This week we are counting down the five best games from the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry of this millennium. There are plenty of good ones to choose from, and some I would prefer to forget forever. But sometimes it’s important to look back at where we have been to understand where we are, and where were going. In that spirit, let’s look back at a game during a transitional period in our history that turned out to be very important.
#4 – October 20, 2007: Alabama 41 – No. 21 Tennessee 17
I have this beat down in T-Town as the fourth best overall game from the “Third Saturday in October.” since 2000. If you read yesterday’s article featuring the fifth best game in the countdown, you may be wondering how this game trumps the previous. Yes, the 2007 season was a letdown, but it was obviously a rebuilding year, with emphasis on the singular “year.” This game is one of two signature victories for Nick Saban for the season (the other being the thrilling home victory against Arkansas).
As a fan, I was unsure how we would perform going into the game. I certainly thought we would be competitive, but Tennessee had looked somewhat impressive in earlier games that season and was ranked 20th in the BCS. It was an important game to win with LSU looming on the schedule.
Alabama jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the first quarter when John Parker Wilson hit Terry Grant for a 2-yard touchdown pass. Tennessee would answer though, as future NFL running back/fantasy stud Arian Foster rushed for a touchdown after a seven-play, 77-yard drive. Erik Ainge tacked on another touchdown pass early in the second, but John Parker Wilson answered twice with touchdown passes of his own, both to D.J. Hall.
The Tide was up 24-14, heading into halftime with all the momentum, but allowed a couple of big plays to put Tennessee into field goal range. The Volunteer’s 45-yard kick sailed through the uprights as time expired.
Now anyone who remembers this field goal will remember it was one of our first samples of Nick Saban absolutely losing his mind. I could see the sideline eruption from the stands that day, and I am quite sure it started the tradition of field reporters girding their loins before interviewing Nick Saban at halftime. Talk about a job I wouldn’t want.
The Tide came out properly motivated in the second half and pitched a shutout. ‘Bama controlled the clock, had four scoring drives, and completely dominated the rest of the game. Leigh Tiffin accounted for two field goals in the third quarter and one in the fourth. Terry Grant also added an 8-yard touchdown run, and Wilson and Hall hooked up for the two-point conversion.
I ranked this game fourth overall because this game was a sign of things to come in the program. After being mired in mediocrity for several years, the Alabama Crimson Tide were showing a lot of grit, and an ability to finish games. This concept was greatly emphasized in Nick Saban’s first few years as head coach. It is now the culture of Alabama football. This game, and Alabama’s complete domination in it, is symbolic of the type of football we have become accustomed to seeing every week. And we have Nick Saban to thank for it.
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