Ha! Bet you thought we forgot Things... No. 62, didn’t you?
No, no we did not. This would have been published on June 23, 2019 — the day after Meth Attack Squirrel. But, hey, what’s 6 weeks late among friends?
With few exceptions, no one central to the play that would be known as Rocky Block was actually from Alabama. But, the ones that were — Julio, Rolando, Leigh — would really matter in the end:
- Tennessee kicker Daniel Lincoln was from Ocala, Florida. He missed six kicks in 2009 — half of them were in this improbable Third Saturday tilt.
- His opposite in Crimson and White, the one-time goat turned All-American Leigh Tiffin, is not just from Alabama (Muscle Shoals), he is a ‘Bama legacy; Leigh’s father, Van Tiffin (Red Bay) is Gump royalty to this day. Leigh Tiffin was four-of-four that day, including a long 50-yarder, and scored every point Alabama would see in Tuscaloosa that day. After a miserable 2006 freshman campaign, Leigh had became a Groza award finalist and an All-SEC, All-American player by the end of his 2009 senior campaign.
- Vols DC Monte Kiffin (Lexington, Nebraska) had dialed up perhaps his greatest game of the season — allowing just 256 yards against Alabama OC Jim McElwain (Missoula, Montana). His Tampa-two flummoxed Alabama for 60 minutes. No one in an Alabama uniform would see the end zone that day.
- Of the 256 yards allowed, Tennessee limited 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram (Flint, Michigan) to just 99 yards, and 25 yards of that was on one play. Worse, this 2009 edition of TSIO would see Ingram have his first career fumble.
- In the passing game, it wasn’t much better for the good guys. Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy (Southlake Carroll, Texas by way of Los Angeles) had a gruesome day too, averaging just 4 yards per on 29 attempts — 120 yards in total. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he was effectively neutered in this slobberknocker.
- Vols head coach / offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was from Fresno, California. His work in the 4th quarter alone was perhaps also his best coaching of the season. He had a gameplan that made quarterback Jonathan Crompton (Asheville, NC) a portrait of efficiency, wheeling and dealing on the outside to Gerald Jones (OKC, OK) and Denarius Moore (Tatum, TX), and exploiting the Tide interior coverage with TE Chris Walker (Memphis, TN) in the seams.
- That day, Kiffin’s Vols put up 356 yards of total offense on the road against the No. 1 team in the land, on one of college football’s historic defenses — that was almost 100 more yards than Alabama normally allowed (263.7) and was more yards posted than even Texas would reach in the BCS Championship game.
- Alabama HC Nick Saban was from Fairmont, West Virginia. His team was tired and banged up. He knew it, and had been warning about fatigue going into this rivalry matchup with a still-talented, very physical UT squad. Always active coaching special teams, he and his major domo, Bobby Williams (St. Louis) made the difference in Third Saturday in the overlooked, third phase of the game.
- CB Kareem Jackson (Macon, GA), had been charging off the corner hard and rushing Lincoln’s kicks all afternoon, resulting in a lower trajectory and rushed attempts. Lincoln had already missed a seeming gimme’ earlier in the game, and had another one blocked by Terrence Cody.
Terrence Cody was from Fort Myers, Florida. The hefty nose guard by way of Gulfport CC (Mississippi) was in the midst of his second straight All-American campaign. While Julio Jones is seen as largely responsible for turning Saban’s Alabama into an assembly line for wide receivers, we could say the same of Cody with respect to defensive linemen. This one-time academic casualty and unconditioned diamond-in-the-rough scrapped his way out of the JUCO ranks onto an Alabama roster, where he would become a superstar with the right development.
This was the biggest game of his career in any uniform. And without his first block of the game, the second one doesn’t even matter.
Julio Jones is from Alabama — Foley. Rolando McClain is from Alabama — Decatur. While Cody is running off the field following the block, helmet in hand, that cerebral pair of players scrambled to corral the ball, which was quibbing dangerously parallel to the line of scrimmage.
Julio ultimately landed on it, sealing the win for the Tide. But No. 25 wasn’t letting that one get past him either. Earlier, McClain had a tag-team assist in Cody’s first block. With Kareem rushing the edge, and McClain skying, Lincoln’s trajectory sent the kick straight into Cody’s armpit.
Julio contributed on offense. His 7 catches for 54 yards paced the Tide receivers. But, it is the heads-up play at game’s end we remember.
Then, there were the millions of us all over the country that got to see this unfold on CBS. And, for 98,000 lucky (and miserable) fans in Bryant Denny Stadium on October 23, 2009, a magical moment in college football history unfolded before our eyes...
On June 23rd, 2019, football season was just 62 days away. Today, we sit just 18 days out from the beginning of the 2019 FBS college football season.