The rivalry known as the “Third Saturday in October” was been fairly one-sided of late. Last week, Tennessee defeated Alabama for the first time in 16 years.
On this day 55 years ago, the Volunteers snapped a lengthy skid against the Crimson Tide. Albert Dorsey’s interception return for a touchdown sealed the deal as Tennessee changed its fortunes in a top-10 matchup, 24-13.
Setting the Stage
After falling to UCLA in the season opener, Tennessee was 2-1 and ranked No. 7 as it arrived in Birmingham on Oct. 21, 1967. The Volunteers had gone 0-5-1 in their previous six games against Alabama and had not defeated the Crimson Tide in Birmingham in a decade.
Ranked sixth, Alabama was 3-0-1 with an early-season tie against Florida State. The Crimson Tide had won the SEC in each of the previous three seasons. Tennessee looked to be their toughest test.
Dorsey Slams the Door
In a contest dominated by defense, it was a defensive score that ultimately put the contest away. Neither team reached 250 yards of total offense, but the Volunteers intercepted Alabama quarterback Ken Stabler five times.
Walter Chadwick and Stabler exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter. Sparked by third-string quarterback Bubba Wyche, who was forced into action, Tennessee went ahead for good in the third on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Chadwick to Ken DeLong. A field goal pushed the lead to 17-7 after three, but head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Crimson Tide wouldn’t go quietly.
Ed Morgan’s touchdown run cut the deficit to 17-13, but the 2-point try was failed. With less than two minutes to play, Alabama had one last chance to try to run its unbeaten streak over Tennessee to seven.
With already two interceptions on the day, Dorsey ultimately put any Alabama comeback to rest. His third pick was returned 31 yards for the game-sealing touchdown.
The victory was Tennessee’s first over Alabama since 1960 and first in Birmingham since 1957.
Neither team would lose again during the regular season. Alabama finished 8-2-1 with a Cotton Bowl loss to Texas A&M and a No. 8 ranking in the final AP Poll. Tennessee would finish 9-2 and No. 2 despite losing to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, 26-24.
The victory over Alabama, however, would ultimately give the Volunteers their first SEC crown in 11 years. It also reversed their fortunes against the Crimson Tide as Tennessee won four straight in the series. It came thanks to the efforts of a third-string signal caller and five interceptions from the defense on this day 55 years ago.
Featured photo appeared on Sports Illustrated cover