Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama 13, Vanderbilt 10

In recent years, despite the fact that Alabama is a perennial SEC title contender that has won twelve national championships and Vanderbilt . . . well, is neither of those, the two teams seem to always play close, low scoring games. Yesterday’s contest was no exception.

When all else failed, Alabama turned to the freshman kicker. Walk-on Leigh Tiffin’s 47-yard field goal midway through the fourth quarter helped the Crimson Tide overcome drive-killing mistakes and beat Vanderbilt 13-10 on Saturday. “I knew it was a big kick but it didn’t really overwhelm me,” said Tiffin, subbing for an injured Jamie Christensen.

How big? Along with a defense that forced four turnovers, it helped Alabama (2-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) extend its winning streak over the Commodores to 18 games and overcome an offense that couldn’t finish off drives.

Tide fans who aren’t used to sweating out such close games against Vandy (0-2, 0-1) reacted more with relief than excitement when Juwan Simpson finally made an interception as time expired. “It’s always a relief when you win,” Simpson said. “They fought from the first play all the way through.

Vandy’s defense made Tiffin’s job harder, sacking John Parker Wilson for a 13-yard loss on third-and-8. Alabama coach Mike Shula, who had earlier called for a fake field goal rather than have Tiffin try a 41-yarder, turned to him to win the game. The son of famed former Tide kicker Van Tiffin sent a line-drive through the uprights with 7:34 left.

“It was amazing,” Simpson said. “I don’t even think they’ve practiced kicking it that far.”

Alabama had salvaged the opportunity when Wilson sidestepped a defender and hit Nikita Stover for a 36-yard pass on third-and-18.

It’s interesting how sportswriters and fans have different perceptions of events. AP reporter John Zenor says, “Tide fans … aren’t used to sweating out such close games against Vandy.” That’s certainly not my recollection.

Yesterday’s game renewed what had been an annual tradition. Here are the scores from the games starting with the 1992 national championship season (and, coincidentally, my first year as a grad student at the Capstone and first year back from military service overseas):

    2002 30-8
    2001 12-9
    2000 28-10
    1999 28-17
    1998 32-7
    1997 20-0
    1996 36-26
    1995 33-25
    1994 17-7
    1993 17-6
    1992 25-8

In those eleven games, only two were truly close (within ten points) at the end. Still, it seems that the Tide always went in tied or behind at the half and had to rally in the second half. I don’t have the breakdowns by quarter handy, though, so it may just be a couple of instances influencing my overall perception. Either way, considering how good Alabama was in many of those years–and how bad Vandy was in virtually all of them–these should all be blowouts.

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john parker Wilson did very good in my opinion

Posted by natalie | September 10, 2006 | 10:06 am | Permalink

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