Alabama Beats Tennesee 6-3
Alabama beat Tennessee 6-3 in a tense defensive struggle that had both teams tied a zero until Alabama kicked a field goal late in the 3rd quarter. Tennessee came back to tie the game and appeared ready to score a go-ahead touchdown, or at least have a chip shot field goal, when their gigantic fullback fumbled the ball into the endzone to give the ball to Alabama on the 20. The Tide moved down the field easily but, playing it safe, simply ran out the clock and called time out with 22 seconds left on the clock to set up a short field goal.
ESPN has the game summary here but no write-up yet.
Update (1905): This blurb is next to a broken link to a write-up:
Sometimes, it’s just your year. Instead of Corey Anderson setting the Vols up for a game-winning score, he fumbled out of the endzone. Nine plays later, the Crimson Tide’s Jamie Christensen kicked the game-winning field goal with 13 seconds left to play as No. 5 Alabama edged archrival No. 17 Tennessee 6-3. The Tide, which beat the Vols in Tuscaloosa for the first time since 1930, improves to 7-0.
The Tide’s national title hopes remain alive. The defense was spectacular again and the offense would have done much better had Brodie Croyle not overthrown two sure touchdown passes. Still, with games on the road at both LSU and Auburn still to go and an SEC title game against, most likely, Georgia the reward for surviving all of that, there’s a long way to go yet.
The box score and stats.
More reaction at the Tide Corner weblogs.
(1920): ESPN apparently has a story entitled “Rammer Jammer, Perfect Hammer” but the link continues to refer just to the scoreboard above. The blurb on the main page:
Just when it looked like Alabama’s magical season was ending, the No. 5 Crimson Tide found an improbable way to top archrival No. 17 Tennessee 6-3 to improve to 7-0.
(2219): I’ve returned home from dinner with the Mrs. and see ESPN has finally posted a recap, using the AP feed.
With a kick, a fumble and a catch, No. 5 Alabama ended a decade of frustration in its bitter rivalry with Tennessee. Those three plays and a relentless defense lifted the Crimson Tide to a 6-3 victory over the 17th-ranked Volunteers on Saturday, keeping its perfect season intact in stirring fashion.
“What a way to win the game,” Crimson Tide coach Mike Shula said. “Our guys hung in there for the whole game. Whenever it looked like things were going against us and nothing was going to go our way, our guys stepped up and made some plays.” The final one was Jamie Christensen’s 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds left for his second straight game-winner. Two other huge plays late made it possible.
Tennessee (3-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) had appeared poised to take the lead when it had the ball first-and-goal at the Alabama 3. Mistakes pushed the ball back to the 15 by third down, and a final one turned the game around. Arian Foster caught a swing pass and headed toward the end zone. Alabama’s Roman Harper jarred the ball loose near the goal line and it bounced out of the end zone with 5:08 left, giving the Tide (7-0, 5-0) the ball and stopping Tennessee’s hopes of breaking the tie. “I wasn’t thinking they were going to score,” said linebacker DeMeco Ryans, who recovered an earlier fumble and intercepted Tennessee’s last-gasp pass. “I knew one of our safeties was going to come in and hit him. I didn’t think they were going to score.
I sure did. Creating that fumble was huge, saving Alabama’s season.
Undefeated Alabama kept alive its hopes for a national championship Saturday, but that bit of news was secondary for a few moments as Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer left the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium escorted by a phalanx of police officers. For more than two years, Crimson Tide fans have blamed Fulmer for sanctions levied against the Alabama football program, which was punished with scholarship losses and ridicule as the Tide’s status as a Southeastern Conference power was diminished. As Fulmer left the field after his team’s 6-3 loss to No. 5 Alabama, the sellout crowd of 81,018 got even with a loud chorus of boos.
Then the cheering resumed, especially for the sophomore place-kicker Jamie Christensen, who kicked a 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining. It was the second game in a row that Christensen had played the hero. Last week, he kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal as time expired to beat Mississippi, 13-10.
