The Alabama football record book is a formidable text of more than 300 pages chronicling more than 125 years of history. It tells the story of legends, dynasties, and one of college football’s most dominant programs. It also tells the story of players, teams and coaches that reached even higher and set new standards. Some of those marks have been surpassed. But some haven’t, and it’s unlikely they’ll be threatened anytime soon.
These are the 10 Alabama football records that weren’t made to be broken.
The selection criteria: Where possible, major records were selected instead of obscure or quirky records. NCAA and SEC records were given greater consideration. Offensive and defensive records that had a greater impact on the field than special teams records were more likely to be chosen. For games, players or teams that were responsible for multiple records, the most impressive was chosen and others are mentioned in the description. There were several other records that were considered but not included in the top 10. You can find a list of honorable mentions at the bottom.
1. Derrick Thomas’ 27 sacks in 1988
NCAA record | SEC record | Alabama record
The record: You could pick any number of Derrick Thomas records and any of them would fit the list. His 52 career sacks are unassailable. His record of five sacks in a game is probably safe, too. Thomas’ 27 sacks technically aren’t an NCAA record as sacks weren’t an official statistic until 2000. But if they were, Thomas would hold the all-time collegiate mark at any level of NCAA football. The second-closest is Arizona State’s Terrell Suggs, who had 24 sacks in 2002. It should be noted here that Wallace Gilberry set an SEC record with 27 tackles for loss in 2007.
Why it won’t be broken: Thomas has the most sacks in a season in school history with 27, and also the second most when he had 18 sacks in 1987. The next closest after that is Jonathan Allen’s 12 sacks in 2015. Allen was an All-American and a national defensive player of the year in 2016 and only had 10.5 sacks that year. Since 1988, there’s been a greater emphasis on protecting the quarterback with an athletic left tackle. Passing games have progressed and often use quicker routes rather than lengthy drops.
2. 748 team rushing yards against Virginia Tech in 1973
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: There are records within the record here. The offense posted a then-NCAA record 833 total yards in the game and hung 77 points on the Hokies. That means there was also a school-record 11 PATs. Alabama averaged 11.87 yards per carry on 63 attempts in the game. Four different players ran for more than 100 yards. Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant insisted that he wasn’t trying to run up the score, playing backups in the first half. But Alabama kept running, and Virginia Tech never stopped it.
Why it won’t be broken: The margin on this one is massive. Tulane (then an SEC member) rushed for 638 yards against Mississippi College in 1937. The closest that anyone has come since Alabama set the record in 1973 was when Auburn ran for 565 yards in a game in 1985. The wishbone offense that Alabama utilized at the time won’t be coming back anytime soon. Changes in the NCAA rulebook which limit the number of scholarships and signees for programs have also created greater parity in college football overall. Even with Alabama’s obscene collection of talent today, it’s unlikely an FBS opponent would be as overmatched as Virginia Polytechnic Institute was on that day.
3. 1.9 points per game allowed in 1933
The record: Consider this to be the catchall entry for Alabama’s all-time defensive marks. The 1933 team gave up 17 points in nine games, allowing two touchdowns all season. The Crimson Tide went 7-1-1, actually losing a game 2-0 to Fordham. There are other impressive marks, like the 1961 team that allowed 22 points in 11 games or the 1937 team that allowed 20 points in 10 games. In 1938, Alabama allowed just 701 total yards. Any of those efforts could hold this spot, but 1.9 points is the best mark for Alabama in something resembling a full season as it is measured today.
Why it won’t be broken: There were six shutouts this season, which is also unlikely to be equaled in the modern era. The game is different now than it was more than 50 years ago. Offenses have evolved. Athletes have improved. Rules have tilted to favor more scoring. But Alabama can look at its 2011 defense as a new high-water mark. That team gave up 106 total points in 13 games for 8.15 points per game. That’s the fewest allowed by any NCAA team since 2000, and it doesn’t appear likely to be challenged anytime soon either.
