• Nick Norris

Looking Back at the '09 Alabama-Tennessee Game, 10 Years Later

Steer clear of this article, Vol fans… You won’t like it


by Nick Norris


To Alabama fans, it probably doesn’t feel like a full decade has passed since Nick Saban’s first national championship season with the Tide, but to the folks sporting orange in Knoxville, TN., it likely feels more like a century.


Years tend to zoom by when you’re winning. Not so much when you’re not.


As Saban and his Crimson Tide gear up once again to host the annual rivalry dubbed the “Third Saturday in October,” a certain memory will likely spark back to life in the minds of both teams’ followers. One that will remind Alabama fans the magic college football can deliver, and one that might cripple Tennessee die-hards with despair.


The date was October 24, 2009. The location was Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, AL.


A mountain of a man, ginormous in both size and heart, had just simultaneously saved Alabama’s championship hopes and shattered the collective hearts of the Tennessee fan base. This 6-foot-4, 370-pound Bama hero was named Terrence Cody, and he was nothing short of a beast on the gridiron. He had just proved that to any remaining doubters.


On this day, the senior defensive tackle was unstoppable. With one swipe of his enormous hand, a Tennessee field goal was blocked, his second of the day, just as time expired, and his team held on 12-10 to advance to 8-0.

"I didn't really get off the ground," Cody told ESPN. "I just reached my arm up. That's how I got it. I knocked [the blocker] back. He was on his back."


Prior to this iconic play, Alabama had been struggling to get anything going offensively. Head coach Lane Kiffin had his team ready, and the Vol defense kept Alabama’s offense mostly in check.


Sophomore running back Mark Ingram, who would go on to win the prestigious Heisman Trophy later that year, did not find the end zone once against the Tennessee defense, despite racking up 99 yards on just 18 carries. No other crimson jerseys crossed the goal line that day, either.


All 12 of Alabama’s points were courtesy of senior kicker Leigh Tiffin, the son of legendary Tide kicker Van Tiffin, who completed all four of his field goals – including a 50-yarder and a 49-yarder – to help his team edge out its despised rival for the win.


Without Tiffin and Cody’s outstanding performance, the outcome may have been vastly different.


Now, 10 years later, this game feels so alien. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in the present college football landscape where Tennessee keeps Alabama out of the end zone. It’s even harder to imagine just Tide two players being the difference in this game.


With the landscape of these programs as they are now, Alabama might be a double-digit favorite even if it only started its third-string players.


Admittedly, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it’s fair to say these programs have trekked vastly different paths since the 2009 game.


Saban has led the Tide to five national championship wins and seven appearances since Cody made those two crucial blocks, while Tennessee has torn through three head coaches in Kiffin, Derek Dooley and Butch Jones, before hiring Jeremy Pruitt, whose seat gets slightly hotter with each excruciating loss this season.


Now, the Vols sit at 2-4 (1-2 in Southeastern Conference play), are a 34.5-point underdog to the Tide and are staring down the uncomfortable possibility of yet another losing record.


So, what does this all mean? It means this weekend will likely be a boring Alabama thumping of the barely-standing Tennessee program.


So, when Alabama is up by 28+ going into halftime, just click over to YouTube and watch the 2009 game again. It’ll make for better entertainment as you Bama fans smoke down yet another celebration cigar before the second half even kicks off. TGM

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