Sunday, October 22, 2006

Third Saturday Memories

Like all of Tennessee's greatest rivalries, there are a few moments that stand out in your mind, in both the wins and losses. During the Third Saturday renewal yesterday, and with the tight nature of the 16-13 Tennessee win, new memories were written into the lore of this rivalry. There are some things that would seem insignificant in regular games, but everything is special when it's Tennessee and Alabama.

You can read lots of stuff in the blog archives about a few of the UT victories over Alabama, but beyond entire games or just the Tennessee victories, this rivalry is its own animal. You could write volumes about this rivalry before I was born (and they have been written), and you can look at a myriad of games in the 1980s that were classics. As stated in the blog below, I went to my first Tennessee-Alabama game in 1988...in the spirit of Saturday's game, a few of the more memorable moments in the recent past during the Third Saturday in October:

Top 10 Tennessee-Alabama Moments (1989-2006)
10. Peerless Price 100 yard kickoff return - 1998 (Vols 35 - Tide 18)
- Answering Shaun Alexander's TD run that cut the lead to 3; Vols win national championship later that year

9. Casey Clausen to CJ Fayton on 4th and 19 in second overtime - 2003 (Vols 51 - Tide 43 5OT)
- Vols were facing defeat, instead rallied for 5 OT victory in Tuscaloosa

8. Peyton Manning misses James Stewart on 4th down - 1994 (Tide 17 - Vols 13)
- With Stewart on the opposite side of the field wide open in the end zone, Manning throws where he's coached, misses Nilo Silvan for final Bama victory in their most recent streak (86-94)

7. Gerald Dixon 66 yard fumble return for TD to open the floodgates - 2002 (Tide 34 - Vols 14)
- The first Bama victory since 1994, Dixon's TD led to a flood of Vol turnovers and a Bama win

6. Shaun Alexander drops a sure touchdown - 1999 (Vols 21 - Tide 7)
- The definitive image from a 99 contest that saw the Vol D dominate; Alexander's 3rd down drop came with the Tide looking to tie it in the second half

5. Corey Anderson fumbles through the end zone - 2005 (Tide 6 - Vols 3)
- The clearest symbol of the Vols' entire season was Anderson turning a 10-3 lead into a 6-3 loss.

4. Greg Burke's blocked field goal - 1990 (Tide 9 - Vols 6)
- If you're too young at this to remember, the game was tied at 6 with under :30 to play and Burke lined up to kick the game winner...instead, Bama blocked the kick, ball went back about 30-40 yards, and kicked their own game winner on the final play. The definition of heartbreak for most Vol fans in this series and/or in general.

3. Peyton Manning to Joey Kent for 80 yards on play number one - 1995 (Vols 41 - Tide 14)
- Manning's bootleg and Jay Graham's third quarter TD run are also memorable, but this set the tone for the entire evening and the decade to follow

2. David Palmer around right tackle for two - 1993 (Vols 17 - Tide 17)
- The tie that felt like a loss after the Vol prevent D allowed a Bama TD; the Deuce ran played QB and put it in for two and the tie; game later forfeited to the Vols thanks to Antonio Langham, who had a pick in the game.

1. Jay Graham goes 70 yards down the sideline for the lead - 1996 (Vols 20 - Tide 13)
- The most memorable for me, moreso than anything from 95, because (A) I was there and (B) this was an outstanding football game and (C) this is the one that made it feel real, like the Vols had finally broken Bama's hold on us. First win over the Tide in Knoxville since 1984, postgame elation matched only by 98 Florida.

While there wasn't a specific play or definitive moment that would make this list from yesterday's game, it was exactly what you should expect. And let me say that the Neyland Stadium crowd noise in the final five minutes - especially when Alabama had the football - was certainly up and memorable. It felt right in that stadium on the Third Saturday.

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