Alabama sees ‘red’ in rout of Tennessee
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- During the week leading up to the Alabama game, first-year Tennessee coach Butch Jones referred to the top-ranked Crimson Tide as “the red team.”
That might not have been a great idea.
The “red team” took offense, then took its anger out on the orange team, crushing the Volunteers 45-10 on Saturday.
“Personally, I felt disrespected,” Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron said, “for their head coach to say we’re just another team. I don’t think we’re just anybody. We’ve won two straight national championships and we’re undefeated. We’re not just anybody.”
No, they are not. The Crimson Tide (8-0 overall, 5-0 SEC) are trying to become the first team since the polls were instituted to win three consecutive national championships. They are beginning to dominate as they did last year.
Alabama coach Nick Saban had asked fans to stay the entire game regardless of the score, and they complied. Then again, this was not Georgia State. It was Tennessee.
“It was a great atmosphere for our players to play in,” Saban said. “This is a 110-year-old rivalry that means a lot to a lot of people in the state of Alabama. I‘m very proud of the job that the players and coaches did. We played especially well in the first half.”
Terrence Cody was in the house at Bryant-Denny Stadium, but this time Alabama didn’t need two blocked field goal attempts to get by Tennessee. Not hardly.
The Crimson Tide scored less than two minutes into the game and kept the foot on the gas.
The last time the Vols came to Tuscaloosa with a new coach was 2009 under Lane Kiffin. It took two blocked field goal attempts by Cody -- the second one a potential game-winner -- for the Tide to avoid an upset.
No such drama this time in Jones’ first visit here as Tennessee coach. It was 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and 35-0 by halftime.
McCarron completed 19 of 27 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns before Blake Sims finished the game. Five of McCarron’s completions and one touchdown went to sophomore Amari Cooper, who has been limited by several nagging injuries this season.
T.J. Yeldon scored three touchdowns on the ground and finished with 72 yards on 15 carries. Kenyan Drake led the Tide with 89 yards on 14 carries.
Tennessee did not even resemble the team that nearly beat Georgia and then upset South Carolina.
“We probably played our worst half of football that we have played all year,” Jones said. “Some of it was due to the quality of the opponent. Some of it was self-inflicted wounds.”
The highlights were few for the Volunteers. Starting quarterback Justin Worley was injured late in the second half and replaced in the second half by freshman Joshua Dobbs, who led the Volunteers to their two scoring drives.
”He could have went, but he had a hard time throwing the ball with any velocity,“ Jones said. ”Instead of risking further injury, we went with Josh. I thought Josh did some really good things for us.
“Throwing the ball, for the most part, I thought he was accurate. He managed the offense, and for a true freshman coming into this environment, I was proud of how he handled the circumstances.”
Raijon Neal scored on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter for Tennessee’s only touchdown.
Whatever distant hopes Tennessee had of upsetting Alabama ended quickly.
Christion Jones returned the opening kickoff 49 yards to set up the Tide’s first touchdown. The second play from scrimmage, a quick hit to the left side to Cooper, was nullified by a penalty. But the Tide ran the same play, this time to the right side, and Cooper raced 54 yards to the end zone just 88 seconds into the game.
Alabama scored its second touchdown before Tennessee even had a first down. After forcing a three-and-out on the Volunteers’ first possession, the Tide blew down the field again. Yeldon bulled in behind the right side of the line for the Tide’s second score.
It was 21-0 by the end of the first quarter and 35-0 by halftime. The only thing that prevented Alabama from having a perfect first half offensively was a fumble by Kenyan Drake at the Tennessee 2-yard line.
The Vols threatened to turn that into a score, driving into Alabama territory just before halftime. But Landon Collins intercepted Worley and returned it 89 yards for the Tide’s fifth touchdown of the first half.
NOTES: Alabama has scored a rushing touchdown in 17 consecutive games. The Tide has scored in 164 consecutive games, the longest streak in school history. ... This was the ninth time in its last 12 games that Alabama shut out its opponent in the first half. ... Alabama is 70-3 under Saban when leading at halftime. ... Tennessee’s field goal in the third quarter ended Alabama’s stretch of 104 consecutive points since the third quarter of the Kentucky game. ... Collins’ 89-yard interception return was the fifth longest in school history.