Game recap: UT vs. Alabama
Tennessee Stat Book
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones, right, tries to escape from Tennessee's Art Evans on Saturday night during the Crimson Tide's 41-10 victory at Neyland Stadium. Jones had 12 catches for an Alabama single-game record of 221 yards.
Highlights of the good old days flashed across the Neyland Stadium JumboTron at the end of the third quarter Saturday night. Peyton Manning, Reggie White, Dale Jones, Tee Martin, there they were making big plays against Alabama.
The reality of Tennessee football 2010, however, was that Alabama's highlights had come in the previous 15 minutes. And they were real.
The seventh-ranked Crimson Tide used big plays to score three touchdowns in the third quarter and turn a tight game into a 41-10 rout.
A rout of historic proportion. The 31-point margin was Alabama's biggest ever in Knoxville, surpassing the 28-point gap (56-28) in 1986.
"We fought 'em pretty hard for 30 minutes,'' said UT head coach Derek Dooley. "The third quarter was the difference.''
After 30 minutes, Tennessee (2-5, 0-4 SEC) trailed only 13-10 before a sell-out crowd of 102,455.
Tauren Poole's 59-yard scoring sprint had even given the Vols an early 7-0 lead.
But after the Pride of the Southland Band marched, Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) marched, too.
The Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half. They didn't come cheap, either, culminating drives of 70, 65, 80 and 80 yards.
"We struggle to stop anyone,'' Dooley said. "We fight a little bit and then it just breaks.''
Every drive involved at least one big play, whether it was Trent Richardson's 65-yard touchdown run or bombs from Greg McElroy to Julio Jones of 38, 19 and 47 yards, or a 36-yard connection between McElroy and Marquis Maze.
"This is the best we've probably played on the road this year,'' said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who is 4-0 against Tennessee since taking over Alabama in 2007.
"Our focus this week was to try to distinguish ourselves by playing to a higher standard. In the second half we did that.''
Jones shredded the Vols for 221 receiving yards, an Alabama single-game record.
The only thing he didn't do was score but his teammates took care of that.
Mark Ingram, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, had a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the third quarter.
Richardson had a 5-yard scoring pass in the fourth quarter to go with his long run in the third.
"We crumbled in the second half,'' said UT linebacker Nick Reveiz.
"It seems to be a story that keeps coming.''
It did have a familiar ring.
In September, UT fought then-No. 7 Oregon to a 13-13 halftime draw, only to see the Ducks roar away to win 48-13.
Alabama piled up 536 yards of offense, including 326 in the air. Richardson rushed for 119 and Ingram 88.
"That's why they've won as many games as they've won,'' Dooley said.
"They've got two of the best running backs in the country and one of the best receivers and a big, physical line.
"So who are you going to put your energy on?''
Dooley decided to put a little of his offensive energy on freshman quarterback Tyler Bray. Bray played two series in the first half, to no avail, and then took over for good in the third quarter after Matt Simms threw an interception at the Alabama goal line.
The Vols trailed 27-10 at the time, but had driven for a first down at the Alabama 11.
On third-and-10, Simms was picked off by safety Robert Lester, who made a 20-yard return - which in turn set off an 80-yard scoring drive to pad the margin to 34-10.
"If we score there,'' Dooley said, "we're still clawing around, trying to keep pressure on them.''
Bray's fate was no better. In the fourth quarter he too was intercepted in the Alabama end zone by B.J. Scott.
Simms finished 12-of-22 for 117 yards. Bray was 5-of-14 for 39 yards.
The signature offensive stat for the Vols was Poole's 117 rushing yards that ended an Alabama streak of 41 games not allowing a 100-yard runner.
Poole was halfway there after his first-quarter touchdown.
On second-and-1 at the UT 41, Poole took a handoff, knifed through a hole and outran the Alabama secondary to the end zone.
Alabama responded, but only with a 36-yard Jeremy Shelley field goal.
The Tide took the lead for good, 10-7, on McElroy's 1-yard keeper as the second quarter began.
Shelley made it 13-7 with a 42-yard field goal with only 52 seconds left in the half.
That turned out to be enough time for Simms to rally the Vols with a hurry-up drive that included three Poole runs and a 23-yard completion to Da'Rick Rogers.
The only problem was the clock. Michael Palardy kicked a 33-yard field goal as the half ended to make it a 13-10 game and give Tennessee hope for the second half.
The first play of the second half, however, was a 38-yard completion to Jones.
It was only a preview of what was to come.
And what comes next for Tennessee is a trip to South Carolina, where Alabama earlier this month suffered its only regular-season defeat of the past three seasons.
Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276.