Alabama Gets Kind Bounce, Big Plays And Another Win
The unbeaten, fifth-ranked Crimson Tide's second game-winning drive in a row was set up by a fumble that took a fortuitous bounce
Oct. 23, 2005
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - DeMeco Ryans took it as a sign that the ball really is starting to bounce Alabama's way.
The unbeaten, fifth-ranked Crimson Tide's second game-winning drive in a row was set up by a fumble that took a fortuitous bounce for Ryans & Co. in a 6-3 win over No. 23 Tennessee Saturday.
"A lot of things are going our way," the Tide linebacker said. "In past years, one of their players probably would have picked that ball up for a touchdown."
This time when Roman Harper jammed his head into the ball and jolted it loose from Tennessee fullback Cory Anderson, it bounced into - and out of - the end zone. And it was a touchback, not a touchdown.
Instead of the Volunteers getting a shot at the go-ahead points in a 3-3 game, Alabama (7-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) got the ball at its own 20 with 5:08 left to play.
The result was another huge drive for a team that had been prone to letting such games slip away in recent seasons - including back-to-back narrow defeats to Tennessee (3-3, 2-3).
Brodie Croyle hit DJ Hall for a 43-yard completion on third-and-8 and Jamie Christensen followed a few plays later with a 34-yard field goal with 13 seconds left, his second winning kick in as many weeks. His 31-yard field goal as time expired gave Alabama a 13-10 win over Mississippi on Oct. 15.
"We've got a bunch of guys who trust each other and trust as a group that they're going to come together and find a way to win," coach Mike Shula said.
"There was never frustration. I never sensed that. Guys would just get together with their coaches and figure out what the next play was going to be."
Alabama is now 7-0 for the first time since 1996 and has won its first five conference games for the first time in 11 years.
The Tide is the only SEC West team without a league loss, though it still must play top challengers LSU and Auburn. Barring a major upset, Shula's team should have a clear path to 9-0 with Utah State and Mississippi State awaiting before matchups with the two West rivals.
What does Ryans hope the past two wins show?
"That we're a special team," he said.
Alabama fans would say the Tide has already done something special. It beat Tennessee, which had won nine of the last 10 meetings and dealt another blow to a Vols team predicted to win the SEC.
"This is part of our step. This is probably one of the biggest ones if not the biggest one," Croyle said. "The senior class is 2-2 against them. It sounds a whole lot better than going 1-3."
The offense has produced one touchdown - and two climatic, 63-yard drives - in the two games since losing receiver Tyrone Prothro for the season with a broken leg. The lack of production hasn't hurt the Tide's confidence late in the game.
"If we get the ball in the last couple of minutes we feel real confident we're going to at least get the ball down to field goal range, if not score a touchdown," Croyle said.
His pass to Hall was one of the few big offensive plays in the game. The Tide managed 257 total yards, the Vols 253.
The difference: Hall's catch and the Vols losing two fumbles inside Alabama's 10-yard line.
"There's about 70 plays in the ballgame," Tennessee linebacker Kevin Simon said. "Our defense did its job on 69 plays. It's that one play that beat us."
Re: Alabama Gets Kind Bounce, Big Plays And Another Win
Brodie Croyle is going to be something special.
DeMeco...please find your way to St.Louis