It wasn’t the traditional third Saturday in October, and the extra week gave Alabama football fans seven more days to build up even more dislike for Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer. The Crimson Tide had waited nearly two years for Fulmer to return here, after it was revealed he helped informants turn in Alabama’s football program for multiple NCAA rules violations.
While the No. 5 Crimson Tide’s 6-3 victory Saturday probably won’t erase all those bitter memories, Alabama fans couldn’t have scripted a better method for their revenge than what transpired in the final 5 minutes 8 seconds.
In what was one of the most bizarre endings in one of college football’s most storied rivalries, Tennessee fullback Cory Anderson was two yards shy of running into the north end zone of Bryant-Denny Stadium for the game’s first touchdown, which would have put the No. 17 Volunteers ahead 9-3. Instead, free safety Roman Harper jarred the football loose from Anderson with a vicious tackle, and the football bounced through the back of the end zone for a touchback with 5:08 to play.
The extended entry contains excerpts from several background stories I compiled this morning previewing the game and the intensity of this rivalry.
UT-Bama matchup a hot ticket (Birmingham News)
Good seats are going for nearly $500 on the Internet. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend. And CBS will televise it to a national audience.
All the commotion about today’s Alabama-Tennessee football game actually began by midweek. By Thursday morning, federal officials had scoured the campus for security reasons, because Rice, a Birmingham native, and her guest, British foreign minister Jack Straw, will be on hand. By Thursday afternoon, the parking lot of Coleman Coliseum looked like a trade show for recreational vehicles, or at least one for RVs with horns that play “Yea Alabama.” “I don’t recall any time when tickets were harder to come by than they are for this ballgame,” Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore said.
All the commotion is over an annual grudge match. Not all of the 100,000 visitors expected in Tuscaloosa today will be inside 81,000-seat Bryant-Denny Stadium at 2:30 p.m., when the No.5-ranked Crimson Tide (6-0) plays the No.17 Volunteers (3-2). Many are expected to fill the restaurants and bars along University Drive to see if the Crimson Tide can keep intact its first perfect record in late October since Gene Stallings’ final season as coach in 1996.
Tennessee ruined the Tide’s 7-0 start in’96 with a 20-13 win in Knoxville. And the Vols have won nine of the past 10 meetings with Alabama in this streaky historical series. But when Southeastern Conference athletics directors voted that, beginning in 2003, football teams would have only one permanent non-divisional opponent, Moore’s decision to keep Tennessee over Vanderbilt was a no-brainer.
ESPN’s Ivan Maisel explains why the Bama-Tennessee game always means a little more.
Before two divisions, before the Spurrier-Fulmer wars, before even the Iron Bowl, there was Alabama-Tennessee. It is a rivalry with roots nearly eight decades deep, roots that have been nourished by history and passion, the two most important nutrients of Southern football. The rivalry is known as the third Saturday in October, even though in the last 10 years it has kept that historic date only three times. “It’s just the third Saturday in October,” Alabama junior guard Kyle Tatum said this week. “That’s the game you dream to play.”
When the No. 17 Volunteers (3-2, 2-1) come to Bryant-Denny Stadium to play the No. 5 Crimson Tide (6-0, 4-0), it will be the first time that Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer has set foot here since the controversy over his role in Alabama’s NCAA probation.
“They got it out for us. We got it out for them. It’s the same thing you get every time we play Alabama,” Tennessee junior cornerback Jonathan Wade said. “It’s not going to be any different this time. The hate might be a little bigger this time, though.”
“They realize the tradition of this game, the magnitude of it,” Alabama coach Mike Shula said this week of his players. “The younger guys who don’t know quite a whole lot about it will find out in a hurry.” Shula, with his NFL background, is much more businesslike about the Tennessee rivalry than his predecessors, which comes as a relief to the players and athletic-department staff. The tradition during Tennessee week, begun under Bryant and continued by Gene Stallings, was to play the Vols’ fight song, “Rocky Top,” in the locker room all week long.
