'WYCHE HAS MOVED TO MORE ELEGANT QUARTERS'
All right, you long sufferers. You have been looking for the way to beat Alabama. Here is how you do it. Very simple. First thing you get two top quarterbacks, one who passes like a professional and runs like he would rather not (call him Swamp Rat Warren, just for fun) and one who is a terrific natural athlete (call him Charlie Fulton) who also doubles as a tailback and frightens people no matter what he plays. Are you getting this down? Then you make a raid into Alabama and grab a prospect from under the nose of Bear Bryant. That's the hard part. Better do that at night. Call this prospect Richmond Flowers Jr. of the Montgomery Flowers. Flowers can catch, and he can run with what he has caught. Then you go down to Tampa, Fla., and get a couple more quarterbacks and shove them onto the defensive team. They will love it.
Now pay attention, because this is where it gets tricky. You allow both Warren and Fulton to get hurt before the game. Knock them right out of the action, see? And you bring up a quarterback with a name nobody can pronounce. Bubba Wyche. Does it rhyme with tyke, rich, psyche, rice or swish? His father says with "I-ch." Bubba is a fellow who has been hanging around for four years, serving time as a red shirt on the meatball squad and aching to get a chance to earn his laundry money.
Bubba gets a lot of unattention, and richly deserves it. Even the week before, when he makes his debut on national television because Warren and Fulton are hurt and he beats Georgia Tech, nobody thinks about him. Who's Georgia Tech? Beat Alabama, that's the thing.
So, on a lovely clear day in late October you put the baby-faced, blue-eyed, turned-up-nose and nice-as-can-be Bubba Wyche on the painted turf of Legion Field in Birmingham before the largest crowd—72,000—ever to see an Alabama-Tennessee football game. Then you add expatriate Flowers, who once got a wire from Alabama that said, "The Bear will make you regret your unfortunate decision," and those two former quarterbacks from Tampa, Defensive Halfback Albert Dorsey and Linebacker Steve Kiner. You tell Wyche to throw passes, Flowers to catch them, Dorsey to intercept when Ken (The Snake) Stabler throws and Kiner to intercept Alabama's runners. And there you have, in capsule, how Tennessee beat Alabama last weekend by a score of 24-13.
With its victory, up went Tennessee to the top of the Southeastern Conference, which is called The Really Big Ten, with justification. Down went Alabama's 25-game undefeated streak. Up went Coach Douglas Adair Dickey's first victory over Coach Paul (Bear) Bryant. This story will serve to explain how an aspiring young coach just four years into the race and with a name like Douglas Adair can beat a famous older coach named Bear.
Alabama-Tennessee is a rivalry that goes back 66 years. It was once and has probably become again the biggest game in Dixie. Like most great rivalries, it inspires and provokes. Bryant himself played in this game with a broken leg. It was 1935 and Alabama won. Last year Tennessee blew a 10-point lead in the rain at Knoxville, fell behind 11-10 and came within a 19-yard field-goal try of pulling it out in the final minute.
Alabama went on to an undefeated season, and Knoxville never got over the game. An otherwise temperate Tennessee engineering professor said it was "the most disappointing moment of my life." From that moment until last Saturday the rematch was drooled over. Preseason billboards advertising Tennessee's schedule were blatantly pointed. On top was GO VOLS. Beneath it, BEAT 'BAMA.
But most of this seemed to be more a frenzy of dread than optimism. The redoubtable Bryant raises the terrible suspicion in an opponent that he is unbeatable, that he can outsmart, out-coach and outshow everybody else and, in the clutch, even make a field goal float mysteriously off to the right.
Doug Dickey sat in the parlor of his new home in Knoxville suburbia one night last week before the trip to Birmingham and talked in pragmatic terms of having to face this monolith. He was relaxed.