No more passes now. Alabama is in field-goal range. Furthermore, it believes it can ram the ball right at Tennessee's slanting, stunting defense. Gene Raburn, spelling Kelley, gets nine yards in two tries. Then, as the Tennessee line pinches to stop the expected plunge, Stabler slips outside for 11 to the Tennessee 15 (the Snake would rather slither than fly, any day). Now Kelley is back, slamming off the left side to the 12, then again to the—oops, the ball pops out of his hands, and on one forward bounce smash dab into the hands of teammate Perkins at the Tennessee seven. Lucky Alabama. Fortunate Alabama.
Kelley now gets the first down in a drive to the five, but in three smacks the Crimson Tide is still a yard short of a touchdown and it is beginning to rain again. Earlier, at the Vols' 45, Tennessee had stopped a fourth-and-one Alabama gamble quite coldly. Bryant decides not to give the Vols a second chance. He orders in his field-goal kicker.
"If you've ever kicked one, kick one now," says Stabler to Steve Davis in the huddle, and to the others: "If you've ever blocked, block now." The snap-back is low, and Stabler momentarily fumbles with it and still has two hands on the slippery ball when Davis swings his foot into it. "It couldn't have been more than a yard or two inside the left upright," says Stabler, and Davis is mobbed by red shirts.
Alabama 11, Tennessee 10. Seventy-five yards in 14 plays, no mistakes. There are only 3:23 to go.
Never before in the 65-year, 48-game history of this famed southern rivalry has one point decided the outcome, but the lead appears safe enough. Tennessee had lost the initiative in the second half, had run only four plays for a minus eight yards in the fourth quarter.
Now for the slightly hysterical, mostly maddening, greatly suspenseful finish. Nobody leaving, please. On an angled kickoff intended to prevent a run-back, Tennessee lets the ball go out of bounds and accepts possession on its 27-yard line. The Tennessee quarterback is Dewey Warren, a fine passer. His understudy at the position is Charlie Fulton. But how are you going to keep Fulton down on the bench, he is so marvelous? Coach Doug Dickey feels it would be a crime to man and the Tennessee fans if Fulton does not get back into the game. Fulton has been playing running back and has already swept the Alabama flanks for 54 yards. "Watch Fulton on a halfback pass," had been a final warning to Alabama's defensive backs.
On first down Dewey passes up the middle, and Wingback Bill Baker makes a diving grab at the 49. New life for the Vols, but now less than three minutes to play and Alabama set up to spike anything that flies over with fewer than two motors. And here comes that pesky Fulton on a pitchback from Warren, apparently heading for the right side. He stops, passes (what did we tell you, defense?) and hits Left End Austin Denney 30 yards downfield, and Denney goes eight more to the Alabama 13. First down, well within field-goal range, and still 1:53 to play.
Now Tennessee goes about setting up for Gary Wright, its field-goal specialist. Fullback Bob Mauriello in two powerful thrusts against a suddenly yielding Alabama middle gets to the two for another first down. But here Tailback Walter Chadwick is piled up, then Mauriello loses a yard and somebody calls time-out for Tennessee with 16 seconds to play.
The time-out was a mistake, Dewey Warren said later. It was the last of Tennessee's allotment, and Warren, entrusted with the decision to call it, says he did not. Whoever did, his timing was bad because the Volunteers were still not in the middle of the field for Wright's field goal try. One more running play would have gotten them there, and then a quick time-out would have completed the setup; now with 16 seconds to play and no more time-outs Wright has to kick on third down, sharp angle right.
The rain has all but stopped; the center is perfect, Warren's placement on the tee is true. Wright's kicks, as Coach Dickey said later, are always straight or bend to the right, never left. This one bends far to the right. It seems to pass directly over the right goalpost and high above it. Dewey Warren thinks it is good. Gary Wright is not sure, because he has his head down, as good kickers do. But their impressions do not count. The referee's does and, after a moment's hesitation and many a sign from the crowd, Charles W. Bowen of Fort Lauderdale, Fla. waves frantically to the right and shakes his head—no good. It takes a lot of guts on Mr. Bowen's part. This is a series that once was suspended when a referee was stoned and chased to the streetcar after an unpopular decision.