- 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 onside-kickoff recovery to start the game was a nice touch by Alabama, but …
Another killer penalty gave the Crimson Tide a touchdown seconds before the first half ended, but …
But an SEC football game still was there for Tennessee to win in the third quarter Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“I have no idea what happened in the second half,’’ defensive tackle Demonte Bolden said after Alabama pulled away to a dominant 41-17 win over the 20th-ranked Vols before a sun-drenched crowd of 92,138.
The Tide (6-2, 4-1 SEC) outscored Tennessee 17-0 in the second half, blasting a hole below the waterline of the Vols’ campaign to rally to an SEC Eastern Division title.
Tennessee (4-3, 2-2), comes home for a four-game stretch, beginning with a visit Saturday night from South Carolina.
If anybody feels worse that UT fans today, it’s Gamecock fans, after an inexplicable 17-6 loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Florida’s 45-37 win at Kentucky means Tennessee no longer controls its own destiny. Now the Vols have to win out and hope somebody pins a third SEC loss on the Gators.
“Thinking about all that just makes you sick when you lose a game like (Saturday),’’ said UT quarterback Erik Ainge.
“I’m not going to worry about what else is happening. I’m going to get over this one.’’
Among the things Ainge has to get over was an interception he threw in the third quarter, killing a potential game-tying drive.
Earlier, Ainge directed the Vols to touchdowns on back-to-back drives to wipe out a 10-0 Alabama lead. A 2-yard TD run by Arian Foster and a 3-yard Ainge pass to Luke Stocker put Tennessee up 14-10 as the second quarter began.
The Vols, however, would have only a 45-yard Daniel Lincoln field goal to show for their final eight possessions.
That kick was a momentum-saver, coming on the final snap of the first half and whittling Alabama’s lead to 24-17.
“That should have raised our energy level,’’ said UT coach Phillip Fulmer.
It apparently raised the defense’s energy level. Tennessee opened the second half by forcing the first of only two Alabama punts on the day.
“We had a chance to make a difference in the game right there,’’ said Fulmer, “but we didn’t get that done.’’
Ainge’s pass intended for Denarius Moore was picked off by freshman cornerback Kareem Jackson.
From there, Tennessee’s defense at least held Alabama to a pair of field goals that left it 30-17 after three quarters.
Still, there was no answer from the UT offense.
Finally, Alabama opened the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 82-yard drive capped by Terry Grant’s 8-yard touchdown run to make it 38-17.
Leigh Tiffin added a 44-yard field goal to close the scoring. UT’s three-game winning streak and momentum were history.
“At halftime,’’ said UT center Josh McNeil, “we were pretty confident. We weren’t behind by much and we had been moving the ball pretty well.
“The second half, we just couldn’t get nothing going.’’
Tennessee managed a modest 145 yards of offense in the second half and never penetrated the Alabama 35.
“It was something just about every time,’’ said a frustrated Ainge.
It was penalties. The Vols, one of the least penalized teams in the league prior to Saturday, had an orgy of them — 11 for 81 yards.
It was injuries that sent receivers Lucas Taylor (toe) and Josh Briscoe (concussion) to the sideline.
“That affected us,’’ said Fulmer, “but the ones who were out there need to play better.’’
Ainge was 22-of-35 passing for 243 yards in UT’s lowest scoring effort of the season. For once, he paled in comparison to the opposing quarterback.
Alabama’s John Parker Wilson was 32-of-46 for 363 yards and three touchdowns, riddling UT’s secondary.
Wilson’s scores came on a 3-yard flip to tailback Grant, a 16-yarder to DJ Hall and then a 2-yard pass to Hall, all in the first half.
“He did a great job getting rid of the ball,’’ said UT linebacker Rico McCoy.
And Hall did a great job of catching it — 13 times for 185 yards.
Grant added 104 rushing yards as Alabama outgained UT 510 yards to 362 and held the ball 37 minutes, 38 seconds to 22:22 for the Vols.
And that despite two starters in the offensive line being suspended.
“This is the first time we’ve played a complete game,’’ said first-year Alabama coach Nick Saban.
“We had fewer errors than we’ve had all year long.’’
Tennessee had plenty of errors, but few big plays.
Tennessee’s defense produced one meaningless sack — Wilson gained 28 yards on six scrambles — and no turnovers.
“There wasn’t any pass rush,’’ said Fulmer. “The underneath coverage wasn’t there when it needed to be … and on third-and-16 they hit a post route (for a touchdown). That’s not supposed to happen.’’
If penalties were an annoyance to UT’s offense, they were crippling to the defense.
Six of Alabama’s 27 first downs came via penalty. That helps explain why Tennessee allowed 40 or more points in a losing effort for the third time this year.
“Today wasn’t our day,’’ said Fulmer. “We got it handed to us, big-time handed to us.
“I said coming in we had to play really well as a team, offensively, defensively and in the kicking game.
“We didn’t do any of the three.’’
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.