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Ken Stabler’s “Run in the Mud” Gave Us Classic Iron Bowl Drama
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The Alabama Crimson Tide have won 17 national championships since their first season in 1892, which means plenty of memorable plays have taken place since then. George Teague’s “The Strip” against Miami in the 1993 National Championship game and Tua Tagovailoa‘s walk-off touchdown pass to win the 2017 national title have to be in top-10 consideration.

Switch gears to regular season matchups and you’ll find some gems as well. Many of Alabama football’s most monumental moments have come against SEC rivals like LSU and Tennessee, but none compare to those in the Iron Bowl history books against rival Auburn University.

From the “Kick Six” in 2013 to Van Tiffin’s game-winning field goal in 1985, the Iron Bowl has produced some of the greatest games in college football history. There’s one play that can’t be forgotten, however.

Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler’s “Run in the Mud” in the 1967 Iron Bowl will forever be a classic play in the Crimson Tide’s illustrious timeline of unforgettable football games.

Alabama and Auburn both found themselves struggling on offense all day. The grass at Legion Field in Birmingham was practically nonexistent by Dec. 2. The middle of the field looked more like hot soup as teams repeatedly handed off the ball in constant rain and wind. It was a wonder that some fans even stayed and watched.

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Longtime head coach Bear Bryant, no stranger to winning big games, hatched an unorthodox offensive plan. Punt on third down if the wind was behind his team. Punt on fourth down if they were going into the wind.

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“We punted on third down when we had the wind, because the punt was our best weapon,” coach Bryant explained via 247Sports. “We waited until fourth down against the wind because we didn’t want Auburn to have the ball with the wind at its back.”

Stabler, Alabama’s star First-Team All-American quarterback, only dropped back to pass five times the entire game. He completed three passes for 12 yards. The rest was to be done on the ground. One false step meant a ride on the Slip-n-Slide.

That’s what makes Stabler’s “Run in the Mud” so much more impressive.

The “Run in the Mud” Play

With his team down 3-0 in the fourth quarter, Stabler kept the ball on an option run to the right on third-and-3. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound bruiser splashed his way through puddles before breaking free down the sideline and racing into the end zone for the 47-yard winning touchdown — the longest run by any Crimson Tide player all season and the longest of Stabler’s career. For a moment, “The Snake”, truly looked like he was slithering his way through defenders in a swamp.

The Auburn Tigers pushed their way to Alabama’s goal line a handful of times but managed just the lone third quarter field goal. Crimson Tide linebacker Bob Childs sealed the win with two fourth quarter interceptions and Alabama won the game, 7-3.

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The Tide finished 8-2-1 — the tie coming in the season opener to Florida State — that season following a loss to Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. Stabler led his team to a perfect 11-0 record in 1966 after beating Nebraska and earning Sugar Bowl MVP honors, though Michigan and Notre Dame were deemed national champions.

Still, Kenny Stabler — who grew up in Foley, Alabama, and played at Foley High School and became a sought after football player — carved his name out in Crimson and White history alongside the like of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Nick Saban. He may not have won a national championship, but he’ll be remembered by ‘Bama fans for that iconic touchdown run.

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Kenny Stabler’s NFL and Post-Playing Career

Following his three years in the NCAA, Stabler was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round of the 1968 NFL/AFL Draft. He led the Raiders to a Super Bowl XI victory over the Minnesota Vikings in 1977 and ended his professional career with more than 27,000 passing yards. Stabler finished his playing days with the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints in the 1980s.

Along with Bart Starr and Joe Namath, Stabler is one of three University of Alabama starting quarterbacks to go on and win a Super Bowl. Only Purdue has as many as that.

“The Snake” tried his hand at a broadcasting career with CBS briefly before joining Alabama radio voice Eli Gold calling Crimson Tide games. Stabler left that position in 2008 and was replaced by Phil Savage.

Following Stabler’s death in 2015, he was posthumously inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

Read more University of Alabama coverage here.

Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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