Though the offense was admittedly ragged early on, Alabama jumped ahead of the Volunteers and kept them down the entire game. Franchione talked about his team's hard work. "We didn't run a lot of plays in the first quarter and got off to a slow start. Our strength was better this year. It's farther along. Our players have worked hard in the off season and during the year to get themselves to a strength level where they can be competitive."
Franchione commented that Alabama performed well enough on offense to win the game, but that the Tide defense was especially impressive. And except for a kickoff return for a touchdown just before the half, Franchione was satisfied with his special teams.
"Other than the kickoff return, we did not play too badly," was his assessment. "Tennessee's returners were averaging about 13 yards a return per punt, and I think they got three yards total from us. We got some nice yardage ourselves on punt returns."
That touchdown return allowed the Volunteers to draw within seven points, but Alabama pulled away after the break. "Coming out and taking control in the second half was big," Franchione said.
In the second half the Tide staff used quarterbacks Tyler Watts and Brodie Croyle interchangeably. Franchione noted that he was pleased with how Bama was able to substitute each man in according to game situations.
When asked if that might be a pattern for how he plans to use his two quarterbacks the rest of the season, Franchione replied, "It will depend on game situations. We have a lot of confidence in both of them. When we took Tyler out in the first half, it was not a response to Tyler's play as much as we just wanted to play Brodie. We wanted to get him in during the first half. We did not want to go to the second half with him not having played, especially with Tyler having had some injuries."
Prior to Saturday's game, Watts and Croyle had been substituted by series, but at times versus Tennessee the two were sent in and out from one play to the next. "In the second half I thought our staff did a great job with the way they used Tyler and Brodie," Franchione said. "We played to both their strengths and utilized their abilities. I think it made our offense fairly effective.
"I don't know if there is an exact blueprint, but we're gaining a grasp. Brodie is gaining game experience weekly. We have a lot of confidence in both those young men. Who is in the game doesn't change our offense a great deal. We just try and play to the strengths and the situation. We respond to what our team needs to be successful."
Franchione listed the Alabama Players of the Week:
- Offensive line: Marico Portis
- Offensive back: Santonio Beard
- Special teams: Todd Bates
- Defensive line: Jarret Johnson and Kindal Moorehead
- Defensive back: Gerald Dixon and Charley Jones
- Offensive scout team: Marcus McKnight, Boone Stutz, Josh Averitt, Rusty Hill
- Defensive scout team: Zac Holt, Charles Hosea, Bobby Allen
Franchione and the Tide team flew back to Alabama from Knoxville, arriving Saturday night. But despite the late hour hundreds of Bama fans greeted them at the airport and later at the Football Complex. After celebrating with family and friends, players and staff headed home to rest up for Sunday's practice.
"The bad thing about late games is that when the game is on your mind, you don't sleep much at night," Franchione said. "It was one of those games that you want to savor as long as you can, because by 11:30 the next day you've got to start on the next opponent and go forward."
Next Saturday the Tide will again travel to the state of Tennessee for a conference game. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view), the Vanderbilt Commodores aren't nearly as talented as Tennessee was. But that will present its own set of problems, as the Tide could easily come out flat.
"There's no doubt as a coach that you have to be concerned," Franchione acknowledged. "As a coach you spend 90 percent of your time worrying about 10 percent of the things that actually happen. But probably because you worry about them is why they don't happen. That's what my job is."
"We don't have to forget this game," Franchione concluded. "But we've got to remember that we have another game to play. It's important now for us to focus on what's ahead.
"What we do with this win will be just as important as getting the win."