KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | For perhaps the first time since conference play started, the Crimson Tide’s ground and passing games coincided, resulting in 536 yards of a complete offensive attack in a 41-10 blowout of Tennessee in front of 102,455 in Neyland Stadium.
“Our focus this week was to try to distinguish ourselves by playing to a little higher standard,” said head coach Nick Saban. “We challenged everybody to do that.”
Alabama didn’t distinguish itself at all in the first half. The first score was a 59-yard touchdown run by Tennessee running back Tauren Poole. Poole became the first player to gain 100 yards rushing on the Tide defense since Ben Jarvis Green-Ellis did it for Ole Miss in 2007.
Alabama did score 13 straight points after the long run, but then allowed Tennessee to drive down the field in less than a minute to kick a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the half, cutting the Tide’s lead to just 13-10.
“They thought they had the momentum,” said junior defensive end Marcell Dareus. “We were like, ‘We can’t let them feel that way.’”
If the Volunteers had any momentum, it was instantly taken away at the start of the second half.
Alabama drove 70 yards in just four plays, the last being a 1-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram to extend the Tide’s lead to 10. Alabama did the same in half the plays on its next drive, as Trent Richardson busted a 65-yard touchdown run straight up the middle of the Tennessee defense to make the score 27-10.
Richardson’s aunt, Vivian, died about an hour before last week’s kickoff against Ole Miss after a 40-year battle with cancer. The sophomore running back, who was the game’s leading rusher with 119 yards, was at her funeral the day before Saturday’s game.
“I dedicated that [run] to her,” he said. “I felt like she was just running with me.”
Free safety Robert Lester intercepted Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms on the goal line on the Volunteers’ next drive, and 80 yards later, Ingram had his second 1-yard touchdown run of the game, putting the game out of hand at 34-10 with 57 seconds left in the third quarter.
“You look at the second half; we come out swinging, we come out running the ball,” said junior center William Vlachos. “It opens up the deep ball, it opens up the screen game, it opens up the play action, it opens up everything.”
As Alabama gained 210 yards on the ground, its most since week four, junior wide receiver Julio Jones racked up more receiving yards than any other player in school history. Jones caught 12 passes for 221 yards, breaking David Palmer’s record of 217 against Vanderbilt in 1993.
“It was just [man-to-man] the whole game,” said wide receiver Marquis Maze. “We were able to get on top of those guys and make plays. We were licking our chops because we don’t feel like any team can play us man-to-man.”
His last reception was a 47-yarder in the fourth quarter that set up Alabama’s final touchdown, a 5-yard pass from quarterback AJ McCarron to Richardson. The Tide outscored the Vols 28-0 in the second half, making the final score 41-10.
“I was really proud of the way we came out and dominated the second half of the game,” Saban said. “This is the best we’ve played on the road this year.”