It’s been just over 21 years since perhaps the worst loss for an Alabama football team this century, and it happened at home. However, it wasn’t played in Tuscaloosa. It took place at Legion Field in Birmingham, then the Crimson Tide’s second home field and a historic site for the program where the team no longer plays.
While fans might remember a few other losses from the 21st century, only one was a shutout to an unranked and nonconference opponent.
Before we get to the game that might be University of Alabama’s most embarrassing loss in the last 21 years, let’s check back on some others. In 1999, the Crimson Tide lost 29-28 to Louisiana Tech in Birmingham. With only nine seconds left in the game, Louisiana Tech scored on a 28-yard touchdown pass. The extra point sealed the victory.
Fans might also remember the 19-16 loss to Northern Illinois in 2003, a significant low point for the program.
There was also a 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007, which was current-Head Coach Nick Saban’s first year. By 2008, the team was much improved. In 2009, Saban led the program to a national championship.
The losses to Louisiana Tech, Northern Illinois, and Louisiana-Monroe were bad enough. But in looking at scores, another game might take the cake for Alabama’s worst loss this century.
Sept. 16, 2000
On Sept. 16, 2000, Alabama hosted the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. By the end of the game, Alabama had been shut out 21-0 in Birmingham, resulting in a rare and crushing defeat. The team even began the season with a preseason ranking at #3 after winning the Southeastern Conference championship in 1999.
The Southern Miss defense scored the first touchdown just minutes into the game after a trick play went wrong for Alabama. The pass was intercepted and resulted in the score.
Then, at the beginning of the second quarter, Golden Eagles quarterback Jeff Kelly connected on a 6-yard touchdown pass to Leroy Handy Jr. Alabama then fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, leading to yet another touchdown on the very same play. No further points were scored in the 44 minutes of game time that remained.
At the time, The Associated Press reported that the stadium was “virtually empty” by the time the game ended:
They huddled in the South end zone, a smattering of Southern Mississippi fans basking in a rare win over Alabama.
The scene in virtually empty Legion Field on Saturday night was symbolic of the Golden Eagles, a small program playing in the shadows of the Southeastern Conference and competing against teams with bigger names and bigger stadiums.
Southern Miss beat Alabama 21-0, ending an eight-game losing streak to the Tide. Alabama fell out of the rankings from No. 15, drawing only 17 poll votes.
After the game ended, Golden Eagles Coach Jeff Bower said that he hoped sports reporters wouldn’t write about what was wrong with Alabama, but rather, “I hope you write about what a good football team we had.” Southern Miss ended its season 8-4, including a bowl victory over TCU.
Alabama, however, ended with a 3-8 record and finished the 2000 season with another shutout. The team lost 9-0 against its fiercest rival, the Auburn Tigers, on Nov. 18. Head coach Mike Dubose was fired prior to the last few games of the season.
Despite all of this, fans have recently enjoyed the team’s most successful period ever.
These long-forgotten losses are now overshadowed by the legacy that Saban continues to build at the program after leading the team to six national championships. The most recent one came in a 52-24 trouncing of Ohio State earlier this year on Jan. 11.
The team even defeated the Golden Eagles last month for a 63-14 win, and might be on the way to Saban’s seventh national title in January.
Note: The author of this story attended the game on Sept. 16, 2000.
Sources“Southern Miss soars after upsetting Alabama, 21-0.” 19 Sep 2000, Pensacola News Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.Com, http://www.newspapers.com/image/268698528/.“2000 Football Schedule.” Southern Miss, https://southernmiss.com/sports/football/schedule/2000.“Clemson vs. Alabama – Game Summary – January 7, 2019 – ESPN.” ESPN.com, https://www.espn.com/college-football/game/_/gameId/401032087.“Louisiana Monroe vs. Alabama – Game Recap – November 17, 2007 – ESPN.” ESPN.com, https://www.espn.com/college-football/recap/_/gameId/273210333.
Louisiana Tech La. Tech/Alabama Alabama College Football Recap on ESPN. https://www.espn.com/ncf/1999/990918/recap/llgaad.html.“Northern Illinois vs. Alabama – Game Recap – September 20, 2003 – ESPN.” ESPN.com, https://www.espn.com/college-football/recap/_/gameId/232630333.“Southern Miss vs. Alabama – Game Summary – September 25, 2021 – ESPN.” ESPN.com, https://www.espn.com/college-football/game/_/gameId/401282081.“Southern Mississippi at Alabama Box Score, September 16, 2000.” College Football at Sports-Reference.com, https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/boxscores/2000-09-16-alabama.html.“Unstoppable Tide: Alabama Routs Ohio St for National Title.” AP News, 20 Apr. 2021, https://apnews.com/article/alabama-crimson-tides-football-2e85f54a1353c1b0589ad097f2062cee.