KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Quarterback Erik Ainge's best play may
have been a tackle.
That's the kind of game it was for seventh-ranked Tennessee.
Despite the Volunteers' struggles, their defense kept the game
close, and one touchdown put them ahead for good in a 16-13 win
over Alabama on Saturday.
Arian Foster dived into the end zone with 3:28 left to complete
"In the second half, the guts and toughness that this team
showed to finish and get a win was just what we needed actually,"
Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "I told them there's not
anybody on our schedule that we play where the game won't be like
this. We'll get the best effort from everybody will play."
The Third Saturday in October, a border-state rivalry dating to
1901, has become a defensive struggle the last two years.
The Crimson Tide (5-3, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) went ahead
13-6 at the end of the third quarter on Tim Castille's 2-yard run,
which was the first touchdown scored in this series in two years.
But Alabama couldn't score again.
Alabama frustrated the normally high-scoring Vols (6-1, 2-1) for
the most part, but Tennessee scored 10 points in the fourth quarter
for the victory and stayed alive in its chase of Florida for the
SEC East division title.
Tennessee came into the game with the best offense in the SEC,
averaging 421.5 yards a game and 35.2 points a game. The Vols had a
week off after their 51-33 win at Georgia, but the Tide frustrated
Tennessee and Ainge nearly the entire game.
Ainge, one of the most efficient QBs in the country before
Saturday, finished 28-of-46 for 302 yards and had three passes
intercepted, two by Simeon Castille. Ainge's biggest play came
after Castille's second pick, which the Alabama cornerback returned
60 yards to the Tennessee 8. He was forced out of bounds by Ainge,
and Alabama eventually had to settle for Jamie Christensen's
18-yard field goal.
"The greatest thing is when you don't play well and can still
win in the end, he helps us win the ballgame," Fulmer said.
Said Ainge: "It feels good to win. Anytime you can win the
Tennessee-Alabama game, however you get it done, winning is what's
Alabama won 6-3 last year, and this game looked headed for a
similar result until the fourth quarter.
James Wilhoit kicked a 27-yard field goal with 8:18 remaining
after Tennessee stalled at the Alabama 10 to cut the lead to 13-9.
The Tide had to punt after getting only one first down on its
next possession, and Tennessee got the ball back at its 30.
Aided by a pass interference call, the Vols drove into scoring
position and it appeared they might have taken the lead when Bret
Smith made a catch near the goal line but landed outside the end
zone. There was no TD signaled, though the officials reviewed the
play to see if the ball broke the plane. After looking at a replay,
they spotted the ball at the 1 for a 5-yard gain.
Foster leaped over the pile on the next play for the touchdown.
The Tide had to punt on its next possession, but got the ball
back at its own 13 with 1:19 left. John Parker Wilson was sacked
twice, however, and time ran out.
"Heartbreaking loss for our team. We thought we had done what
it takes to win the game, and we played 3½ quarters of pretty good
football," Alabama coach Mike Shula said.
In addition to his 18-yard field goal, Christensen also had a
"That team was not better than us. No form or fashion, no way
possible," Alabama defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "If they
were better than us and we had lost by 30, it still would have hurt
but not so bad."
Wilhoit had field goals of 27 and 47 for the Vols.
Wilson was 13-of-29 for 158 yards, and the Tide was held to 53
Tim Castille's TD was the first touchdown scored in the series
since the second quarter of the game in 2004, which Tennessee won
17-13 in Knoxville. Castille, Simeon's brother, scored on a 2-yard
run in the first quarter of that game, the Tide's previous TD
against the Vols.