The 1982 Liberty Bowl was a postseason college football bowl game held on December 29, 1982 in Memphis, Tennessee at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The game featured the Illinois Fighting Illini, of the Big Ten Conference, and Alabama Crimson Tide, of the SEC. Alabama won the game 21–15.
Alabama entered the game with a 7–4 record, losing their final three games. The team was led by legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant who was coaching his final game after twenty-five years with the program, announcing he would retire and hand over control of the team to Ray Perkins following the game. Bryant's retirement made the Liberty Bowl one of the most covered games that season as many news stations and newspapers sent reporters to cover the game.
Illinois was led by head coach Mike White and quarterback Tony Eason. The team was making their first bowl appearance since 1964, winning all three of their previous bowls.
In the first quarter, Ricky Moore began the scoring as he punched in a 4-yard touchdown run to give Alabama an early lead. Illinois scored their own touchdown in the second quarter as Joe Curtis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, but kicker Mike Bass missed the extra point which gave Alabama a 7–6 halftime lead.
Wide receiver Jesse Bendross extended Alabama's lead when he scored on an 8-yard touchdown run off a reverse. Illinois rallied behind quarterback Tony Eason following a touchdown pass to Oliver Williams and a 23-yard field goal from Mike Bass. Craig "Touchdown" Turner scored the final points in the fourth quarter for Alabama from a 1-yard touchdown run.
Defensive back Jeremiah Castille was named the game's MVP after intercepting three passes from Tony Eason. Despite giving up 444 total offensive yards from Illinois, 423 passing yards by Eason, Alabama won the game 21–15.
The Tide intercepted seven passes in this game, four from Eason and three from backup quarterback Kris Jenner. Jenner was in the game for only three plays, all of which came after Eason had to leave the game after taking a hard hit from the Alabama defense. On all three plays, Jenner attempted a pass which was intercepted.
Bear Bryant finished with a collegiate record of 323 victories, 85 losses, and 17 ties. Bryant died of a heart attack January 26, 1983—less than four weeks after the Liberty Bowl.
|1||Alabama||Ricky Moore 4-yard touchdown run, Peter Kim kick good||0||7|
|2||Illinois||Joe Curtis 1-yard touchdown run, Mike Bass kick no good||6||7|
|3||Alabama||Jesse Bendross 8-yard touchdown run, Peter Kim kick good||6||14|
|Illinois||Oliver Williams 2-yard touchdown reception from Tony Eason, two-point conversion no good||12||14|
|Illinois||Mike Bass 23-yard field goal||15||14|
|4||Alabama||Craig Turner 1-yard touchdown run, Peter Kim kick good||15||21|
(Rushing-Passing-Total): UI - 21-423-444; UA - 217-130-347.
Individual Statistical Leaders
Rushing (Att.-Yds.-TD): UI - Curtis 7-13-1, Richard Ryles 4-10-0; UA - Moore 13-65-1, Jeff Fagan 6-38-0, Turner 11-36-1.
Passing (Att.-Comp.-Int.-TD-Yds.): UI - Eason 55-35-4-1-423, Kris Jenner 3-0-3-0-0; UA - Walter Lewis 13-7-2-0-130.
Receiving (No.-Yds.-TD): UI - Mike Martin 8-127-0, Williams 7-84-1, Tim Brewster 6-55-0; UA - Jesse Bendross 3-51-0, Joey Jones 2-60-0.