' ' Cinema Romantico: My Favorite College Football Games: Game 5

Saturday, September 28, 2019

My Favorite College Football Games: Game 5

October 21, 1989: Alabama - 47 Tennessee - 30

September 2001. Late 3rd quarter. Nebraska – 13 Missouri – 3. Nebraska is backed up on its own five-yard line, facing third down and eight. Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch drops into the end zone to pass. Disaster beckons as a Missouri defender grabs Crouch’s jersey. Alas, he evades the tackle and scrambles out of the end zone, stutter stepping and juking a defender at the 10, which also moves three more Missouri guys in the wrong direction and out of the play, and then setting up the last defender by zagging left at the 20 and then cutting back right at the 25, leaving everyone else in the dust, sprinting the remaining 75 yards for a touchdown, a game that felt so condensed suddenly becoming free, wide open. It’s what my favorite football play the flea-flicker seeks to educe and it’s what the sport’s greats could individually do, like Crouch, or Reggie Bush in that astonishing touchdown run against Fresno State in 2005 where rather than go out of bounds he almost seemed to stop time as he came to a halt on the sideline and then reversed field, as if dissolving the game’s self-imposed boundaries and opening the field up to new dimensions, the figurative poetry in motion you always hear about.

As a child of Big 8 (rip) and Big 10 country, where even in color things always felt grey and a little rainy, the storied SEC (Southeastern Conference) was something I mostly only saw in highlights and read about in Sports Illustrated, unless CBS, in its convoluted CFA TV contract of the era, saw fit to broadcast one of its games, like it did this particular October afternoon. I knew Alabama had once been great, but they hadn’t really been great during my minimal college football fandom. And the electrifying way they won this game won me over, a shootout where the points just kept coming even though Alabama never felt exactly threatened, getting ahead by a couple scores early in the game, lent breathing room on a bolt out of the blue in the play of my personal CFB epoch.

Early in the 2nd quarter, Alabama was leading 10-7 and positioned a distant 75 yards from the end zone. Quarterback Gary Hollingsworth caught the snap from the shotgun position and flipped a shovel pass to running back Siran Stacy, in only because of an injury to the starter and having already scored once, who had lined up just to the right of Hollingsworth. The precise blocking by the Alabama offensive line provided an avenue for Stacy, through which he hurtled, angled toward the left sideline, gently slaloming past the defense and back toward the center of the field, where, around the fifty-yard line, as a couple Tennessee defenders coming from opposite directions closed in on him, Stacy surged, as much a sprinter carrying a ball as a ball carrier (which in the advent of my Carl Lewis hero worship probably counted for a lot here), all alone into the bright sunshine of Legion Field, transforming a muddle of helmeted humanity into the divine, a 75 yard score punctuated by what still stands as my favorite Brent Musburger call, where rather than bloviating he succinctly, rhythmically summarized “Siran Stacy explodes!” I still feel the goosebumps when I hear it, reader, and the run foreshadowed Stacy’s entire day – 4 touchdowns and 283 yards of total offense – and season, first-team SEC along with some dude named Emmitt Smith.

I never saw Red Grange’s fabled 5 touchdown game against Michigan in 1924, obviously, and so Siran Stacy’s 4 touchdown performance, highlighted by that 75-yard little bit of heaven here on Earth, on the Third Saturday in October 1989 will have to do. And you know what, Siran Stacy is a better name than Red Grange anyway.

No comments: