"Gone 20 games without a win, and only minutes from the 21st," read the game recap for Alabama's win over Mississippi State on Oct. 27, 1956, "the Crimson Tide came from behind to reward Coach J.B. Whitworth and the loyal Tide followers with the first win in a blue moon, 13-12."
Alabama used to suck at football.
J.B. Whitworth played offensive tackle on Alabama's 1930 national championship team. He lost one game in two seasons (1930-31). Following graduation, he was an assistant for three years under Frank Thomas, helping the Tide win 25 games and another national championship, in 1934.
Twenty-one years later — after assistant stints at LSU and Georgia and five years as Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) head coach — Whitworth returned to Tuscaloosa in late 1954 to replace Harold "Red" Drew, who was dismissed following a four-win campaign.
Alabama lost their opening game in 1955, to Rice, 20-0. They lost to Vanderbilt a week later and TCU the week after. They went 0-10, had four scoreless games, never lost by fewer than 15 points and scored 16 total points in four home games. It remains the only winless season in program history. The next closest is two victories, which also belongs to Whitworth — twice.
They lost to Rice in the 1956 opener, Vanderbilt a week later and TCU the week after (seriously, nine of their ten opponents were the same). Whitworth finally won his first game as head coach on Oct. 27, beating Mississippi State, 13-12, on a late touchdown. It was the Tide's first win since Oct. 16, 1954, and snapped a 17-game losing streak and 20-game winless streak, both the longest in program history.
Whitworth went 2-7-1 in both 1956 and 1957. He was fired and replaced with one of his former players when he was an assistant, Bear Bryant. Bryant went 232-46-9 over 25 seasons and won 15 conference titles, six national championships and 12 SEC Coach of the Year Awards.
Alabama had intermittent periods of sucking following Bryant's retirement in 1982 but never the level of sucking they achieved from 1955-57.