At stake: The last chance to knock off a bitter rival. After the opening loss to UCLA persuaded Vol fans that the new Clawfense wasn't going to rule the world immediately, Vol fans settled into a mode of waiting for the thing to coalesce into something at least resembling an offense. It took six games, but the 21-point fourth quarter against Mississippi State on October 18 at least made it feel like Tennessee was turning the corner. Never you mind the fact that most of that was due to the defense. We were turning the corner, dagnabbit. With losses to Florida and Georgia already on the books, Alabama presented the last opportunity for the Vols to get a banner win on the books for the season.
In-game context: Alabama came into the game undefeated, ranked second in the nation, and sporting a reputation for absolutely demolishing teams in the first quarter. Tide fans, like sharks drawn by blood in the water, filled Neyland Stadium's best seats, ready for a dominating win. Tennessee, though, was up to the task early, holding Alabama to a field goal on its first possession. When the Vols' first possession stalled out, Britton Colquitt lined up to punt:
Impact: Touchdown for the lead, right? I mean, the offense was given the ball on the opponent's five yard line with four downs to do something with it.
Um, no. Tennessee started the drive with a five-yard penalty. On the next play, Montario Hardesty got only three of those five yards back. On second down, Nick Stephens threw an incomplete pass, and on third down, he was sacked for a seven yard loss. Daniel Lincoln hit a field goal and tied the game at 3-3. Never you mind about the offense, son.