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Roll Tide and Rocky Top: The Alabama vs. Tennessee Football Rivalry

The 3rd Saturday in October is a date that lives in revelry among Alabama and Tennessee football fans. This is a rivalry that began in the second year of the 20th century, in which both teams played to a 6-6 tie. Over the years, the Crimson Tide has amassed a 58-39-7 record over the Vols.

The 39 wins by the Vols are the most against Alabama by any team in the FBS. In traditional fashion, the winner of this slugfest has handed out cigars. Apparently, this is a violation of NCAA rules, but the winning team reports this violation to the powers that be at NCAA headquarters every year from a smoke-filled room as they chew on the victory stogies.

Alabama had racked up 15 straight wins over Tennessee from 2007 to 2021, but that streak was broken by Hendon Hooker and the Vols last season in a 52-49 thrilling victory.

There have been many notable games in this storied rivalry that is over 100 years in the making. Here, we look back at a few of those games.

1972: Alabama 17 – Tennessee 10

This was a significant game involving two players who blazed a trail to change college football forever. The game started out uneventful, with no score in the 1st quarter, and the Crimson Tide looked more like a crimson mill pond as they held a paper-thin 3-0 lead at the intermission.

But in the 2nd half, the Vols came alive, led by QB Condredge Holloway, the first African-American to start at quarterback in the SEC. Holloway scored on a touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead. Later, Tennessee converted a field goal to increase the lead to 10-3 as they headed into the final quarter.

Late in the 4th quarter, Alabama tied the score 10-10 on a touchdown run by Wilbur Jackson, the first African-American to earn a football scholarship to the University of Alabama 2 years earlier. On the next Tennessee possession, Holloway, known as the “Artful Dodger,” zigged when he should have zagged and fumbled the ball, which the Tide recovered. Alabama’s Terry Davis ran for what was the winning score and a Crimson Tide victory.

Holloway went on to lead Tennessee to a 10-2 record, including a victory over #6 Penn State.

1982: Tennessee Football Defeats the Crimson Tide 35-28

Paul “Bear” Bryant led his #2 ranked Crimson Tide into Neyland Stadium for the final time that season. But it was not Alabama’s day as the Vols snatched a 35-28 victory from the jaws of Alabama fans everywhere, and snapped an 11-game Alabama winning streak in the process.

Tennessee head coach Johnny Majors arrived at midfield for the post-game handshake on the shoulders of his jubilant players. Sadly, Coach Bryant passed away three months later.

1995: Tennessee 41 – Alabama 14

2nd year quarterback Peyton Manning excited the crowd on the first play from scrimmage, an 80-yard pitch and catch to WR Joey Kent. It was #6 Tennessee’s first win over Alabama in a decade.

1997: Tennessee 38 – Alabama 21

Tennessee led 21-6 at halftime, and the Vols defense held the Crimson Tide to just 95 yards rushing and 4 of 17 on 3rd downs. Peyton Manning put on a show once more as he threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Vols to their third consecutive win over Alabama on the road at Legion Field in Birmingham. Manning hoisted some hardware and received numerous accolades that season, including:

· Consensus All-American

· SEC Player of the Year

· 1st Team All-SEC

· Davey O’Brien Award

· Maxwell Award

Manning was 39-6 as the Vols starting quarterback and went on to a Hall of Fame career in the NFL, winning 2 Super Bowls. But a college football national championship eluded him. That elusive national title was won the very next season by the Vols and new starting QB Tee Martin.

2009: Alabama 12 – Tennessee 10

This game was as exciting as sitting around watching 'paint dry'. Alabama held a slim 6-3 lead at halftime. Then the fans were treated to a scoreless 3rd quarter. Late in the 4th quarter, after Alabama kicked 2 more field goals, Tennessee scored on a Jonathan Crompton TD pass to get within 2 points of the Tide.

After recovering an onside kick, the Vols had a chance to kick a field goal to win the game. But Alabama’s massive defensive lineman Terrence Cody, who blocked out the sun when he stood up, blocked Tennessee’s field goal attempt to preserve the Alabama victory.

The Crimson Tide went on to defeat Texas 37-21 to win the BCS National Championship, the first under Nick Saban.

2015: Alabama 19 – Tennessee 14

This game was tied 7-7 at halftime, but Alabama outscored the Vols 12-7 in the second half. Crimson Tide RB Derrick Henry ran for 143 yards and two scores. Alabama QB Jake Coker, who transferred from Florida State before transferring was cool, passed for 247 yards, and completed 77% of his passes. Alabama went on to win the national championship in a 45-40 victory over Clemson in the Valley of the Sun.

2022: Tennessee 52 – Alabama 49

Tennessee fans partied like it was 1998 after this one. Both teams combined for 61 first downs and 1136 total yards of offense. But Alabama had the dubious distinction of causing Nick Saban to have an aneurysm on the sideline by committing 17 penalties for 130 yards.

This was a barn burner from the kickoff. With about 4 minutes to go in the 4th quarter, QB Hendon Hooker found WR Jalin Hyatt for 13 yards and a score to tie the game at 49-49. Hyatt had six catches for 207 yards and five touchdowns on the day.

Alabama drove down the field 43 yards in 11 plays, only to miss a 50-yard field goal attempt, allowing the Vols one last chance. K Chase McGrath then split the uprights from 40 yards away for the game-winner. Then the fans stormed the field and tore down those same goalposts in jubilant celebration.

2023: #17 Tennessee at #11 Alabama

Tennessee Football, known for having a potent passing offense in 2022 under head coach Josh Heupel, is ranked #6 in the country this season in…rushing offense. They average 231 yards on the ground per game. And they possess a Top 30 defense, allowing just 17 points per game.

But they go up against the GOAT Nick Saban and an equally talented defense, which allows a paltry 12 points per game and just 104 yards per game rushing. Fans looking for a high-scoring affair may be disappointed. As of this writing, the Crimson Tide is a 12.5-point favorite.

The 3rd Saturday in October-a day of reckoning in college football and a game that will have a significant impact on the SEC title race.


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