Tennessee Stat Book
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Derek Dooley knows his team better than I do. The Tennessee coach proved it early in the third quarter when he chose to go for a fourth-and-1 Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"Bone-headed call," I thought before quarterback Matt Simms plunged slightly forward.
I saw the risk in giving Alabama the ball at the UT 39-yard line. Dooley saw the risk in giving Alabama the ball at all.
After the Tide stopped Simms several inches short of a first down, quarterback A.J. McCarron connected with wide receiver Kenny Bell for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
But it didn't matter where the Tide got the ball in the second half. UT couldn't stop it.
No. 2 Alabama scored on every possession but its last two of the second half in a 37-6 victory over the Vols, who dropped to 0-4 in the SEC and lost their third consecutive conference game by a combined score of 95-25.
By the time Alabama had put the "Roll" back in "Roll Tide," it was as though the 6-6 first half had never happened.
The Vols stumbled through the third quarter in a 20-12 loss to Georgia two weeks ago. LSU dominated them in the second half of a 38-7 victory last week.
But those were merely bad quarters and halves. This was an epic collapse.
Alabama had 31 points in the second half. Tennessee didn't make a first down.
The Vols couldn't have looked any worse if they had been shot with tranquilizer darts as they ran onto the field after halftime. And the offense was as bad as the defense.
The UT offense bottomed out in the fourth quarter. It didn't just fail to make a first down. It couldn't protect the ball, turning the ball over twice — on an interception and a fumble.
The disparity between the teams was never more evident than on the fourth-quarter interception by Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower. He looked like an All-American running back as his weaved his way through UT players on a 29-
yard run to the 9-yard line.
Hightower's run wasn't the tackling low point for the Vols, though. That occurred on Alabama's third touchdown drive of the third quarter.
The Tide breezed 63 yards in six plays against a defense that might as well have screamed "no mas." Backup running back Eddie Lacey had consecutive runs of 10, 19 and 16 yards. That set up a touchdown run by Trent Richardson, who plowed through the middle of the UT defense for 12 yards.
Alabama was merciful as well as dominant in the second half.
For example, take its second-to-last possession of the game, which began at the UT 39. With the exception of a couple of short passes, Alabama simply ran straight ahead with its backup quarterback, Phillip Sims, handing the ball repeatedly to its third-string tailback, Jalston Fowler.
Even that was almost too much for a battered UT defense. Finally, it stopped Fowler 1 yard short of the goal line on fourth down.
The Tide had another chance to score moments later when it gained possession on the UT 8-yard line with 55 seconds to play. Sims then took a knee on consecutive plays to run out the clock.
The outcome was hardly surprising to UT fans, only a small contingent of which made the trip to Tuscaloosa on behalf of a 30-point underdog. The smart ones left after the first half.
Those who stuck around for the second-half drubbing probably didn't feel much differently than the Neyland Stadium crowd after a 38-7 loss to No. 1 LSU a week earlier.
They knew it could have been worse.