The Third (or Second or Fourth) Saturday in October: feet, death, and baldness

Part 2 of 4. Start with Part 1, if you haven't read it already. Remember, I'm writing to Alabama fans.

Feet! 1932

It is a closely-guarded secret that both Tennessee coach General Robert R. Neyland and Alabama coach Frank Thomas had foot fetishes. Shoot, most coaches back then loved them some feet, especially when it was cold, rainy, and windy. The 1932 game featured 40 total punts, many on first and second down.

Brace yourself for a shocking revelation: the crucial play of the game was a punt, specifically the one that Alabama's John Cain sent out of his own end zone for a whopping 12 yards after a bad snap. The Vols scored the game's only touchdown on the next drive and won 7-3.[i] Yeehaw for feet.

Bravo! We Killed You, Yet You Survived: 1946

From 1941 to 1945, while Neyland was off winning World War II all by himself[ii], Thomas was having his way with interim Tennessee coach John Barnhill. Like a grade-schooler tormenting the substitute teacher, Thomas unleashed prank after prank upon the poor, unsuspecting sub, devising new trick offenses and introducing jump-pass happy quarterback Harry Gilmer to the world.

Neyland returned too late from war in 1946 to devise any special strategy to deal with such novelties, so he simply decided to do what he knew: kill the enemy. And he had just the man to do it.

Tennessee tackle Dick Huffman was, by all accounts, not just tough, but wicked mean. Huffman led the assault on Gilmer in 1946, and by the end of the day the field was absolutely littered with Gilmer-shaped divots. Gilmer, however, just kept unsticking himself from the turf and running back to the huddle for another magnificent play, and 40,000+ Vol fans in Knoxville gave Gilmer the loudest, longest, most raucous standing ovation they had ever given a rival player. He'd taken their absolute best, and he'd measured up. Oh, and the Vols won, by the way, 12-0, just so you know.[iii]

Excuse Me, but Your Helmet is Making You Bald: 1960

The 1960 game is widely held to be one of the most vicious in the storied history of the series, as evidenced by the game's first play. Tennessee player Bunny Orr caught the opening kickoff, lowered his shoulder, and steamrolled into Alabama linebacker Buddy Wesley, who in turn crashed into Volunteer linebacker Jim Cartwright. Cartwright got off the easiest of the three, merely limping off the field. Orr was dazed and confused, and he slowly got to his feet and wobbled off the field like a sleepy drunk in a funhouse. Wesley was another matter altogether and needed to be carted off the field on a stretcher as crimson flooded out from underneath his helmet. Teammates thought that he had fractured his skull and that he was bleeding out of his ears.

It turns out that Wesley was merely stupid. Somehow he had become convinced that the padding in his helmet was causing his baldness, so he'd removed it and paid for it with a nasty scalp laceration.[iv]

How Many Days of the Week am I Holding Up? 1965

The score at Legion Field was tied at seven. Thirty-four seconds remained, and Alabama had the football at the Tennessee 25 yard line. A field goal would win it.

Alabama sophomore quarterback Kenny Stabler's brilliant passing moved the team to a first down just inside the Tennessee 10 yard line. ‘Bama fullback Steve Bowman then gained two yards. On the next play, a pitch-gone-wrong resulted in a 10-yard loss. On the next snap, Stabler scrambled on a passing play from the 18 yard line and snaked his way 14 yards to the four.

Quick, what down is it?

That's right, fourth down. But Stabler for some mysterious reason thought it was first down, and even though Alabama kicker David Ray had run onto the field with his tee in hand to attempt the game-winning field goal, Stabler took the snap and threw the ball out of bounds to kill the clock. With that throw, he also killed the Tide's opportunity to win. In the end, it didn't really matter, as Alabama went on to win a national championship that year, but wow. Remember, kids, math is fun.[v]


[i] Ibid., pp. 43-46.

[ii] Not really. General George Patton assisted.

[iii] Ibid., pp. 101-106.

[iv] Ibid., pp. 171-77.

[v] Ibid., pp. 198-205.


Coming tomorrow: Makes me wanna puke, fear the 'bone, and quit ruining our coaches!

 

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