Oct. 24, 2009
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ALABAMA TOPS TENNESSEE, 12-10
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Senior nose guard Terrence Cody blocked a field goal as time expired - his second blocked kick of the game - to preserve No. 1 Alabama's (8-0, 5-0 SEC) 12-10 win over Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) and keep the Crimson Tide's hopes of an undefeated season alive.
Tennessee moved into field goal range on a 23-yard catch by tight end Luke Stocker after recovering an onside kick with 1:19 remaining. The Volunteers lined up for a 44-yard field goal attempt with four seconds left when Cody burst through the line and got a hand on Daniel Lincoln's kick to save the game for the Tide.
Alabama appeared to have the game in hand with a 12-3 lead and the ball with 3:43 remaining, but Tennessee safety Eric Berry forced a Mark Ingram fumble and Tennessee recovered. Tennessee moved down and scored on an 11-yard touchdown reception by Gerald Jones to cut the lead to two points. With no timeouts left and 1:19 remaining, Tennessee was forced to go for the onside kick, which they recovered setting up the eventual field goal try.
"We did not finish the game and finishing things like we want," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "The last three 3:29, to fumble the ball, they score on a busted coverage and get the onside kick, so for us to get the blocked kick was a great effort not only that time, but the time we did it before the half."
Both defenses asserted themselves early, forcing punts on the first two possessions of the game. After a failed fourth-down attempt on Alabama's second drive, Tennessee moved the ball into scoring range before Alabama safety Mark Barron picked off a Jonathan Crompton overthrow.
Alabama proceeded to move the ball 49 yards on 10 plays, with the biggest chunk coming on a 25-yard dash by Ingram, to set up a 38-yard Leigh Tiffin field goal. Tennessee evened the score on a 23-yard field goal by Lincoln early in the second quarter. The Vols had a first and goal at the Alabama eight-yard line, but the Tide defense stiffened and forced a field goal attempt.
Tiffin added two more field goals in the second quarter from 50 and 22 yards to put Alabama in front, 9-3, entering the break. Tennessee moved into field goal range in the final seconds of the half, but Lincoln came up short on a 47-yard attempt as time expired.
Tennessee held the ball for much of the second half, moving the ball effectively between the 30s, but the Alabama defense made big plays in crucial situations to keep the Volunteers from scoring. Tennessee mounted a nearly eight minute drive in the third quarter that resulted in no points due to a Javier Arenas sack of Crompton and an Eryk Anders tackle for a loss pushed the Vols out of field goal range.
Tennessee's next drive took more than five minutes, but the Tide defense forced the Vols into another field goal try that Cody blocked with just more than 10 minutes left in the game. After the blocked field goal, the Alabama offense marched to Tiffin's fourth and field goal, a 49-yarder that gave the Tide a 12-3 lead with 6:31 left.
Ingram finished the game with 99 yards rushing on 18 attempts. McElroy completed 18-of-28 passes for 120 yards and no interceptions, and Jones led the Tide in receiving with seven catches for 54 yards.
The Alabama defense held the Tennessee rushing attack to 76 yards. The Crimson Tide's streak of 11-plus quarters without giving up a touchdown ended when the Vols scored late in the fourth quarter. Crompton was 21-for-36 passing for 265 yards and one touchdown with one interception.
Crimson Tide cornerback Javier Arenas had a huge game on defense, recording 13 tackles, one sack and 3.5 tackles for loss. Barron added eight tackles to go with his interception.
"It shows you, you talk about how fragile a season is in terms of you're controlling the game even though you may say `you're winning ugly' or whatever," Saban said. "We're still leading 12-3 and in total control of the game with three 3:29 left and the ball. That's how fragile a season can be. Make one mistake and you have to go overcome it and I hope that there's a lot of lessons for our team to learn from this and I think our focus needs to be on improving."
"I have to give a lot of credit to Tennessee's players, they played hard and they were physical. They played tough, competed well in the game and it was a really good college football game. They had a good plan and did a good job of executing it."