Vols only give half a game to Tide
Posted: Monday, October 24, 2011 7:01 pm
By JOHN ZENOR
AP Sports Writer
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The Tennessee Volunteers played national title contender Alabama even for two quarters. That was all they could manage.
The Volunteers went into halftime tied with the second-ranked Crimson Tide on Saturday night, but faded in a 37-6 defeat.
“We had a ton of ball left and we lost our spunk,” Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. “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.”
The Vols had scoring drives of 12 and 11 plays against the nation’s No. 1 defense but had to settle for field goals by Michael Palardy both times.
They couldn’t manage a first down in the second half, when Alabama outgained Tennessee 280-41.
AJ McCarron passed for 284 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and led the Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) to a 31-0 second-half surge in a game that was tied at halftime. Alabama might have had the upcoming matchup with No. 1 LSU on its mind.
“It was a little lackluster in the first half, which was a little concerning,” coach Nick Saban said. “There was a concern going into the game, and something we tried to fight all week in terms of guys being focused on what’s happening right now and not being concerned about the future.
“And challenging them to play and have respect for the team that they’re playing.”
The Volunteers (3-4, 0-4) earned that respect by playing the title contender to a 6-6 stalemate in the first half.
Then the Tide scored on its first five possessions after halftime to set up a two-week bonanza of hype ahead of Alabama’s showdown with LSU, which routed Auburn 45-10 in a game that ended shortly before this one kicked off. Alabama had either first downs or touchdowns on its first 10 plays of the second half.
Trent Richardson scored two touchdowns in the second half but finished with 77 yards, leaving him tied with Shaun Alexander for the school mark of six straight 100-yard games.
This one was more about the Tide righting itself from early struggles and overpowering an opponent than boosting Richardson’s Heisman credentials. The offense that sputtered along in the first half exploded for 21 points in the third quarter. The defense put the clamps on and the result was a ninth straight win by at least 16 points and a fifth straight defeat of the Volunteers.
McCarron was 17-of-26 passing though a string of 152 passes without an interception — third longest in school history — ended on his second attempt.
Matt Simms completed 8-of-17 passes for 58 yards and an interception for Tennessee while Tauren Poole managed 67 yards on 19 rushes.
“It’s unfortunate the way the second half unfolded,” Simms said.
Published in The Messenger 10.24.11