- Vol Report: Published Sept. 2, 2007
- PostGame audio slide show: UT vs. Bama
- Box Score: UT vs. Alabama
- Watching with Ward: Review the game, play-by-play
- Dave Hooker's Audio
Dave Hooker audio
Josh Ward Audio
Tennessee Stat Book
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The game already had been decided when Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson rolled right on a two-point conversion try Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The play lasted only seconds, but it seemed like days. While Wilson was rolling, rolling, rolling right, wide receiver DJ Hall was taking a leisurely stroll through the back of the Tennessee end zone.
Finally, Wilson passed the ball to his favorite receiver, who made the catch, then turned quickly to the crowd in the south end zone and held up the ball, as if to say: “That was easy.”
So was the entire second half of Alabama’s 41-17 victory.
Alabama didn’t just beat the Vols. It knocked them all the way back to mid-September when they were 1-2 and seemingly headed toward a disastrous season.
Three consecutive victories changed the prognosis. Alabama’s one-sided victory changed it again.
Sure, UT could still win the SEC East. It also could still finish 6-6 and cost coach Phillip Fulmer his job.
In two games against its biggest rival (Florida) and oldest rival (Alabama), UT has been outscored 100-37. It’s not just that UT has lost three of its seven games. It has lost them in spectacular fashion. Florida, Alabama, and California all scored more than 40 points and won by an average of 25.7 points.
How’s this for perspective: UT’s 5-6 team of 2005 gave up more than 30 points only once and didn’t lose to anyone by more than 20 points; UT’s 5-6 team of 1988 gave up more than 38 points only once.
These Vols simply have too many defensive shortcomings. A weaker stretch of the schedule merely camouflaged them.
Those weaknesses that were so evident in early-season losses to Cal and Florida were just as obvious Saturday. If this defense had a nickname, it would be “Career Day.”
That’s what Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin had in The Swamp. That’s what Mississippi State freshman Wesley Carroll had in a 33-21 loss to the Vols last week.
And that’s what Wilson and Hall had.
Wilson completed 32 of 46 passes for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He wasn’t intercepted and was sacked only once.
Hall had a single-game school-record 13 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns. He had 10 of those catches in the first half.
“We move him around, so that they can’t actually have one guy covering him,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “On a lot of our spread formations, he’s the slot receiver and you’re not getting the best player to cover him there.”
UT decided in the second half that perhaps it should make Hall a priority. Just in the nick of time, huh?
But Hall wasn’t Alabama’s only offensive alternative. Terry Grant rushed for 104 yards and caught six passes. On those rare occasions when his receivers were covered, Wilson scrambled for crucial yardage.
Bottom line: Everything worked against UT’s defense.
UT threatened to match Alabama’s offense early, but it couldn’t even score in the second half. Its offensive fade was almost as noteworthy as the defense’s game-long ineptitude. And the combination was remindful of UT’s collapse against Florida. Alabama just didn’t have 50-point firepower.
That wasn’t the only Florida reminder.
Florida coach Urban Meyer is 3-0 against Fulmer’s Vols. Saban is 3-1, including his 2-1 record at LSU.
Those records loom large for anyone evaluating UT’s place in the SEC or the state of Fulmer’s program.
In just three seasons at Florida, Meyer already has won a national championship. Based on his freshman and sophomore talent, he also has proved to be a dynamic recruiter.
Saban built a national championship team at LSU. But he proved Saturday he doesn’t need national championship talent to beat UT convincingly.
What does that say about the future of the UT-Alabama series?
The series has been marked by runs. Since 1966, Alabama has had 11- and seven-game winning streaks. UT has had two four-game winning streaks, a seven-game winning streak and had won 10 of the last 12.
The course of the series last changed when Fulmer’s third team beat Alabama 41-14 in 1995. It might have changed again Saturday.
Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or firstname.lastname@example.org.