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When ‘The Bear’ Was A Bulldog

The matchup between Alabama and Georgia, respectively the #1 and#3 ranked teams in the nation, for the 2022 National Championship couldn’t be more anticipated – especially for those fans of the SEC.

When Coach ‘Bear’ Bryant and his wingman Coach Carney Laslie arrived at Alabama in 1958, the match-up with Georgia was reminiscent for a number of reasons – it was the first time they were coaching an Alabama/Georgia game since their days together in 1942, when they were both assistants for the Navy’s Pre-Flight team, housed and operating on the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia campus.

In 1942, between the national champion Georgia Bulldogs and the number one service school team, the Georgia Navy Pre-Flight Skycrackers, there were more all-star football players than ever assembled on one college campus in the history of the sport. While the 1942 national champion Bulldogs team was practicing in Sanford Stadium and on the track in front of the stadium, several blocks away on the navy athletic/football fields the Skycrackers were holding their own practice fielding their own superstar players. It was the closest thing to being a Georgia Bulldog player or coach you could get.

While coaching in 1942 the Georgia Skycrackers, Bryant and Laslie played their alma mater, Alabama, in Birmingham, and beat the Tide soundly, 35-19.

So in 1958, Bryant and Laslie’s first season at Alabama as coaches, their days at Pre-Flight and the passion of play which fueled the times in a WWII mindset, was brought to bear on the game against a Georgia team thought to be faster and more talented. Although Georgia racked up 291 total yards against their opponent that day, Alabama was successful in stopping five scoring opportunities in the second half and pulled out a 12-0 shutout.

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