Revisiting the last time Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin squared off

by 24USATVOct. 11, 2020, 5:01 a.m. 22
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Lane Kiffin’s history with the Alabama Crimson Tide is rich in front and behind the scenes. His tenure as the team’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16 was the beginning of Nick Saban’s willingness to diversify and expand the offense which eventually morphed into the monster it is today.

Now four years removed from donning the crimson and white, Kiffin is going head to head with Saban as the head coach of Ole Miss in a game in which the team will try and stir up some magic against the national championship hopefuls.

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Ole Miss or even Kiffin himself would cause problems for Saban as an opponent.

Looking back 11 years ago to when Alabama hosted Kiffin and the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium, it resulted in a game that has stood the test of time in terms of popularity and importance to Saban’s program.

Coming into the game Kiffin’s team was not particularly respected as a true competitor by the masses. The team had a 3-3 record that included a tough 10 point loss to a Tim Tebow led Florida team and a lopsided victory of Georgia. That still wasn’t enough to garner much concern from Crimson Tide fans, who were the number one team in the country at the time of the game.

But it learned pretty quick that it was in a fight for its national championship season.

What ended up being a big reason as to why Tennesee was able to give Alabama fits that day was the quarterback play from Jonathan Crompton.

Crompton’s career at Tennesee before that season was a roller coaster, to say the least. From filling in for Erik Ainge as a freshman to heading back to the bench because of poor play, to the firing of head coach Phillip Fulmer and learning a new offense, stability was not a common thread of his career.

But that day Crompton seemed as if he was the team’s only source of stability, as he was able to move the ball well against an Alabama defense loaded with NFL draft picks.

Against that defense, Crompton completed 21 of 26 passes for 265 yards and one touchdown. At that point in the year, it was the most passing yards Saban’s team had let up all season and it turned out to be the narrowest victory.

Kiffin’s team had also turned in a strong defensive performance that day as well holding the Crimson Tide to 12 points which was also it’s lowest mark of the year.

Everything had gone perfectly for the Vols that day except in the kicking game, where Alabama defensive tackle Terence Cody provided some late-game heroics with a blocked field goal on the final play of the game to get the tide the win.

Although Kiffin did not come out of that game with a win, he proved that he could build a program to the point where it would be able to compete with the elite programs in the country. It’s one of the reasons why Saban had hired him as the offensive coordinator with the team and why Ole Miss was so eager to bring him in this offseason.

When Ole Miss takes the field against Alabama, Kiffin will be hoping to channel some of that same aura from the game and have a similar effect on the Crimson Tide. The task ahead is tall, but it was the last time and he nearly reached the peak of the mountain.

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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77

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