A game for the ages… Vols win over Alabama will be talked about for years to come

Published 12:40 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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Tennessee Vol fans held their breath as Alabama placekicker Will Reichard set up for his 50-yard field goal attempt with 20 seconds remaining on the game clock. A made kick would give the Alabama Crimson Tide a 52-49 led with only a few ticks remaining on the game clock.
Could it be another win for the Tide and the 16th in a row dating back to 2006? The snap from long snapper Kneeland Hibbett was perfect and the kick initial looked like it would slide in the uprights but at the very last few seconds the kick skidded off to the right side of the goal post – NO GOOD.
However, could the Vols possibly get within the field goal range of Vol placekicker Chase McGrath to take advantage of the miss and finally get the elusive win they have been chasing for so long in only 15 seconds of time?
UT signal caller came onto the field as cool as a cucumber much like his head coach Josh Heupel who stood on the sideline watching as the plays unfolded. First, Hooker found wide receiver Ramel Keyton for an 18-yard pass to midfield with nine seconds and Heupel immediately called a timeout.
After setting up the next play, Hooker came back to set up in shotgun formation and found receiver Bru McCoy for a 27-yard completion to the ‘Bama 23-yard line and another Vol timeout with only two ticks remaining on the game clock.
McGrath trotted to the center of the field during the timeout and went through his warm-up motions before setting up the tee and preparing to possibly kick the most important field goal in Tennessee history. Just as the ball was to be snapped, Alabama coach Nick Saban called a timeout to hopefully give McGrath to have some unnerving thoughts as he waited to take the kick.
Finally, the line took its place and holder Paxton Brooks kneeled down with his finger on the spot the ball would be placed. McGrath marked off his steps and eyed the goalposts one last time. The snap was made, the ball was placed by Brooks and McGrath put his foot to the ball.
The ball came off the spot like a knuckleball twisting and turning and in what seemed like took five minutes, the ball barely cleared the crossbar on the goalpost – GOOD!!
In an instant, fans began spilling over onto the field from every nook and cranny inside Neyland Stadium. They had waited for 15 long years to finally get the monkey off their backs watching over the years as Alabama celebrated win after win by smoking cigars to celebrate – including one-time coach Butch Jones who was a part of the ‘Bama staff at one time.
Now it was their turn to light up a stogie and smell the smoke of victory rise into the cool Tennessee night sky.
Young and old took to the field. A father and his son lay flat on the field making motions like they were creating snow angels; older fans who received assistance getting onto the field shared hugs and big smiles; several fathers hoisted their children onto their shoulders as did some beaus for their girlfriends.
Tears were seen on the faces of many – who would have thought that a football game would have meant so much?
But it was not just another football game – it was Tennessee vs Alabama.  A head coach in his second year versus a seasoned SEC veteran coach with 16 years of experience in the league to go along with several SEC Championships and National Championships. A fan base that has seen coaches come and go like a bad case of the stomach virus over the last few seasons.
All of that was now forgotten. It was time for a big celebration in Knoxville. The goalposts, after being guarded by police in the first few minutes of the crowd onslaught, now began to wave back and forth as fans were not going to leave without the two goalposts on each end of the field.
With fans singing Rocky Top to the top of their lungs, the posts finally fell and quickly were shouldered by fans who were going to follow past tradition and take those metal poles to the Tennessee River and make a deposit that hadn’t been made in a long time.
As this writer was walking off the field, a walk that took nearly 25 minutes from the South end to the North end of the stadium, a fan who had indulged in one too many came up and grabbed me and threw his lumbering arms around me. His words, “I love you man” to which I could only reply “I love you too!”.
Walking to my car, I could only think about what it would have been like to have the most famous commentator in Tennessee Volunteer history, John Ward to have been alive and to hear how he would have called those final 15 seconds. I am sure that if it were possible, the good Lord would have had to at least tell Ward with a wink, “Hey John, Tennessee just beat ‘Bama.”
I am sure that there will be many more memorable moments to come in Tennessee football, but for this writer, this game has taken the place of the “Miracle at Notre Dame” as the all-time favorite. Who knows, in three weeks there may be one to take its place as the Volunteers are slated to tangle with Georgia in another five-star contest.
Time will tell but for now, I will leave it at this :
Rocky Top, you’ll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol’ Rocky Top
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Rocky Top, Tennessee

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