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From SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, December 14, 2009
IF YOU THINK IT WAS UNSPORTING AND CRUEL FOR ALABAMA fans to cheer the sight of Tim Tebow's tears in the final minute of the SEC title game on Dec. 5, Terrence Cody asks for your understanding. ¶ "We hear a lot about him being one of the most dominant players ever in college football," explained Cody, the Crimson Tide's terrific nosetackle. "We hear that all the time. For us to dominate him, it meant a lot to us."
It meant more, if possible, to the houndstooth-rocking legions of Alabama faithful, a group of partisans whose pride in their program is matched only by their sense of entitlement. Yes, the Tide had won 21 SEC championships, but the most recent of those came a decade ago.
True, 'Bama owned a dozen national championships, but the Tide had been stuck on that number for 17 years. By reducing Tebow to tears and otherwise bullying the defending national champions in a 32-13 drubbing in the Georgia Dome, Nick Saban's squad earned a spot in the BCS title game. Tailback Mark Ingram punched his ticket to New York City for the Heisman ceremony after he gashed a proud Gators defense for 113 yards and three TDs on 28 carries, throwing in a game-changing 69-yard catch-and-run for good measure.
By hanging 32 points on the defense that had given up a Division I-A low 9.8 per game; by outgaining Florida 490 yards to 335; by holding the ball for 39:37, 'Bama did more than earn a trip to Pasadena. It turned the tide, if you will, in what is fast becoming college football's most electric rivalry. Saban and his counterpart, Urban Meyer—the two share a glowering intensity and perma-tans—are arguably the two finest coaches in the game. Certainly they are among the nation's top recruiters. "Can you believe the talent on this field?" Atlanta Falcons G.M. Thomas Dimitroff said at halftime.
In handing Florida its first loss in 23 games and its worst beating in four years, Alabama avenged its defeat in the SEC title game a year ago. In so doing, the victors reminded the Gators, who won the national championship in '06 and '08 running Meyer's confounding spread offense, that deception will take a team only so far—that the coin of the realm in the nation's best conference is still the ability to whip the man across the line from you.
Which brings us back to Cody, a.k.a. Mount Cody, the 6' 5", 354-pound senior at whom Florida ran on the second play of the second half. Result: Chris Rainey lost a yard. While Tebow rammed his way to 63 yards on 10 carries, Florida's other three backs totaled 25 yards on just four carries. It's one thing to try to establish the run and fail. The Gators never gave Rainey, Jeff Demps and Brandon James a chance to find a rhythm. Such was Meyer's respect for the Tide's interior line.
"We watched film of [Florida] against Tennessee, LSU and Arkansas," said Cody. "If you're physical up front against them, they have problems making plays."
Cody sat on a folding chair in front of his locker, unspooling tape from around his kielbasa fingers. In the duffel bag at his feet one could not help noticing a pair of Batman boxer shorts. Cody had arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2008 by way of Mississippi Gulf Community College, where he earned renown both for his play and for his preference for sleeping under Spiderman sheets.
"I like Marvel," he said, without further explanation.