Jeff Rutledge evoked memories of Joe Namath today in leading Alabama into the Sugar Bowl and a shot at No. 1 Penn State and the national collegiate football championship on New Year's Day.
Senior quarterback Rutledge threw three scoring passes to run his career total to 30, two more than Namath's record, as Alabama wore down Auburn, 34-16, before a record Legion Stadium crowd of 79,218.
Doug Berry, offensive line coach of Penn State, scouted the game for Coach Joe Paterno, who watched the telecast of Georgia's 29-28 victory over Georgia Tech, just in case.
If Auburn had upset 14-point favorite Alabama, Georgia would have gone to the Sugar Bowl against Penn State.
"We knew that Rutledge was a fine passer and a smart quarterback," Berry said. "But we didn't know that running backs Major Ogilvie and Tony Nathan had that much power to break tackles.
"We expected the fullback (Steve Whitman) hto be a strong runner in the wishbone-T formation, but Ogilvie and Nathan surprised us. Rutledge must be a smart quarterback; he appears to be doing an awful lot of checking off plays."
Alabama generated 427 yards total offense.
Rutledge finished the regular season with 10 touchdown passes, equaling the single-season team record set by Harry Gilmer in 1945 and matched by Namath in 1962.
A 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Bir-mingham, Rutledge completed 13 of 21 passes for 174 yards, was intercepted once and ran six times for 29 yards.
He threw two touchdown passes to split end Bruce Bolton, 33 and 11 yards, and an 11-yard scoring toss to tight end Rich Neal. Rutledge kept the ball away from Auburn because he was able to get off 50 running plays for 253 yards.
Ogilvie included a 41-yard dash in aggregating 104 in nine carries.
Running back Joe Cribbs of Auburn pounded the Alabama defense for 118 yards in 32 carries but the Tigers netted only 90 yards rushing. Quarterback Charle Trotman completed nine of 12 passes.
Sugar Bowl officials in the press box were concerned for awhile that Auburn might upset Alabama, leaving them with Georgia to go against unbeaten Penn State, which has won 19 straight.
Now the Sugar Bowl has Alabama, rated No. 2, to go against top-ranked Penn State, the first time a bowl has had such an attraction since 1972.
Auburn Coach Doug Barfield, in congratulating 65-year-old counterpart Paul (Bear) Bryant, said, "The Alabama players should do well in the Sugar Bowl. When you get right down to it, Jeff Rutledge made the difference."
Bryant made reference to Alabama's 10-1 record and the defeat administered by Southern California.
"I appreciate all you fellows (reporters) stopping by," he said. "For awhile there, I was afraid there wouldn't be anyone in here but me. That night we played Southern Cal, I doubt if you guys thought we could come back.
"I think we have a chance to win the national championship if we beat Penn State. Beating them would be something no one else has done this year."
Auburn led, 13-10, in the second quarter but Rutledge took the lead for good near the end of the half on his second touchdown pass to Bolton. He put the game out of reach in the third period on his third scoring throw, to tight end Neal.