Without doubt, the biggest and most exciting play in Alabama's workman-like, not-so-pretty 23-10…
Trent Richardson is 5-11 and weighs 224. That is no match for former Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody at 6-5 and an estimated 370 or current Crimson Tide offensive right tackle D.J. Fluker, 6-6 and 330.
Richardson, a sophomore tailback, has been wearing a rehabilitation boot on his foot since Fluker stepped on it. "I'm good physically," Richardson said. "D.J. stepped on my foot in the first game. It happens."
It could have been worse. Richardson was remembering back to the final frantic moments of Alabama's 12-10 win over Tennessee last year. Vols placekicker Daniel Lincoln was attempting a 44-yard field goal on the final play. Terrence Cody, Alabama's All-America defensive tackle, pushed through and blocked the attempt, preserving the Crimson Tide win.
Bryant-Denny Stadium was pandemonium, and the most berserk was the man of the moment, Terrence Cody.
"I was on the sideline," Richardson said. "He blocked it and starting running towards me, and I actually started running rom him. He was happy and I didn't want him to, like, fall on me."
Richardson said that before the play he told his teammates he "felt he was going to block it. He told us that before they even snapped it. He already knew he was going to block it, and he went through and blocked it."
There is no Cody for Alabama this year. The Crimson Tide goes to Knoxville Saturday in quest of its fourth consecutive win over the Tennessee Vols. Kickoff in Neyland Stadium is at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central) with television coverage by ESPN. Alabama is 6-1 overall and 3-1 in Southeastern Conference games and ranked seventh in the nation. Tennessee is 2-4, 0-3 in the league.
Richardson is a major weapon for Bama. He leads the Crimson Tide in rushing with 74 carries for 487 yards, a 6.6 yards-per-carry average, with four touchdowns and a long run of 53 yards. He is tops in scoring with seven touchdowns for 42 points. Richardson is Alabama's primary kickoff return man with 20 runbacks for 556 yards with a 91-yard return for a touchdown. He is fourth on the team in receiving with 17 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns. He ranks third nationally and first in the SEC in all-purpose yards, averaging 183.1 yards per game.
Richardson expects a battle against Tennessee.
"Tennessee is a good team," he said. "Pretty fast on defense, like to come up field. You have to get after them on the first play. No matter the record, you are still playing an SEC team."
Richardson said he wasn't aware of the depth of the rivalry when he was playing football at Escambia High School in Pensacola, Florida. "I learned it when I got here," he said. "They went on about it, talked about it so long, so when I got here, I felt it. It's a big rivalry for Alabama. A lot of people put it on the same level as Auburn. And it's a big game for us, anyway, because it's SEC.
"It will be an emotional game. We have to have a full 60-minute game. We have to respect them and go out there and play hard."
He said the 2009 game was tough. "We had only field goals," he said. "When it was over, the moment was almost like winning the SEC championship. That game helped get us there. It was a magnificent moment."
Although Alabama has not been as impressive as many expected, Richardson said he doesn't listen to the critics. "We've got to get it together," he said. "We didn't come out there and play football like we're supposed to. Instead of going out there and playing hard, we let the game get away from us. We took things for granted. We've gone back to basics and know what we're doing and do what we do.
"I think there's been a lot of improvement out there. You've got to go out there and work hard. There's a lot of boys going out there and doing what they are supposed to do, going out and playing like a team, playing Alabama football, and practicing like how we're supposed to practice."
The highlight of the win over Ole Miss last week was Richardson taking a short pass from quarterback Greg McElroy and turning it into an 85-yard touchdown. It was the longest pass play of this season, the longest in McElroy's career, and fifth longest in Alabama history.
As Richardson streaked for the end zone, Bama center William Vlachos was the closest man to him, Vlachos sprinting as hard as he could in attempting to keep up. Richardson said he wasn't aware of Vlachos until he saw the replay on the stadium video screen.
"It was kind of funny to me," said Richardson, "him trying to run sride-for-stride with me."
So did he give Vlachos a hard time?
"No," said Richardson. "He gave me more trouble. He said he was beating me. He gave me more trouble than anyone. The whole offensive line gave me trouble."
Should Richardson and Vlachos square off in a 100-yard dash, ?Richardson figures the 6-1, 290-pound Vlachos would need a head start.
"About 80 yards," Richardson said.