Bo Scarbrough could smell victory from the sideline. It came wafting down from the stands at Bryant-Denny Stadium in plumes of smoke.
History will record that Alabama won the 100th meeting in its rivalry with Tennessee, pushing its winning streak in the series to 11 games, tying the longest string of consecutive wins by either team – UA also won 11 in a row from 1971-81 – to improve its record to 55-38-7 against the Volunteers.
Let it also be remembered that fans didn’t wait until the final whistle ended the Crimson Tide’s 45-7 victory to light up the traditional victory cigars.
“I could smell it maybe about the beginning of the fourth quarter,” said Scarbrough, a junior running back from Northport who plunged into the end zone for two touchdowns.
He was surprised the celebration started so early. His reaction: “They already lighting them up already?”
Bradley Bozeman, a redshirt senior center from Roanoke, Ala., was in sixth grade the last time Tennessee won.
“Growing up it was a huge rivalry,” he said. “It was pretty similar to the Iron Bowl for me.
“It’s great to be able to say I’m 5-0 against these guys in my career here, something I’ll be really proud of looking back on it.”
Tight end Hale Hentges had to learn about the importance of the game.
“I’m from Missouri, so growing up it was always Missouri vs. Kansas and that was the big rivalry that I paid attention to,” he said. “Whenever I got here and you talk to people who have played here before and our coaches, you really start to realize how much this means to a lot of people. Not only our coaches, but like our weight-room staff, and you realize this is about so much more than yourself – this is for everybody in the state, everybody who’s played here, who’s attended here. It’s a lot bigger than us.
“There’s absolutely pride. … Being on the winning side of it is awesome.”
Quarterback Jalen Hurts is a sophomore from Houston, Texas. He got reminders this week of what was at stake.
“I went to class the other day,” he said, “and as we were leaving class the professor said, ‘It’s Tennessee hate week.’ I was kind of smiling walking out of class. It’s a big thing here.
“I’m happy for the fans, I’m happy for the team of course, and just the whole Crimson Tide family because we got this win today.”
Tennessee has been waiting a long time to break Alabama’s winning streak in the series, which began in 2007 with Nick Saban’s first game against the Vols as UA’s head coach.
For the Tennessee, the wait continues. For UA supporters, there was no need to delay the inevitable.
“I was thinking everybody would wait until the end of the game (to light cigars), but I guess they couldn’t hold their horses,” Scarbrough said. “I’m not really into cigars, you know, but when it comes down to something like this I’d be happy to smell them all day.”