Cary Clark's Greatest Games: 1994 Tennessee
Cary L. Clark
By 1994, Alabama fans had grown accustomed to beating Tennessee on a regular basis, much like the modern era. It had been since 1985 when the Vols last won on October’s third Saturday. There had been a tie in 1993, chronicled here a few weeks back, but even that felt like a Bama win.
On October 15, 1994 a freshman UT quarterback named Peyton Manning, son of Ole Miss legend Archie, lost for the only time in four starts against Alabama. Led by senior stars Sherman Williams and Jay Barker, the Crimson Tide of Gene Stallings held on for a nail-biting 17-13 win on the banks of the Tennessee River.
Stallings said, “It’s alright. We knew we weren’t going to get anything easy.”
He was right about that. After Barker led a game-winning drive capped by Williams’ 4-yard plunge with just over three minutes left, Manning marched his Vols into the Red Zone. The Bama defense held on a big fourth down on a play where Manning missed an open Joey Kent to narrowly escape Neyland Stadium with the win to go 7-0 at that point. The Tide’s only loss that season came to Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators in Atlanta at the SEC Championship Game.
Manning went 10-18 passing with two interceptions and 138 yards in his lone loss to Alabama. Barker finished with 128 yards on 10-for-19 passing with one touchdown and one pick. His lone TD was a 29-yarder to the speedy Marcell West. The sophomore made the most of his first career catch.
Williams was dominant as he rushed for 142 yards on 26 carries and the one score.
Defensively, safety Sam Shade played very little as the senior found himself in the doghouse of Stallings and defensive coordinator/secondary coach Bill “Brother” Oliver. True freshman Cedric Samuels stepped up with a dozen tackles in Shade’s stead. Senior corner Willie Gaston played probably his best game in crimson and white with nine stops and several key break-ups of Manning aerials.
“I got my taste of a real rivalry tonight,” Manning said. “We played our hearts out.”
Added Bama defensive tackle Shannon Brown, “There is no other feeling in the world than to come out here and beat a team as good as Tennessee was.”
With the win, Barker tied Harry Gilmer as the winningest quarterback in Tide history with 30. Barker finished his senior season as a Heisman finalist and Bama’s all-time wins leader behind center with a 35-2-1 mark including the 1992 national title.
Next week we’ll dive into a game played just two weeks before this one against quarterback Eric Zeier and the Georgia Bulldogs. It, too, was a nail-biter.