4. Derrick Henry’s 28 rushing touchdowns in 2015
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: Henry’s Heisman Trophy season set several school and SEC records. His 2,219 rushing yards looks untouchable. His 10 100-yard rushing games in that season would be tough to top. His 395 total carries is technically an SEC record, though Herschel Walker had 385 in a season in which his bowl statistics didn’t count. Henry also scored a touchdown in all 15 games that season, and that number cannot be broken in college football’s current scheduling format.
Why it won’t be broken: While other SEC backs have approached 2,000 rushing yards in a season (Leonard Fournette in 2015), his 28 touchdowns that season is well ahead of Tre Mason’s 23 scores for Auburn in 2013. Mason had two receiving touchdowns for 25 total scores, still short of Henry. There’s little chance of a player from Alabama or elsewhere in the SEC finishing a season with 29 or more touchdowns on his own. Wisconsin has had a couple running backs in recent seasons with more than 28 rushing touchdowns, but that style of football remains foreign to the SEC. Henry’s SEC and school records appear safe.
5. 57 straight wins at Bryant-Denny Stadium (1963-82)
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: This record spans most of the Paul W. “Bear” Bryant era. It began with a midseason win over Houston at then-Denny Stadium in 1963. The win streak finally came to an end when Southern Miss beat Alabama 38-29 in a November meeting. The record is helped significantly by the fact that it doesn’t include games played at Legion Field, where the Crimson Tide often faced its biggest opponents in the regular season. It’s hard to imagine only playing 57 games in Tuscaloosa over a span of 20 seasons in modern day.
Why it won’t be broken: Alabama has a nice win streak going at home at the moment, with 22 straight wins in Tuscaloosa since an upset at the hands of Ole Miss in 2015. That means there’s 35 more to go to tie the record. If Alabama continues to play seven home games per season until 2023, the Crimson Tide could break the record sometime in October of that year (though scheduling could change between now and then). For as dominant as Alabama has been at Bryant-Denny Stadium, that would seem to be a mountain that would be too high to climb.
6. Lee Roy Jordan’s 31 tackles in the 1963 Orange Bowl
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: As with Thomas’ sack records, this isn’t an officially recognized NCAA record because defensive statistics weren’t kept until 2000. But as with Thomas’ numbers, Jordan’s 31 tackles eclipse the number in the record book. Mike Singletary, a future NFL great who played in college at Baylor, was believed to have games of 35 and 33 tackles. Alabama shut out Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma 17-0 in the Orange Bowl.
Why it won’t be broken: DeMeco Ryans made a valiant effort at the record when he had 25 tackles against Arkansas in 2003. But nowadays there are Alabama starters on defense who can go a season without 31 total tackles. The defense is deeper, there are more situational players and the pace of the game requires some substitution to keep players fresh. There’s also less running by offenses, and there are no tackles on incomplete passes, of which there are more now due to emphasis on the passing game. It’s unlikely to think a defensive lineman or defensive back could even have a prayer at this record. It would have to be a linebacker, and the ball doesn’t come their way 30 times a game very often anymore.
7. Amari Cooper’s 124 receptions in a season
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: The Alabama offense ran through Cooper during his junior season in 2014. He set every major school receiving record that year with 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdown receptions. He caught screens, play-action bombs, slants, jet sweeps and anything else you can think of. The closest to Cooper’s 124 catches was 89 by Calvin Ridley during his freshman season in 2015. That means he would have had to play 21 games in a season at that rate to pass Cooper’s mark.
Why it won’t be broke: There’s a huge margin over second place, for starters. Alabama’s current crop of wide receivers sure looks talented, but an offense with this many options will spread the ball around too much to allow one player to challenge the mark. Cooper has the third-most receptions in a season by a player from a major school, trailing only Michael Crabtree and Brandin Cooks. Just think of the talented Alabama wide receivers that had big seasons and still aren’t close to this number. Ridley is one. Julio Jones is another. If players like that can’t approach 124 catches, who can?
