Tennessee Stat Book
The cheers washed down Saturday night over a Tennessee championship team and a Hall of Fame coach.
Neyland Stadium was filled, 102,455 strong, an old rival was in the house and the good vibes flowed.
Then the game kicked off.
Alabama 44, Tennessee 13.
Look hard enough and there is a silver lining.
That Michael Palardy field goal with four minutes left was the first time since 2007 the Vols have scored more than 10 points against the Crimson Tide.
Dooley returned to the sideline after one game in the coaching booth as he continues to recover from hip surgery.
Whether his team can recover from a three-game losing streak remains to be seen,
“It’s disappointing we couldn’t go four quarters with these guys,’’ Dooley said. “We thought we could.’’
The fourth quarter, in fact, couldn’t end quickly enough for Tennessee. This is what the Alabama rivalry has come to:
Neyland Stadium almost devoid of orange as tens of thousands of Alabama fans are the only ones willing to stick around and see how the rout played out.
That’s the way it was in 2008, 2010 and again Saturday night for the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0) who have done nothing to dismiss themselves from contention for a third national title in four years.
There was a Tennessee title team present, but its eligibility has long expired.
From UT’s standpoint, that would be the highlight of the night.
The current edition of the Vols (3-4, 0-4 SEC), are struggling to compete with the conference elite.
The search for an SEC win continues next week at South Carolina. The Vols’ four losses have come to ranked teams that are a collective 27-1.
In extending its winning streak over Tennessee to six years, the Crimson Tide became Tennessee’s third SEC opponent in four games to surpass 500 yards of offense.
Topping out at 539, Alabama fell just short of Georgia (560) and Florida (550).
“They say they’re not a big-play offense,’’ said Dooley, “but they do it every game. They’re more explosive than people give them credit for.’’
Alabama’s three second-half touchdowns came on AJ McCarron passes of 42 and 39 yards and a T.J. Yeldon run of 43 yards.
McCarron became the lastest thrower to manipulate Tennessee’s secondary. He threw four touchdown passes, two to Amari Cooper, for a career-high 306 yards, completing 17 of 22 attempts.
Tennessee’s only touchdown was a 2-yard run by A.J. Johnson in the second quarter, the third score of the season for the linebacker who doubles as a direct-snap, short-yardage option.
The nation’s top defense held UT to 282 yards, exactly 200 below its average.
Palardy added a pair of field goals, 32 yards in the first quarter, 21 in the fourth.
That’s not to say that Tennessee didn’t have its chances.
“I’m really disappointed we didn’t’ execute better,’’ Dooley said. “The quarterback didn’t play well. I’m not sure why.’’
The quarterback, junior Tyler Bray, was 13-of-27 passing for 184 yards.
The Vols paid a stiff price for both of his interceptions.
The first gave Alabama only 32 yards to drive for a touchdown in the second quarter. Yeldon’s 1-yard run put the Tide up 13-3.
The second was snatched by Alabama’s Robert Lester in the end zone, just as receiver Alton Howard was about to haul in a touchdown.
There was nothing wrong with the long ball Bray fired toward Justin Hunter late in the first half.
Hunter dropped the pass at about the Alabama 20 and the Tide maintained its 23-10 lead at the break.
In the third quarter, still trailing only 23-10, the Vols had third-and-1 at the Alabama 33, but missed on a pass and got stuffed on fourth- down.
Alabama pounced to extend the lead to 30-10 on McCarron’s second TD pass to Cooper, this one covering 42 yards.
Tennessee, wobbling on the ropes, struck right back with another threat late in the third quarter.
Bray and Hunter connected on a 44-yard completion to the Alabama 18.
Two plays later, however, Bray’s pass intended for Howard in the end zone was intercepted. Six potential points disappeared.
By that point, Alabama was ready to deliver the knockout and that’s exactly what happened.
Cue the exit to the parking lot.
McCarron fired a 39-yard TD to Kenny Bell.
“We just did a poor job,’’ said Dooley. “They threw four balls over our head.’’
Finally, they ran one around Tennessee’s edge. Yeldon took a handoff around right end and continued 43 yards down the sideline to the end zone to make it 44-10 with 9:07 to play.
“This is still a big rivalry for us,’’ said Alabama coach Nick Saban. “This is a big game to all of us: all of our players, and all of our fans.’’
Saban also threw in a good word for his former assistant, Dooley.
“Derek’s doing a fantastic job,’’ he said. “They have been better and better every year that we’ve played them.’’
But Alabama might be getting better and better too.
“They just keep pushing and pushing,’’ Dooley said. That’s what they do to most everybody and they did it to us too.
“We just joined the ranks of the rest of the country.’’