Bama boots Vols, 37-6

Unranked Tennessee played second-ranked Alabama toe-to-toe in the first half Saturday night at Tuscaloosa's Bryant-Denny Stadium but the second half was more like toe-to-butt.

Tied 6-6 at intermission, the Crimson Tide exercised total domination after intermission and ultimately booted the Vols' backsides 37-6. Bama improves to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in SEC play. One week removed from a 38-7 loss to top-ranked LSU, Tennessee falls to 3-4 and 0-4.

"We're just really a fragile, fragile football team right now,'' Vol head man Derek Dooley said.

No wonder. After being held without a touchdown in the first half, Alabama scored TDs on four of its first five second-half possessions. The other resulted in a 45-yard Cade Foster field goal.

Bama's defense roared to life after intermission, as well, holding Tennessee without a single first down and forcing two turnovers.

Dooley thought Tennessee still had a chance to win after the Tide scored quick touchdowns on its first two possessions of the second half to pull ahead 20-6. The Vols seemed to lose their poise, however, and things quickly went from bad to worse.

"It was a really great first half by our football team," Dooley said. "I was really proud of them for that. They (Crimson Tide) came out in the second half, and they put it on us the first drive. Then they hit a shot the second drive, and at that point it was 20-6.

"We had a ton of ball left and we lost our spunk. That was disappointing to see. We did what we said we weren't going to do, and that's get affected if something bad happens in the game and we lost our fight.

"When you lose your fight against a great football team, what happened in the second half is what is going to happen."

Statistics don't always tell the story of a game; this time they do. After managing just 157 yards of total offense in the first half, the Tide cranked out 280 in the second half to finish with 437. After allowing Tennessee 114 first-half yards, Bama surrendered just 41 second-half yards.

Basically, Tennessee loaded the box and dared Alabama to pass. In the second half, the Tide took the dare. Quarterback A.J. McCarron was 9 of 11 passing for 162 yards after intermission.

Unfortunately for the Vols, their second-half unraveling negated a superb first-half performance.

Linebacker Austin Johnson intercepted McCarron's second pass attempt of the game and returned it to the Bama 41-yard line. Tennessee turned the ball over on downs, however, when Tide linebacker Dont'a Hightower batted down a fourth-and-four pass by Matt Simms.

Michael Palardy booted a 40-yard field goal on Tennessee's next possession for a 3-0 lead with 3:58 left in the first quarter. Marquis Maze beat Vol cornerback Marsalis Teague for a 69-yard catch/run on the first play of Bama's ensuing possession, however, and Jeremy Shelley eventually booted a game-tying 26-yard field goal for Alabama.

Shelley added a 30-yard field goal for a 6-3 lead early in the second quarter. Moments after extending a Tennessee drive by completing a five-yard fake-punt pass on fourth-and-four at the Vol 47-yard line, Palardy boomed a 52-yard field goal, topping his previous career best by nine yards and producing a 6-all halftime deadlock.

Alabama showed why it's a serious contender for the national title on its first 13 plays of the second half, however. Those 13 plays netted 187 yards and produced 21 points.

The landslide started after a three-and-out on Tennessee's opening possession of the third quarter. McCarron completed passes of 22, 14, 20 and 16 yards, then scored on a three-yard scramble to cap a five-play, 75-yard TD drive and give the Tide a 13-6 lead.

Sensing Alabama's momentum building, Dooley decided to go for it on fourth-and-a-foot at Tennessee's 39-yard line. Simms was stopped cold on a sneak, however, and McCarron hit Kenny Bell with a 39-yard TD pass on the very next play for a 20-6 Tide lead.

After another three-and-out by the Vols, Alabama zoomed 63 yards in six plays, Trent Richardson scoring the TD on a 12-yard run up the gut as the margin swelled to 27-6 with 3:17 left in the third quarter.

Mere moments after Foster's field goal made it 30-6, Hightower returned an interception to the Vol 9-yard line. Richardson scored from the 1 three plays later, producing the final score.

Tennessee inserted freshman quarterback Justin Worley at this point but freshman tailback Marlin Lane fumbled on the first play of Tennessee's ensuing possession and the Tide recovered. The Vols got the ball back on their 1-yard line but turned the ball over on downs after four running plays netted just eight yards.

Alabama took over on the Vol 8-yard line with 55 seconds left but Tide coach Nick Saban showed mercy on Dooley, who assisted him with the LSU Tigers and Miami Dolphins. Two kneel plays ended the massacre.

Coming off six consecutive 100-yard rushing performances, Richardson gained 77 yards on 17 carries versus the Vols. Backup Eddie Lacy added 46 yards on seven rushes. McCarron finished 17 of 26 for 284 yards.

Tennessee tailback Tauren Poole ran 19 times for 67 yards and backup Marlin Lane added seven for 21. Simms was 8 of 17 passing for 58 yards. Worley, who had been ticketed for a redshirt year, did not attempt a pass in his brief mop-up role. Freshman linebacker A.J. Johnson paced the Vol defense with 13 stops.

Though disappointed, Dooley tried to be philosophical after suffering a second 31-point loss in the past eight days.

"We learn from it, we move on," he said. "We've played two great football teams back-to-back and we've gone toe-to-toe with them for 30 minutes.

Unfortunately for the Vols, the last 30 minutes each time was more like toe-to-butt.

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