During a time when traditional rivalries are becoming less and less important, Bama and Tennessee gave us a game for the ages.
An already intense rivalry, the “Third Saturday in October” as it is known despite know being on the fourth, gained even more importance when it was revealed Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer was a witness against Alabama, in what resulted in a probationary period for the Tide.
Fulmer’s testimony, his well-known dislike for the Tide, the fact that Tennessee was riding high from a 1998 national championship, and a seven straight loses to the Vols added fuel to the fire, and the Vols soon replaced Auburn as the Bama’s top rival for many fans and players.
In the nine meetings between these two teams since Tennessee has won five and Bama four (three due to NCAA penalties the 2005 game isn’t counted). The most notable game of these being the 2005 when Tide safety Roman Harper caused a Tennessee player to fumble the ball through the end zone. At the time of the play Bama was leading 6-3 and the score would have given the Vols a 10-6 lead with little time left in the fourth quarter.
In 2008 the Tide crushed the Vols in Neyland stadium, making this season’s match-up all the more important to the Vols and new head coach Lane Kiffin.
The past few years this rivalry however intense has been overlooked due to lack of title implications. Last season the meeting had significance to Bama but it was somewhat less important to the Vols who were amidst inner turmoil that would ultimately lead to the firing of Fulmer.
This season new Vols coach Kiffin was prepared to make a statement with a signature win, and massive upset of the much hated Crimson Tide, and as all SEC fans know you can throw out statistic in a rivalry game.
I’m not saying that the mystique would have vanished from this rivalry had Bama blown out Tennessee, but if that would have happened I do believe a large portion of Bama fans would conceive Tenn. To be much of an issue in the present. In order to re-ignite this rivalry Tennessee would either have to upset the Tide or keep the game close.
The Vols held the Tide to four field goals, and despite struggling early Vols QB Jonathon Crompton managed to come through for his team in the final minutes of the game when he tossed a much needed touchdown. After Tenn recovered the onside kick they rapidly moved into field goal position and trailing 10-12 put the game into the hands of their kicker.
Bama had already blocked one field-goal attempt by the Vols and another had fallen short. As time expired fans of both teams held their breath, and witnessed 350+ lbs nose tackle Terrence Cody block his second kick of the competition.
The game couldn’t have ended more perfect for the rivalry…It seems to have re-ignited the spirits of both teams, and put the “Third Saturday in October” back into the spotlight of the seasons of the two teams.