published Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Wiedmer: This was a game Tide, Vols fans will long recall

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The human mountain Terrence Cody stood atop Bryant-Denny Stadium's field early Saturday evening, salty tears streaming down his face, his 354-pound body shaking with both joy and relief.

"If (Tennessee) had made that field goal, our season would have been over," Cody said of the UT kick he blocked on the last play of top-ranked Alabama's 12-10 win. "We had to stop that kick."

This is the memory that will depress Big Orange fans and delight Crimson Tide loyalists for years, if not decades, to come.

Fifty years from now, Bama backers will talk of Cody leaping yards into the air, LeBron James in pads and cleats, his clinched left fist sending Daniel Lincoln's 44-yard boot back like a volleyball spike.

The truth was more like this, according to Cody: "I pushed the guy back and just stuck my arm up."

Volniacs no doubt will spin a different tale -- of lopsided officiating, of grim determination, of a steadfast Lincoln hobbling out on a sore leg to wrest a noble victory from the No. 1 Tide, his effort barely falling short.

"We should have won that game," a defiant UT coach Lane Kiffin said afterward. "I think all of you guys that were there would agree with that."

Time can't change that, of course. This will always count as a Crimson victory. And that should be enough in this case, since the real thing will always remain every bit as dramatic as the bending truths that may ultimately reshape this contest.

For Alabama this was the kind of dodged bullet that almost every national champion aspirant has to endure to ultimately wear the crown. Admittedly tired from eight straight weeks of play, including two of the last three on the road, the Tide stumbled and bumbled down the stretch but failed to tumble off its undefeated perch.

"I didn't want to say this," said winning coach Nick Saban, "but I felt like our team was really tired this week psychologically, probably more mentally than physically. We had a lot of guys beat up."

For his part, Kiffin added, "I thought (UT) guys were playing really hard. We had some momentum going but we didn't score when we got down there. If you're going to beat a team like this, the No. 1 team in the country, you've almost got to play perfect."

But here's the flip side that should encourage all Tennessee fans today. The Vols almost won. Came within one bad kick or one Herculean block -- maybe both -- of setting the college football world on its ears.

For anyone still wondering if Kiffin was the right man to replace Phillip Fulmer, this game should end it. Playing as they did Saturday on archenemy turf, the 3-4 Vols shouldn't lose again on their way to an 8-4 season and a respectable bowl bid.

Moreover, in typical Kiffin coachspeak, which always returns to recruiting, he deftly said of the Tide, "This is what happens when you sign back-to-back No. 1 recruiting classes."

In other words, when Kiffin's staff accomplishes that goal, a No. 1 rating won't be far behind.

But all that will come later, probably no sooner than two years down the road, since this Big Orange bunch should not be better than next year's squad if only because the Vols aren't likely to have Eric Berry next season.

So for now there's Cody's block to chill the losers and warm the winners.

"I was wondering where the ball went," Saban said of the bedlam at the finish as Bryant-Denny shook throughout. "I still haven't seen it, so I'm assuming somebody got on it and they still can't advance it."

Fifty years from now, some Volniac wearing out a rocking chair will no doubt say some UT player tried to advance it, dancing down the sideline until he was bumped out of bounds inches from the goal.

Or maybe this game will be quickly eclipsed by future games between these rivals.

Said Kiffin of next year's meeting, the 93rd in this grand rivalry: "We'll be excited when these guys come to our place next year."

They won't be alone.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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tyoneon1 said...

Great game Vols: I look forward to many more. Baby Kiffin braggin already about next years game.

We'll be there. oh yea you can wear the Orange.

What a game. We did every thing we could to give it to you and you could not take it. maybe two weeks rest next time will do the trick. Brag next year Baby Kiff. After you win not before.

October 25, 2009 at 4:34 p.m.
moonpie said...

As a Vol fan who has not yet gotten on the Lane Train, but I was impressed with this team's performance.

Kiffin did say something in his show today which bothered me. He mentioned that Bama could have gotten a 15 yard penalty and the ball back to Tennessee because of the helmet removal by Cody before the play was dead.

As a Vol fan, I think it was a great "no call."

Finally, this game should lay the Crompton issue to rest. He's held his own against some tough teams.

October 25, 2009 at 8:59 p.m.
blahblahyaya said...

Um, actually it will only be a Tide victory until their next probation!

October 25, 2009 at 10:44 p.m.
HowBoutThemVols said...

To Moonpie ...

You are NO Vol fan!

If you were, you would show some appreciation and support for the Vol team, the great efforts of the players, and the football competence this new coaching staff has displayed.

Lane Kiffin is the Tennessee coach. A Vol FAN will support him and his staff's efforts. Get on board (the "train") or find a team you can support. A real fan isn't wishy washy. A real fan doesn't publicly feign indifference to his team because you are embarrased to say you are a fan in the presence of others who may hold your team in disdain. This is the type of speech one would expect from a politician - trying to impress others by your lack of bias and trying not to offend anyone. Make a stand, declare your allegiance, and then defend it. Develop a spine and choose a team. Then act like a real fan.

As for Kiffin's comment about the "no call", it is one of his responsibilities as the team's chief public proponent to raise the question. I don't pretend to know the rule, but we should all want to know how this should have properly been called. In my opinion, it would probably come to nothing. If so, the game is over and the emotional reaction is understandable. However, rules are rules. So if it was a penalty, everyone deserves to know. But a Vol fan will always look to promote the Vols and want to find a way for the team to win.

And finally, Crompton certainly has improved lately. However, he was dismal last year and at the beginning of this year. That is simply an indisputable fact. So why is he better now? Did Phil Fulmer's coaching from last year finally sink in? (No disrespect intended to Coach Fulmer.) Of course not! There's only one reasonable explanation. Lane Kiffin and his staff have had a positive impact on Crompton, including Kiffin's stubborn support of his quarterback when he was playing poorly early on. I don't know if the improvement is something physical or mental, but Crompton (based on two very good games) seems to have figured it out. Let's all hope it continues.

The Vols played very well and especially hard on Saturday! Based on this year's performances (so far) and on paper, Alabama is clearly the better team with better personnel. But Saturday, Tennessee played better for most of the game and the production stats clearly reflect that. Unfortunately for all of us Tennessee fans, the scoreboard didn't.

The wins are coming. The rest of the SEC (and the rest of the country) now sees that.

How 'Bout Them Vols!?!

October 25, 2009 at 11:10 p.m.
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