We have made it to No. 2 in the countdown of the greatest Alabama-Tennessee games of the new millennium. There are many things I love about this rivalry, but it is important to note how many close games there have been. In the Iron Bowl, the favored team, throughout history, typically wins the game. In this rivalry the rankings truly don’t matter. Either team, regardless of record or ranking, seems to always put themselves in a position to win. So many times, the game could have gone either way. Here is an example of such a game.
#2 – October 22, 2005: No. 5 Alabama 6 – No. 17 Tennessee 3
The game that will forever be remembered in Alabama Crimson Tide lore from the 2005 season is, of course, “Rocky Stop.” This game comes in at No. 2 in the countdown because of the unbelievable finish, and the national championship implications. Or so we thought at the time.
When Tyrone Prothro went down in the slaughtering of the Florida Gators in week five, the dynamic of our offense was lost, and we struggled to score points the rest of the year. If it weren’t for our defense, one of the greatest in our history, led by Demeco Ryans and Roman Harper, our 7-0 record at the time would have looked much different. The 2005 season was a mirage: our record at the time didn’t reflect the team we were down the stretch. That is why beating Tennessee was the signature victory of the 2005 season.
It is a game we should have lost. Tennessee outplayed us for most of the game, but continuously shot themselves in the foot by turning the ball over 4 times. Our inability to score enabled the Vols to keep gathering momentum. Tennessee finally put together a drive that put them in the red zone, late in the fourth quarter.
And then it happened.
Roman Harper came in and leveled a devastating hit on Arian Foster as he approached the goal line, jarring the ball loose, which then rolled into the back of the end zone for a touchback. It was a game changing defensive play for the ages.
A few plays later, Brodie Croyle hit D.J. Hall for a 43-yard pass on a long third down, which set up Jamie Christensen’s game winning field goal. All of a sudden, the game was over, and we had somehow won. And there was much rejoicing.
Roman Harper’s legendary hit was immortalized on canvas by Daniel Moore, aptly named “Rocky Stop.” The tableaux of Alabama players surrounding Foster as Harper lays the hit is probably the most instantly recognizable images in Alabama football history. It ranks right up there with “The Goal Line Stand.” It is one of the greatest defensive plays in the history of Alabama football, and the victory remains one of the great wins against Tennessee not just of this millennium, but of all time.
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