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Now they're even. A week after Florida just avoided an upset against Arkansas at home, it was Alabama's turn to nearly lose a game against a supposedly inferior foe.
It was not a thing of beauty for Alabama. Two blocked FGs by Terrence Cody were only the most obvious examples of the defense bailing out the offense. Even Mark Ingram ended up fumbling the very carry that put him one yard shy of 100 for the day -- a turnover that ended up giving the Volunteers their only TD. That was one more than the Tide had, in part because of an effective defense by Monte Kiffin and an anemic passing attack from Alabama, the latest in a string of subpar days by Greg McElroy. No matter the final result, this was not a great day for the Tide.
Alabama did get Julio Jones involved in the game plan, but to no real effect. He had seven catches for 54 yards and couldn't come up with a TD catch on two consecutive tries in the first half.
Tennessee actually outgained Alabama by 85 yards. Jonathan Crompton was not great, but he was good enough to put the Vols in a position to win, going 21-of-36 on the day for 265 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT. The rushing attack was practically shut down and Tennessee almost won anyway -- as much as you can really expect from a QB when the winning FG is essentially blocked twice.
I don't know whether to give the officials credit for a no-call at the end of the game. Cody, having blocked the FG, ran down the field and took off his helmet before the ball was downed. That's a penalty according to the rule book, but Cody probably wasn't listening for the whistle and was too far ahead of the play to realize that the ball was still live. So do we applaud the officials for showing more restraint than the crew for the LSU-Georgia game? Or do we question why Tennessee wasn't allowed to try the winning FG again, this time 15 yards closer?
The near-loss will take some of the hype out of Bama's campaign to be No. 1 and Mark Ingram's bid for the Heism@n. Neither case was fatally wounded, but both came out of the game in worse shape than they were in when the day began. Not only did Ingram fumble the ball on that critical drive, Alabama defeated Tennessee by less than Florida in a game that was far closer than the contest in Gainesville.
But it was a win, and as long as Alabama makes it to Atlanta, that's all that really matters.