8. Bear Bryant’s 232 victories as Alabama coach
SEC record | Alabama record
The record: Bryant’s 323 career wins are the number that is remembered most when discussing the legendary coach, but that isn’t an Alabama record. His mark of six national championships might have seemed untouchable, but Nick Saban has lassoed it and could set the bar at seven sometime soon. Bryant also has 60 wins at Kentucky to give him 292 wins as an SEC coach, most in the conference. Steve Spurrier came the closest with 208 at Florida and South Carolina, while Saban has 185 between LSU and Alabama.
Why it won’t be broken: Look no further than Saban to see why this record will stand. Saban has 137 career wins at Alabama (132 if you omit vacated wins in 2007) despite one of the most dominant runs in college football history. He’ll be 67 years old at the end of the season. If Alabama goes 15-0, he’ll have 147 career wins. That means that Alabama would have to go 15-0 every season for five more seasons, then start the 2024 season 11-0 for him to break the record. Bryant coached when seasons were only 11 or 12 games, but he was also 44 when he became Alabama’s head coach. To break the record, a coach would need to start young, win at an historic rate and not leave the school for about 20 years.
9. 17 straight losses from 1954-56
The record: Not every record is one to be proud of. The program slumped to its lowest point under J.B. “Ears” Whitworth, the coach who preceded Bryant. Alabama lost three games to end the 1954 season, then went 0-10 in 1955 and lost four more to open the 1956 season. There were also a couple of ties and losses earlier in 1954, meaning Alabama went almost exactly two calendar years without winning a game.
Why it won’t be broken: There are highs and lows in college football but it’s hard to imagine anything that could cause Alabama to lose 17 straight games in the future. There’s a wide gulf between Power 5 conference schools and other FBS competition. Of late there has been one game on the schedule each year against an FCS team. It’s not impossible for a proud college football program to bottom out – just look at Nebraska. But even the Cornhuskers have only lost eight straight. It’s difficult for any major college program to lose 17 in a row. For a program like Alabama, it’s unthinkable.
10. 6 total turnovers lost in the 1945 season
The record: Alabama’s 1945 team finished 10-0 and finished No. 2 in the polls behind Army. The Crimson Tide won every game by at least 14 points and won its final five games by a combined margin of 275-52. That was thanks in part to the fact that the team had just six turnovers all season with just four interceptions and two fumbles. Harry Gilmer was the primary passer and star on this team.
Why it won’t be broken: The No. 2 entry on this list was actually last season, when Alabama had 10 total turnovers. No team in all of college football in the last 10 years has lost fewer than eight turnovers in a season. There are more plays in a game and more games in a season now to increase the opportunities for turnovers. The switch to two-platoon football also meant athletes on defense could focus on their craft. Alabama has already lost four turnovers this season.
Leigh Tiffin’s 30 made field goals in 2009 (SEC and Alabama record)
JK Scott’s 45.5 yard per punt average for his career (Alabama record). Scott Also averaged 48 yards per punt as a freshman (NCAA record)
Christion Jones’ two punts returned for a touchdown in a game against Virginia Tech in 2013 (ties NCAA record)
Terrence Cody’s two blocked field goals in a quarter (ties NCAA record)
Lee Ozmint’s 100-yard return on an extra point attempt against LSU in 1989 (ties NCAA record)
AJ McCarron’s 99-yard TD pass to Amari Cooper in the 2013 Iron Bowl (ties NCAA record)
In progress: Alabama’s 104-12 record in the 2010s and its .897 win percentage (NCAA record since 1950).
AJ McCarron’s 291 consecutive passes without an interception from 2011-12 (Alabama record)
Javier Arenas’ 3,918 career return yards from 2006-09 (Alabama record)
Hootie Ingram’s 10 interceptions in the 1952 season (Alabama record)
Minkah Fitzpatrick returned two interceptions for touchdowns against Texas A&M in 2015, ties SEC record
89 points scored against Delta State in 1951 (Alabama record)
Minus-17 total yards allowed against Mercer, 1940 (Alabama record)
Nine total turnovers lost at Tennessee, 1970 (Alabama record)
Five players with a touchdown pass in a game against Southern Miss in 1950.
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.