Hightower Known In His Home State
"Playing my home state team, and it's a big rivalry game," were the reasons Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower gave afterwards when queried on just what got into him in a game that was tied at the half.
"We made great adjustments, and second half we came out and played ‘Bama Ball,'" Hightower said. "I think Coach (Kirby) Smart (Bama's defensive coordinator) is the best there is when it comes to making adjustments."
Hightower had seven tackles, a sack, and an interception with a 29-yard return to set up a score. He'd like to have scored himself.
"I haven't had a chance like that since (his last pick) my freshman year against Georgia," Hightower said. "People were asking me why I didn't run over a tackler, but I was just trying to get in the end zone. I wasn't trying to make the highlights. It was all set up by a great play Nico Johnson made, tipping that ball up. Coach (Kirby) smart had just gone over that (pass) play on the sidelines ." Johnson batted the errant pass by Matt Simms into the air before Hightower gathered it in and ran to the Vols' 9-yard line, setting up a Trent Richardson touchdown run and the final 37-6 margin.
In what' becoming a theme at home games, Alabama's head coach Nick Saban and his players held yet another "Come to Jesus" meeting at halftime, with good results: a 37-6 win over rival Tennessee, in a game that was tied at six at intermission. "It wasn't that explosive," Saban said of his halftime chat with his players.
"Coach Saban jumped our butts," said senior wide receiver Darius Hanks.
"Obviously, we had a good message from Coach Saban," said senior center William Vlachos. "We came out there, and the first drive of the second half, we went down and scored."
"We came out the first half, and didn't play the way we're capable of playing," Hightower said. "Second half, we made adjustments, and we came out and played our brand of ball.
"We had a lot of guys step up (and speak) in the locker room at halftime. One person was (senior receiver) Marquis Maze. He got everybody fired up. He told us we weren't playing the way we were capable of playing. Second half, we came out and did that."
"Marquis Maze stood up. Alex Watkins said some things, and I said a few things," said junior halfback Trent Richardson, "The first half, they were trying to stop the run early, and we just had to come back in the second half and punch them in the mouth.
"We've got to move the ball, and they were trying to stop the run. A.J. (McCarron) did a good job managing the game. Marquis Maze made some good plays. Darius Hanks did an awesome job. The receivers were just on point, and they just let everybody know that it's not all about the running game. We had a full (balanced) team out there."
Richardson saw his consecutive games of 100 yards rushing streak come to an end, as he finished with 77 yards, but did add another 33 receiving for 110 total yards. Maze caught five balls for 106 yards, and Hanks added 55 yards on three catches. Two were on dives.
"(Alabama) knew when they signed me that I had good hands and ran good routes," Hanks said. "That's what they expect from me."
A third receiver stepped up, as well. Redshirt freshman Kenny Bell had 52 yards on three grabs, including his first collegiate touchdown, a 39-yarder on which McCarron hit the speedster in full stride. "It was like a dream come true, getting my first touchdown," Bell said. "It was just a regular post route. A.J. laid it up there, and I just made a play on it. It was very exciting."
Bell said he is already getting text messages from his friends on the LSU team (like Brandon Taylor and Russell Shepard) about the de facto national play-in game Nov. 5. "We're going to prepare for it like it's a regular game," he said.
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