Scott Moore on Saturday's game
" I wanted to go for it," said Tim Castille, Alabama's fullback who is now with the Arizona Cardinals. "At that point I felt we had Tennessee reeling. I told Coach Shula we could make it. The entire offense wanted to go go for it.
" But Coach said ‘No' and we kicked a field goal and went to the locker room with them still very much in the game. I felt like that was the turning point of the game, we lost control of it right there."
In Atlanta last year covering the Southeastern Conference championship game, a Tennessee assistant coach said that Vols Coach Phil Fulmer used that moment to inspire his team. Supposedly, Coach Fulmer said that Alabama was afraid of Tennessee; that if Bama couldn't get one yard for a touchdown the Tide would not be able to beat the Vols in the fourth quarter.
Alabama led the entire game until Arian Foster slammed into the end zone with under four minutes left and Tennessee went on to beat Alabama 16-13.
Alabama's decision to kick right before the half hurt the Alabama team's confidence and played right into Fulmer's hand. Phil Fulmer has made his money by beating Alabama. Although Fulmer says with quiet reverence, "Tennessee and Alabama is the greatest rivalry in all of college football," there is no questioning his disdain for Alabama. He knows the importance of beating Bama.
Fulmer is 11-3-1 in this series and no question that the Vols have indeed had the upper hand in the series the past decade. This has been a streaky series indeed where one side has owned the other for long periods of time and the hurt after such a loss in this series does not go away easily.
How has Fulmer done it?
Fulmer would rather beat Alabama than just about anything, and up until now, he has been able to transfer that negative energy to his team. We have talked about cigars and songs and moments that go with this game.
"I don't give a damn about the whole State of Alabama, the whole State of Alabama, the whole State of Alabama, I don't give a damn about the Whole State of Alabama, We're from Tennessee." The Vols have sung that song in practice this week thinking the same things. They are not going to say it , but they believe it. Fulmer has conditioned his team that if you knock Alabama in the mouth they will quit.
There is one thing I have learned about the 2007 edition of the Crimson Tide. They won't quit and they believe that the Tide is turning with Nick Saban roaming the sidelines. Senior linebacker Darren Mustin, a Tennessee native, had this to say: "You walk down the halls and you see paintings that are hung from the UT game of people who make these big-time plays. That kind of thing immortalizes them because they're in a painting. I'm just going to go out and work hard this week in practice and try and get better so we can win the game on Saturday. If we win the game, that's going to go down in history longer than me."
There is a turning point in every rivalry where thing's start going the other way, when the pendulum swings from one side to the other. Since 2003 this game has gone to deep in the fourth quarter. It's time that all the work and all the sweat start paying dividends for the Crimson Tide.
Mustin said, "It's the time of the year where the teams that are supposed to be great, come out and play great and the ones that aren't, start lacking. We do not want to start lacking. We need to put the pedal to the metal and get to work. It's not a time to coast. Like coach said, when you coast, you go downhill, and we can't coast. We have to try and fight and go up hill. We've got to do all we can to get better every day."
As the Nick Saban era continues to unfold, there are going to be some landmark moments in building back the foundation that is Alabama football. There is no better place to begin than The Third Saturday in October.
The coach said, "I think this is a great rivalry. There's great tradition here. There's great tradition there. This has been a big game for a lot of years.
"I think sometimes when you live through these things you really get the real sense of what it's like. I could stand here and say I know, right? But until you kind of live it, then you really find out what it's like. So, saying that, I know it's a big game. It's a big game for them. It's a big game for us. It's an SEC game. It's a great traditional, national rivalry that we certainly want to play well in and do a good job in and help our players have the best chance to be successful, but until you live through it, it'd be like me asking you how big is the Michigan State-Notre Dame game? How big is the Michigan State-Michigan game? Totally different kind of rivalries relative to how people feel about one another, but both are tremendous rivalries. We didn't get treated quite as badly at Ole Miss as when I was at LSU, I can say that. I lived that one."
It's mot going to take hatred or fancy speeches this week to turn away Tennessee. People are asking what can we do to beat Tennessee, what's it going to take, how long is it going to take ? The answer is 60 minutes.
Scott Moore is a nationally known sports broadcaster who contributes to BamaMag.com and who hosts the Tuesday afternoon radio program, "Inside The Crimson Tide."
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