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A rare scare for the Bear
Douglas S. Looney
October 29, 1979
Johnny Majors' Tennessee Vols jumped out to a big lead over No. 1-ranked Alabama, and, although they lost, happy days will soon be here again in Knoxville
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October 29, 1979

A Rare Scare For The Bear

Johnny Majors' Tennessee Vols jumped out to a big lead over No. 1-ranked Alabama, and, although they lost, happy days will soon be here again in Knoxville

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Later, watching a Vol' practice, Majors was slightly subdued. "Today can't be all bad," he said. "I'm alive, the sun's shining and I have a job. Now, by Saturday night, it might be a different story."

In the stillness of the locker room before the game, Majors reminded his obviously apprehensive team, "Don't underestimate yourself. You're young and you're moving. You have a good football team. Just think to yourselves, 'If it's to be, it's up to me.' "

Less than five minutes into the game, Puki, a senior, took Majors at his word and jolted 'Bama Quarterback Steadman Shealy with a crushing hit. Shealy fumbled, and Tennessee's Bill Bates pounced on the ball on the Alabama 48. But the Vols could do nothing. Then, just over a minute later, Shealy fumbled a center snap, and Middle Guard Carlton Gunn recovered for the Vols on the Alabama 15. Three plays later Streater threw a rollout to Wingback Phil Ingram for a touchdown. Late in the first quarter Tennessee marched from its own 37 as Fullback Hubert Simpson and Streater took turns confounding Alabama with their running and passing. Streater went over from the three to cap an 11-play drive. Moments later, early in the second quarter, Alan Duncan booted a 45-yard field goal, and so the scoreboard looked as if it had been rigged by a fantasist for a Tennessee recruiting movie: Vols 17, Alabama 0. Confessed Majors later, "At this point. I thought we were gonna win."

But Alabama, a team that doesn't often face adversity but nevertheless knows how to handle it, reared up to spoil the final reels. The turning point came in the second quarter when a Streater pass was deflected by Nose Guard Warren Lyles and caught by Linebacker Robbie Jones. Lamented Streater, "When I released the ball, I felt like there was nobody there. Suddenly it seemed like there were 15,000 hands." On the next play Shealy threw to Tight End Tim Travis for 33 yards and the first 'Bama score.

In the third quarter the Tide turned it on. On the second play from scrimmage, Shealy's pass was intercepted by the Vols' Danny Martin, who returned it 28 yards to the Alabama 32. But on the next play. Tennessee Fullback Terry Daniels fumbled, and the Tide's Randy Scott recovered. After another interception of a Streater pass. Running Back Major Ogilvie—who ultimately gained 109 yards—got the Tide a touchdown with a 16-yard run and a one-yard plunge. Score 17-14.

With only five seconds left in the quarter, Don Jacobs, spelling Shealy at quarterback, made a last-second pitch to Ogilvie, who went six yards to put 'Bama ahead, 21-17. It was all over when Jacobs got loose up the middle for 13 yards and another TD with 5:58 left in the game. Said Jacobs of all the fumbles. "Maybe it's mental, but Tennessee was no slouch in the hitting department."

Ultimately, Alabama made 26 first downs to Tennessee's 13 and 396 yards of total offense to the Vols' 220. Said Bryant, "I think Alabama is a champion now."

But how good is this team compared with your others?

"Aw, that's like comparing the old girl with the new girl."

Asked the same question about his bunch, Majors said, "We'll be a whole lot better in the future." Tennessee people were deflated—after all, it was the ninth straight loss to those fat cats from Tuscaloosa—but not destroyed. "We had our chances," said Majors, whose team is now 4-2. "We just gave some Christmas presents we couldn't afford. But we grew up and played shoe to shoe with the No. 1 team in the country.

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