Saturday – October 25, 2008 –
This morning Dad and I woke up excited about watching Alabama football. We slept well at our cabin, the Stargazer, overlooking Gatlinburg. Before heading to the game, we first drove up to the Ober Gatlinburg resort to look around. The leaves were truly stunning at this time in October.
Afterwards, we drove down to Gatlinburg and on to Knoxville. When we arrived near the University of Tennessee’s campus, we stopped for chicken fingers and wings for lunch at Zaxby’s. We saw tons of UT girls wearing checkered orange and white pants with suspenders. I respect Tennessee’s traditions, but I’ve always found throw-up orange to be tacky!
Later, we found a guy selling tickets who told us he had tickets that were on the 40-yard line. Yea right, they were in the end zone, but on the lower level. We bought them and then found a place to park by the beautiful Tennessee Theater. We went in the Hilton downtown, Alabama’s team hotel where we saw several events that the UA Alumni Association was having. Then we walked down Clinch Avenue past the 1982 World’s Fair Park and the Sunsphere, a 266-foot steel truss structure topped with a 75-foot gold-colored glass sphere. It’s pretty and hard to believe they almost tore it down a few years ago!
We then walked down Estabrook Road to Neyland Stadium, the largest stadium in the SEC at least until next year when Bryant-Denny will surpass it. The stadium holds more than 102,000 fans and is one of the largest sports stadiums in the world. We then walked around the stadium to the Tennessee Riverfront to see one of the greatest traditions in sports: a pep rally on the river with the arrival of UT fans by boats, called the Vol Navy.
After seeing the Vol Navy and being heckled a few times for being ‘Bama fans, we later we went to the south stadium entrance and saw a UT fan up in the stadium mooning ‘Bama fans and peeing off the side of the stadium. After the police threatened him, he disappeared before they could catch him!
We gathered with tons of Tide fans to watch the Alabama buses pull up. I was standing behind our quarterback John Park Wilson’s mom and sister, who he hugged as the first person off the bus. We saw other stars like Javier Arenas exit pumped up by the fans and ready to continue their undefeated season and number two national ranking.
After taking some photos we entered the dark and dirty interior concourses before entering the nice seating area. I have never seen so much puke orange in my life. From the seats to the checked end zones to the fans. The only thing that made it more bearable were the more than 30,000 ‘Bama fans inside! UT was having a bad year so many fans sold their tickets to ‘Bama fans. We sat among some UT fans in the south end zone lower level about 50 rows up from the field.
The game kicked off around 6:45 p.m. and was being aired on ESPN. It was cool outside – around 54 degrees at kickoff – for the Third Saturday in October. We didn’t start great and only led 6-3 at the end of the first quarter after Leigh Tiffin’s 39 and 43 yards. In the second quarter, we finally moved into the end zone with Glen Coffee’s three-yard touchdown run. Coach Saban iced UT’s kicker at the end of the half and he missed his second field goad as time expired.
At halftime Dad and I had some hot dogs for dinner. We were happy to see we played much better. After forcing a three-and-out on Tennessee’s first possession, Tiffin kicked a 30-yard field goal to extend the lead to 16–3. We then forced another three-and-out before John Parker Wilson rushed for a one-yard touchdown, but we missed the two-point conversion to lead 22–3. Early in the fourth quarter, Roy Upchurch scored our final touchdown from four yards out to make it 29-3. Tennessee scored late, but couldn’t connect the two-point conversion. After the Rammer Jammer after the game, we went down to see the band and cheerleaders, but UT security was trying to run the Bama fans out. They turned the scoreboards off quickly to “erase” the embarrassment. There was speculation it might be coach Phillip Fulmer’s last game because he was under a lot of pressure.
After such an enjoyable victory, it was a fun drive back to Gatlinburg. Upon arrival in Gatlinburg, we had to walking the streets. We had some ice cream and bought some fudge and traditional salt-water toffee. Then went back to the cabin and soaked in the hot tub. What a great day!