HOOVER, Ala. • Archie Manning won a lot of big games in a prolific career as the Ole Miss quarterback.
He often hears about one of his most historic losses, through, particularly when he visits Birmingham.
Manning earned All-America honors while playing at Ole Miss from 1968-1970 before going on to a lengthy NFL career mostly in New Orleans.
He joined former Florida player and coach Steve Spurrier and former Georgia running back Herschel Walker to answer questions Tuesday to spotlight The SEC Network’s production “Saturday’s in the South.”
The history of SEC football will be a key part of ESPN’s celebration of the 150th year of college football.
A short drive from Legion Field, Manning was asked about his historic performance in the Rebels’ 33-32 loss to Alabama in 1969. In the first college football game televised in prime time, Manning totaled 504 yards. He was 33 for 52 passing for 436 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 104 yards on 15 carries.
“I’ve been to Birmingham a lot through the years, a lot of golf tournaments, a lot of friends and things, and everybody I see says, ‘I was there, I was there.’ Well you know, the best I can remember Legion Field didn’t have but 50 or 60,000 seats, and I’ve had 400 or 500,000 people tell me they were there that night,” Manning said.
Players were excited to play on television at a time when far fewer games made it on the air waves, but to play the game at night and in that time slot was a special treat.
Perhaps that was among several factors that led to the high-scoring affair. Another was the fact that Ole Miss had lost to Kentucky the week before.
“We kind of let it all hang out, and Alabama did too,” Manning recalled. “It was a game like you’d see now. Back then most SEC games were 13-10. Back in those days if we threw for 180 or 190 yards that was a pretty good day. We didn’t throw it around like they do today, but that night we threw it.”
A first time for everything
At the time no player had passed for as many as 300 yards and rushed for as many as 100 yards in a single college game.
Alabama quarterback Scott Hunter wasn’t far off Manning’s passing pace. He was 22 for 29 for 300 yards in what was a career night for him.
The most difficult part of the loss for Manning was the fact that the Rebels, picked in the preseason to win the SEC, had another conference loss.
Ole Miss lost just once more. The Rebels, ranked No. 20 for the Alabama game, finished the season 8-3 and defeated Arkansas 27-22 in the Sugar Bowl.
“The worst part about it was it was two weeks in a row. We were picked to win the conference, and we’d lost two conference games now and hadn’t played but three games,” he said.