Rolling Tide sends Vols message with 45-10 thumping
Among all the other haymakers it was throwing Tennessee’s way.
Yes, it was that kind of day for the top-ranked Crimson Tide Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The kind of day Bama’s been having for several weeks in a row now.
This time the margin of victory — which lately has been the only thing in question — was 45-10 in favor of the Tide. It was Alabama’s seventh consecutive victory over Tennessee in the series.
Alabama had already been putting a good licking on the Volunteers by the time the first half was drawing to a close. The Tide led 28-0.
Then Tennessee finally started to show signs of life. Finally.
They marched 74 yards in eight plays to reach the Alabama 24. Less than a minute remained in the first half. Surely they’d at least muster a field goal, right? Maybe even a touchdown?
Eh. That’s not what Landon Collins was thinking.
The sophomore — in his first game filling in for injured starter Vinnie Sunseri at strong safety — stepped in front of a Tennessee receiver, snagged a Justin Worley pass, weaved through some traffic and then took it the rest of the way for another Alabama score. An 89-yard pick-six. Thirty-five-nothing Alabama at the half. So much for Tennessee having something to smile about in the locker room at halftime.
Yes, Alabama is still rolling. And, yes, rolling is precisely the right word.
On this afternoon, it was T.J. Yeldon who paced the scoring barrage with three rushing TDs. The first of his three scores came during a 21-0 first-quarter assault Alabama unleashed on Tennessee.
“I’m very proud of the job our players did, our coaches did,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “We played especially well in the first half.”
Quarterback AJ McCarron was his usual efficient self, finishing the game 19-of-27 for 275 yards and two TDs.
“I felt like we did our job today,” McCarron said. “We came out and started fast. We kind of felt disrespected because they called us the red team all week long and said we didn’t deserve to be called Alabama. We wanted to come out and prove we weren’t just any team.”
No, this Alabama team is not just any team.
Last week, Alabama beat Arkansas 52-0. The week before that? Alabama beat Kentucky 48-7. The week before that? Alabama beat Georgia State 45-3. The week before that? Alabama beat Ole Miss 25-0. The week before that? Alabama beat Colorado State 31-6.
Hmm. Wanna do a little math? That’s 194-26 over the last six weeks. That’s the type of lopsidedness that creates coaching challenges and staying humble-and-hungry challenges.
“This is a tough, physical, competitive league, and I’ve been really pleased with the way our guys have come out the last four games that we’ve played and got off to a really good start, played physical, played with a lot of toughness,” Saban said. “We knew Tennessee was a team that could play with anybody in the country. I think it was a challenge to our guys to try and prove who we were and how we could play against them. You get defined by what you do every week.”
So what might Nick Saban critique his squad on this week?
Well, Kenyan Drake fumbled going into the end zone in the second quarter. Kickoff coverage could probably use a little sharpening too. Oh, and Tennessee did score a touchdown — only the second touchdown the Alabama D has allowed since Sept. 14. The Vols’ score — a Rajion Neal three-yard TD run — came early in the fourth quarter and made it 42-10.
Of course, there was plenty more good than bad for Alabama (8-0 overall, 5-0 in SEC) Saturday. And maybe the best of the best was a spectacular, jaw-dropping catch by a leaping Kevin Norwood late in the third quarter that set up a 1-yard Yeldon TD run.
“I thought he jumped too early. I was about to be mad at him,” McCarron joked after the game. “Nah, he’s an unbelievable player. He makes those types of plays every day, especially in practice. So I wasn’t surprised one bit.”
“Kevin has been so consistent throughout his career here in making big plays,” Saban said. “He’s a great athlete and has great hands.”
Another highlight-reel play for Alabama was turned in by Christion Jones, who, when he wasn’t nearly returning a kick back for a touchdown, wowed the home crowd with an ad-lib, reverse-field 20-yard run in the second quarter.
Alabama has a bye next week before hosting SEC West rival LSU on Nov. 9.
“I’m not really thinking about them right now,” McCarron said after the game of LSU.
What Saban’s thinking about is how this Alabama team still needs to improve heading into the bye week.
“We just need to really get better week to week,” he said. “We’ve got some big challenges and some stiff competition against some really good teams coming up here. But this bye week comes at a really good time for us.”
Defensive lineman Brandon Ivory did not play in Saturday’s game for medical reasons, according to Saban. Fullback Jalston Fowler suffered a concussion in the first half and didn’t play after that.
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