Tennessee coach Butch Jones and his players referred to the Crimson Tide as the “red team” during the week. Jones also said he felt his team could play with anyone, and that didn’t sit well with the No. 1 team in the nation or its quarterback.
“I never really say anything about the other team, but I kind of took this one personal,” Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said. “I felt disrespected. … For them to say we don’t deserve their respect (for them) to call us Alabama and to call us the red team, and for their head coach to come out and say they can play against anybody, I don’t think we’re just anybody.
“We’ve won two national championships in a row and we’re undefeated right now. So we’re not just anybody.”
The Crimson Tide used its “straight to business” approach and pounded the Vols 45-10 on a chilly Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, giving Alabama seven straight wins in the series. The score may be a bit deceiving because the Crimson Tide led 35-0 by halftime.
“We can be the red team, but we’re going to be the Navy Seal red team," Alabama cornerback Deion Belue said. "Whenever we step in, it’s time for everything to stop, and we get straight to business.”
Add Jones to the growing list of Tennessee coaches who’ve tried and failed to defeat Alabama under Nick Saban.
"We probably played our worst half of football we played all year," Jones told reporters afterward. "Some of that was due to the quality of our opponent, and some of that was self-inflicted wounds."
It was safe to assume the game was over when Alabama called two straight screen passes to sophomore wide receiver Amari Cooper. The first one, run on the left side, was called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty.
On the second one, which was run to the right side, Cooper slipped through and outran everyone for the 54-yard touchdown. Just three plays into the game, Alabama was up 7-0, and the tone didn't change much from there.
The Tide proceeded to score touchdowns on its next three drives and the game was at 28-0 before anyone could blink.
Sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon got the first two of his three touchdowns, while McCarron found senior wide receiver Kevin Norwood wide open for a 22-yard touchdown pass.
Alabama’s offense put on a clinic in the first half and showed the Vols why they can’t play with everyone.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way our guys have come out the last four games that we’ve played,” Saban said. “Tonight we got off to a really good start, played physical and played with a lot of toughness.”
For the game, the Tide compiled 479 yards of offense. McCarron was an efficient 19-of-27 passing for 275 yards and two touchdowns, while the run game plowed away for 204 yards and three touchdowns.
“I’ve said to y’all the past few weeks that I feel like we’re playing better each week,” McCarron said. “I felt like we showed that today. We were explosive. Really the only time they stopped us is when we stopped ourselves. We felt like they really didn’t stop us.”
The Vols were able to make a few plays offensively, particularly in the second half when true freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs entered the game in place of the injured Justin Worley. Tennessee finished with 322 yards of offense, including just 127 on the ground, well below their season average.
“I was proud of us. We stepped up to the challenge,” linebacker Trey DePriest said. “They’re a good rushing team and they’re big up front. That was the challenge all week that our front seven would struggle with their offensive linemen, but we answered the call.”
Now, Alabama (8-0, 4-0 SEC) has two weeks to prepare for its clash with LSU. With the Tigers already having two losses, the game doesn’t have the same national championship implications it has had in years past, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a slugfest as usual.
“I expect an exciting game,” Norwood said. “I always look forward to playing these guys. I expect a physical game and I think that’s what it’s going to be.”
Added Saban, “You get defined by what you do every week. It’s going to be important for us to be able to focus during this bye week and try to improve and try to get more players to play winning football.”