Part 4 of 4. Start with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you missed them from earlier this week, and as always, keep in mind that the original audience for this piece was Alabama fans.
Hey, Why Don't We Try That? 1995
Well it took nearly a decade, but by 1995, Tennessee had apparently learned the value of 21-point first quarters. After losing seven straight games to Alabama (plus a tie and another Tide win), Tennessee sophomore quarterback Peyton Manning hooked up with wide receiver Joey Kent on the very first play in the 1995 contest for an 80-yard touchdown. The Vols had 197 yards and 21 points in the first period, and ‘Bama fans were cursing whoever had made the decision to sell out to the TV networks and play the game on a day other than the Third Saturday in October for the first time since 1928.[i]
Yes, We Know Your Medicine Tastes Bad: 1995-2001
1995 was the beginning of Tennessee's own seven-game winning streak. In 1996, Alabama led 13-0 in the third quarter and would likely have led 20-0 had defensive end Chris Hood not tripped over a blade of fescue after recovering a Peyton Manning fumble in the second quarter rather than walking into the end zone untouched. Instead, the Alabama offense took the field at the three yard line, went backwards, and had a field goal attempt blocked, setting the stage for the Vols' three touchdowns and the 20-13 victory.[ii]
The seven-year stretch that began with that game was painful for ‘Bama fans, no doubt, but as Vol fans had learned at least twice already, few things are more satisfying than a streak-busting game, and y'all got yours in 2002 by taking advantage of six Tennessee turnovers on your way to a convincing 34-14 win.[iii]
A New Kind of Streak: 2003-2006
Since that streak-buster in 2002, fans have witnessed a remarkable string of close games beginning with the marathon 2003 game that Tennessee won 51-43 in five overtimes.[iv] Since then the scores have been 17-13 (Tennessee)[v], 6-3 (Alabama)[vi], 16-13 (Tennessee)[vii], and, um, something to something[viii] last year. For some reason, I am unable to locate that score.[ix]
Ask me again in November.
[i] Ibid., pp. 358-61.
[ii] Ibid., pp. 362-64.
[iii] ESPN.com, "Vols cough up ball, game," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=222992633.
[iv] ESPN.com, "Clausen scores game-winner on sneak," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=232980333.
[v] ESPN.com, "Volunteers manage to contain SEC's top run attack," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=242972633.
[vi] ESPN.com, "Christenen's late FG lifts Tide past Vols," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=252950333.
[vii] ESPN.com, "Trailing for 56-plus minutes, Vols upend Bama on late Foster TD," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=262942633.
[viii] ESPN.com, "Alabama notches biggest win in series with Vols since 1986," http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/recap?gameId=272930333.
[ix] Not really.
Yeah, about that. They beat us in 2007 41-17 and again in 2008 29-9. The Record of Wrongs grows.