(7) Tennessee 16, Alabama 13
By Elizabeth A. Davis, AP Sports Writer
October 21, 2006
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Quarterback Erik Ainge's best play may have been a tackle.
That's the kind of game it was for seventh-ranked Tennessee.
Despite the Volunteers' struggles, their defense kept the game close, and one touchdown put them ahead for good in a 16-13 win over Alabama on Saturday.
Arian Foster dived into the end zone with 3:28 left to complete Tennessee's rally.
"In the second half, the guts and toughness that this team showed to finish and get a win was just what we needed actually," Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I told them there's not anybody on our schedule that we play where the game won't be like this. We'll get the best effort from everybody will play."
The Third Saturday in October, a border-state rivalry dating to 1901, has become a defensive struggle the last two years.
The Crimson Tide (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) went ahead 13-6 at the end of the third quarter on Tim Castille's 2-yard run, which was the first touchdown scored in this series in two years.
But Alabama couldn't score again.
Alabama frustrated the normally high-scoring Vols (6-1, 2-1) for the most part, but Tennessee scored 10 points in the fourth quarter for the victory and stayed alive in its chase of Florida for the SEC East division title.
Tennessee came into the game with the best offense in the SEC, averaging 421.5 yards a game and 35.2 points a game. The Vols had a week off after their 51-33 win at Georgia, but the Tide frustrated Tennessee and Ainge nearly the entire game.
Ainge, one of the most efficient QBs in the country before Saturday, finished 28-of-46 for 302 yards and had three passes intercepted, two by Simeon Castille. Ainge's biggest play came after Castille's second pick, which the Alabama cornerback returned 60 yards to the Tennessee 8. He was forced out of bounds by Ainge, and Alabama eventually had to settle for Jamie Christensen's 18-yard field goal.
"The greatest thing is when you don't play well and can still win in the end, he helps us win the ballgame," Fulmer said.
Said Ainge: "It feels good to win. Anytime you can win the Tennessee-Alabama game, however you get it done, winning is what's important."
Alabama won 6-3 last year, and this game looked headed for a similar result until the fourth quarter.
James Wilhoit kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8:18 remaining after Tennessee stalled at the Alabama 10 to cut the lead to 13-9.
The Tide had to punt after getting only one first down on its next possession, and Tennessee got the ball back at its 30.
Aided by a pass interference call, the Vols drove into scoring position and it appeared they might have taken the lead when Bret Smith made a catch near the goal line but landed outside the end zone. There was no TD signaled, though the officials reviewed the play to see if the ball broke the plane. After looking at a replay, they spotted the ball at the 1 for a 5-yard gain.
Foster leaped over the pile on the next play for the touchdown.
The Tide had to punt on its next possession, but got the ball back at its own 13 with 1:19 left. John Parker Wilson was sacked twice, however, and time ran out.
"Heartbreaking loss for our team. We thought we had done what it takes to win the game, and we played 3 1/2 quarters of pretty good football," Alabama coach Mike Shula said.
In addition to his 18-yard field goal, Christensen also had a 24-yarder earlier.
"That team was not better than us. No form or fashion, no way possible," Alabama defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "If they were better than us and we had lost by 30, it still would have hurt but not so bad."
Wilhoit had field goals of 27 and 47 for the Vols.
Wilson was 13-of-29 for 158 yards, and the Tide was held to 53 yards rushing.
Tim Castille's TD was the first touchdown scored in the series since the second half of the game in 2004, which Tennessee won 17-13 in Knoxville. Castille, Simeon's brother, scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter of that game, the Tide's previous TD against the Vols.