which goes to the nation’s best quarterback based on academics, leadership, character, and athletics achievement. He was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Outstanding Quarterback Award and finished fifth in Heisman Trophy balloting. He was All-Southeastern Conference, Academic All-SEC, SEC Player of the Year, and team captain.


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