Saturday night in LSU's Death Valley. The Crimson Tide versus the Bayou Bengal Tigers. When it comes to big-time college football, it simply doesn't get much better than that.
It's late in the second quarter, and Alabama is clinging to a tenuous 6-0 lead. With 3:46 left on the clock, LSU has the ball close to midfield. On second and nine from his own 45, LSU's Marcus Randall runs around left end. Three Tide defenders converge.
Aiming for the first-down marker, the Tiger QB dives forward. Alabama's Derrick Pope hits him from the front, while Kenny King comes in from the side. A split second after Randall goes down, Bama's Jarret Johnson comes flying through the picture.
It was a typical play, except this time something almost went terribly wrong.
The officials rushed in to spot the ball and the various players got up, heading back to their respective huddles.
But King lay motionless on the turf.
"We were all concerned about Kenny and how he was. It was a difficult few moments," Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione recalled.
In the television booth, the decision was made to go to commercial. But on the field, King lay surrounded by the Tide medical staff.
Jarret Johnson, friends with King since the two arrived together at Alabama as true freshmen, leaned in to check on his line mate.
The Alabama players huddled together on the sideline. "Kenny kind of scared us out there," Kindal Moorehead said.
Medical details haven't been released, but replays showed that King appeared to jam his neck during the tackle. The doctors made the proper decision to immobilize him, just in case. But the sight of King being strapped to a board and loaded on a cart was frightening.
Out of concern and respect, the LSU players knelt for a quick prayer.
The worried, even terrified looks on everyone's faces needed no explanation. Football is a physical, sometimes brutal sport. And violent collisions can occasionally result in horrible injuries.
But as the cart moved past the Tide bench, it happened. As if on cue, King raised his right arm, giving the thumbs up to his teammates.
"Kenny's thumbs up probably did far more for us than people can imagine," Franchione said. "The players were relieved."
The Tide players breathed a sigh of relief, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of Tide fans watching on television. "He's pretty tough," Moorehead said. "We knew he'd be all right."
Reassured, the Tide defense turned in one of the biggest plays of the game, stuffing LSU on third and one and forcing a punt. "I was worried a little bit that we may be so distraught over Kenny that we might not be able to refocus," Franchione recalled. "But they went back and played defensively very well."
As a fifth-year senior and starting nose tackle, King has been an integral part of the Tide team all season. But his teammates played inspired defense in his absence, holding a good LSU squad to less than 200 total yards for the game. "Whether it was for Kenny or not, I don't know," Franchione said. "I know that he wanted them to continue on, and I know that they wanted to play well."
After being checked out thoroughly by the medical staff, King actually got up off the examining table to watch the rest of the game. "He's okay," Franchione said. "He was in the locker room for the game and on the sideline. He was walking around with a smile on his face."
"I was happy to get back up and go out there and watch my team," King said after the game.
The win left Alabama alone atop the SEC West standings, guaranteeing their goal of being the Best in the West. But every Tide fan agrees that the best news of the night was Kenny King walking and talking after the game.
"I'm feeling fine," he said. "I'm feeling great."
Not as great as the Alabama family.