Well, Alabama did end up covering the spread by the dreaded hook… the half point. But the story of the game was Tennessee coming out in the first half and selling the farm to stop the run, which they did, and taking chances to hang in the game, which they did; going for it on fourth down on the first drive, the fake punt, all brilliant, gutsy calls.
The result was the 6-6 tie at the half, and getting the ball to start the third quarter… but a 3-and-out gave the ball to Alabama and the Tide’s adjustments were apparent.
UT said, beat us with AJ McCarron, not Trent Richardson; so the Tide obliged. McCarron took Alabama right down the field, throwing the ball, and scored without having to call a second down play.
When Tennessee came up with 3rd-and-inches at their own 39 on the following drive, Derek Dooley’s decision to go for it again felt more like desperation.
I think he panicked.
Punt the ball, and make Alabama go the length of the field again. When the Vols came up short, it set off that oh so familiar feeding frenzy. The Tide defense was jacked up, the crowd was jacked up and it was only a matter of moments before the band was jacked up. 20-7.
Now I’m not saying the ending would have been different. Just that it wouldn’t have been over so quickly. And the longer you stay in it, the better chance of something crazy happening. Dooley panicked, and in doing so, ended his own misery.
Thom Abraham hosts a daily sportstalk radio program that is syndicated from Nashville, TN to Huntsville, AL to Bowling Green, KY. His website is thomabraham.net.