Alabama’s obsession with Tennessee dated to Bryant’s days as a player at Alabama in the 1930s. It was against the Volunteers in 1935, his senior season, that Bryant gained his greatest fame as a player — playing with a broken leg against Tennessee. He had broken a bone in his leg the previous week against Mississippi State. The doctor took the cast off on Friday night so that Bryant could dress out.
Bryant played, caught a long pass on the opening drive, and Alabama went on to win 25-0. He finished his playing career 3-0 against Tennessee, which is significant because it would be the last time Bryant ever beat the Volunteers’ legendary coach, Robert Neyland. In the seven years that Bryant’s Kentucky teams played Gen. Neyland’s Tennessee teams, the Wildcats went 0-5-2. All five losses were shutouts.
When Bryant returned to his alma mater as head coach in 1958, he went 16-7-2 against the Volunteers.
Tennessee’s obsession with Alabama dates to the Neyland era. Until Neyland arrived in Knoxville, Alabama dominated Southern football. Once Neyland took over in 1927, Alabama and Tennessee took turns at the top for the next 25 years. “You never can really tell about a football player,” Neyland used to say, “until after he’s played against Alabama.”
Bad blood boiling for Tide, Vols (Mobile Register)
Florida was the appetizer. The main course will be served today, when nemesis Tennessee invades Bryant-Denny Stadium looking to dump more misery on Alabama by knocking the No. 5 Crimson Tide from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Alabama (6-0 overall, 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference) has vaulted into the thick of national championship talk while re-emerging as an SEC kingpin in its third season under coach Mike Shula. No. 17 Tennessee (3-2, 2-2) had a week off to reflect on a crushing 27-14 loss to Georgia that essentially knocked the Vols out of the SEC title picture. But the Volunteers have grown accustomed to spreading anguish to the crimson nation on the field, where Tennessee has won nine of the past 10 games, and off it, where UT coach Phillip Fulmer’s dedication to nailing Alabama with NCAA punishment was revealed through court action over the past year.
ESPN’s Mike Fish has a detailed look at the Logan Young – Philip Fulmer – Albert Means saga that has added so much enmity to this rivalry in recent years.
To understand how Alabama (6-0) is ranked fifth in the country, it helps to stop in among the cedars and loblolly pines of North Alabama, at a place where wayward parents drop off their children with no intention of coming back to get them, and where tales of neglect are as plentiful as field larks. That place is the Big Oak Ranch, an orphanage for boys.
Founded by the former Alabama defensive end John Croyle in 1974, it is a place where horses graze, where a chicken house needs tending and where hogs clamor for slop. It is also where Brodie Croyle, Alabama’s senior quarterback, grew up, developed a work ethic and learned some bigger lessons about life that he credits with helping him through five chaotic, sometimes surreal years in Tuscaloosa.
“Growing up there made me anything and everything I am today,” Croyle said recently. “The kids who came into the ranch, you could see the hatred in their eyes. And to see them change and become good people and really love life, and realize bad things are going to happen but you can overlook them – I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”
Croyle is finally on his way to fulfilling his substantial promise at Alabama, after years of setbacks – injuries and operations, N.C.A.A. sanctions and coaching scandals. To get through it, much less to succeed, Croyle has needed mental toughness bordering on stoicism, as well as a deep attachment to the university. His father, John, who played under Bear Bryant and has rickety knees and pinky fingers frozen at right angles to show for it, recalled an evening years ago when Brodie came home scratched and bleeding from head to toe.
“I asked him, ‘What happened?’ ” John Croyle said. “And he said, ‘I was playing with the big boys and they threw me in the briars.’ I asked, ‘Who was it?’ and Brodie said, ‘It don’t matter.’ “