The Tennessee-Alabama rivalry, colloquially known as the “Third Saturday in October,” is one of the best in college football. Both teams are steeped in tradition, and winning is in their DNA. Some of the names involved in this series reads like a list of football royalty: Robert Neyland, Bear Bryant, Joe Namath, Reggie White, Derrick Thomas, and Peyton Manning, to name a few. The all-time series stands at 49-38-7 in Alabama’s favor, but the series has always been hotly contested. Having a big game (or big games) or even just the big play at the right time on the Third Saturday of October can make you a folk hero. Here are five Vols who showed up in a big way against the team in crimson.
Albert Dorsey (1967)- This name may not be familiar to many Vol fans born after John Kennedy’s presidency, but he deserves his due. Both teams were ranked in the top 10 coming in to the 1967 matchup, but the Vols had not pulled off a win over Alabama since 1960. Alabama’s star quarterback Kenny Stabler had arguably the worst game of his college career. When he wasn’t smoking cigarettes in the sideline (as he was wan to do), he was hitting his favorite target of the day: Albert Dorsey. Dorsey had three interceptions, which ties him for the most in one game by a Tennessee defender, and helped spur the Vols to a 24-13 victory, the first of four in a row.
Johnnie Jones (1983)- 1983 was the first year of the post-Bear era at Alabama, and it was the first matchup between the two teams since 1971 that Tennessee was coming off a win over Alabama the previous year. This game was a shootout that saw the Vols overcome two different 10 point deficits. The final score of the game came from Jones, who sprinted 66 yards on a 3rd-and-3 with around 3 minutes left. Jones, who is third on Tennessee’s all-time rushing list, gained 113 yards to go with his game-winning score.
Alan Cockrell (1983)- Jones was not the only Vol to go off on Alabama in 1983. Cockrell was splendid in the game, accounting for three touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown to boot. He hooked up with Clyde Duncan twice for touchdowns of 80 and 57 yards, and he hit Lenny Taylor for another 80 yard touchdown. Cockrell, who much like Todd Helton a decade later, was a star quarterback and baseball player at UT and holds the distinction for being the only Tennessee quarterback to have multiple 80 yard touchdown passes in one game.
Jay Graham (1995-1996)- Graham was the running back when Tennessee finally snapped a nine game winless streak over Alabama in 1995, and he was there when the Vols got their second in a row in 1996. He ran for 122 yards in 1995 and 128 in 1996. Tennessee blew the doors off of the Tide in 1995, but in 1996 Graham carried them to victory. Tennessee was trailing 13-0 in the third quarter, but Graham had two touchdowns in the fourth, the last being a long gallop down the right sideline to clinch the 20-13 victory for the Vols. Graham is the only Vol to record two 100 yard rushing games against the Tide.
Joey Kent (1995-1996)- Kent was also on the team that broke the streak in 1995. Peyton Manning’s favorite target and Tennessee’s all-time leading receiver saved his best for ‘Bama. The Alabama native is the only Tennessee receiver with two 100 yard games against the Tide. He tallied 117 yards in 1995, most of which came on the first play from scrimmage when Manning threw a strike to Kent, and he outraced the Alabama defenders to the end zone for an 80-yard touchdown that sparked a 41-14 Volunteer win. In 1996 Kent gave them a dose of familiar medicine with a 125 yard effort, complete with a 54 yard touchdown that sparked the comeback victory.
Edited by Will Lomas