TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — When the roof caves in on Tennessee, get out of the way — it really caves in. There won’t be survivors.
As to how a 6-6 halftime tie turned into a 37-6 mauling by No. 1 Alabama on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium, well, Vol fans have seen this movie before.
It’s a replay that won’t go away in the undermanned Derek Dooley era. The Vols fight the good fight for a half. But, inevitably, there is a second half.
This particular third quarter had a rhythm to it:
Tennessee: 1-2-3 … you get the picture.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 SEC) scored 31 points in the second half before Tennessee made a first down.
In fact, the Vols never did make another first down. They’ll have to wait until they play South Carolina in Neyland Stadium.
‘‘We’re just a really fragile, fragile football team right now,’’ Dooley said.
Alabama’s drive to be a national champion for the second time in three years is made of sterner stuff. And its winning streak over Tennessee extends to five games.
That’s 5-0 since Nick Saban took over and Dooley is the third UT coach he has vanquished during that run.
“Derek’s done a great job there,’’ said Saban. “They were certainly ready to play.’’
For a half. And they never were ready to score.
Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) failed to even get a whiff of the Alabama end zone. Michael Palardy’s field goals from 40 and 52 yards are all that stood between the Vols and being shut out by Alabama for the first time since 1980.
In the past three SEC games during a brutal October Tennessee has been outscored 95-25 by Georgia, No. 1 LSU and Alabama.
In those three games – the past two without injured quarterback Tyler Bray – the Vols’ scoring has dwindled from 12 points to seven to six.
At halftime both teams had six points and six first downs. It was reminiscent of last year in Knoxville when the game was tied 10-10 at the half.
In that one, the Tide outscored UT 21-0 in the third quarter and 31-0 in the second half.
And that’s exactly how it went Saturday night.
Alabama’s sophomore quarterback, AJ McCarron, scored the game’s first touchdown on a 2-yard run in the third quarter to make it 13-6.
Tennessee Stat Book
That unleashed the Tidal wave.
Tennessee gambled on fourth-and-1 at its own 39, got stuffed and on the next play McCarron threw a 39-yard strike to Kenny Bell for a TD and a 20-6 lead.
It was Heisman Trophy candidate Trent Richardson’s turn next, a 12-yard run. Still third quarter and it was 27-6.
And still no first down from the UT offense.
The Tide settled for a field goal to start the fourth quarter.
Down 30-6, Tennessee’s next two snaps were turnovers.
The first was a Matt Simms pass that Dont’a Hightower intercepted and returned 39 yards to the UT 9. Richardson’s 1-yard run finished the scoring.
Marlin Lane fumbled to abort Tennessee’s next possession. Saban called off the dogs and a lineup of Alabama subs was stopped on fourth down, a foot short of another touchdown.
Back to the start. Alabama won the toss and elected to receive. It backfired when Austin Johnson produced Tennessee’s second interception of the season and first since the season-opener.
Nothing came of it, but at least UT announced its presence.
The Vols assembled a 12-play drive to position Palardy for his first field goal, a 40-yarder.
Tennessee 3, Alabama 0 was certainly a surprising score to pop up on scoreboards and TV sets around the nation.
The Tide hit on a 69-yard bomb to Marquis Maze to the UT 12, but UT held and Jeremy Smelley tied it with a 26-yard field goal.
In the second quarter Alabama marched inside the Tennessee 10 but Richardson was slammed for a 3-yard loss on third-and-7. Shelley’s 29-yard field goal followed.
Tennessee got even, thanks to a bit of trickery.
On fourth-and-4 at the Vols’ 47, Palardy lined up to punt but instead flipped a pass to Anthony Anderson, who fought mightily for the required fifth yard to convert the first down.
A 15-yard facemask penalty was included in the bargain, all the way to the Alabama 33.
That was the end of the line, but Palardy nursed a career-long 52-yard field goal over the uprights and it was 6-6.
That’s where it stayed – until the roof collapsed.