TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WCBI Sports/Alabama Athletics) – The top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (8-0 overall; 5-0 in the Southeastern Conference) jumped out to a 35-0 halftime lead before cruising to a 45-10 victory over Tennessee (4-4 overall; 1-3 in the Southeastern Conference) Saturday before a sellout crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Wideout Kevin Norwood hauled in six passes for 112 yards, including a spectacular 34-yard catch in the third quarter, and AJ McCarron completed 19-of-27 pass attempts for 275 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Safety Landon Collins had the highlight of the first half when he returned his first career interception 89 yards for a touchdown just moments before halftime. Collins and A’Shawn Robinson paced the stingy Crimson Tide defense with six tackles each.
Alabama won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff, which Christion Jones returned 49 yards. T.J. Yeldon took a handoff on the first play from scrimmage for a gain of six yards. After a penalty set the Tide back 10 yards, McCarron threw a screen pass to Amari Cooper, who raced 54 yards to the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. Cade Foster’s extra point gave the Tide a 7-0 lead less than 90 seconds into the game.
Tennessee’s first drive ended after a Raijon Neal 6-yard carry, two incompletions and a punt, which was returned by Jones for 17 yards to the Alabama 34. On first down, Yeldon took a handoff up the middle for a gain of four yards. McCarron connected with DeAndrew White on an 18-yard pass to move the chains for the Tide. After one-yard carry by Yeldon, McCarron found Norwood on a crossing pattern for an 18-yard gain to the Tennessee 25. After a personal foul penalty gave Alabama a first-and-10 at the Tennessee 12, the Tide turned to Yeldon, who took back-to-back handoffs for 11 yards to the one-yard line. Yeldon walked into the end zone on the next play, giving Alabama a 14-0 lead.
Tennessee opened the ensuing drive at its own 25-yard line after Foster’s kickoff went into the end zone. Raijon Neal took a handoff but was met by Collins and Adrian Hubbard at the line of scrimmage. Worley notched his first completion of the day when he connected with Marquez North for a 38-yard gain and Tennessee’s only first down of the first quarter. On first-and-10 at the Alabama 37, Neal ran up the middle for a 2-yard gain. The Volunteers attempted a reverse on the following play, but Trey DePriest and Cyrus Jones tackled Alton Howard after a one-yard gain. Worley then threw back-to-back incompletions on third and fourth down as the Volunteers turned the ball over on downs.
McCarron and the Tide offense took over at its own 34-yard line and began another march down the field. On second-and-10, McCarron hooked up with Kenny Bell for nine yards, setting up a one-yard carry by Kenyan Drake for a first down. Two plays later, Drake took a handoff for 11 yards to the Tennessee 34. After a screen pass from McCarron to Cooper went for a loss of two yards, Drake took another handoff 11 yards. Alabama netted its tenth first down of the opening quarter when Drake took third-and-1 handoff for three yards. McCarron threw an incompletion before a completed pass to Yeldon ended in no gain. With the Tide facing third-and-10, McCarron found Norwood for a 22-yard touchdown pass to give the Tide a 21-0 lead.
On the Volunteers’ next possession, Neal took a handoff for a one-yard gain as the first quarter came to an end. Worley then completed back-to-back completions for 13 yards and a first down. On first-and-10, Worley completed a screen pass to Howard for a loss of two yards. Marlin Lane rushed three yards to the Tennessee 33 to set up third-and-9. Marquez North caught a six-yard pass from Worley, and the Volunteers punted the ball back to Alabama.
Alabama started the next drive at its own 19-yard line. A pair of Yeldon carries went for 11 yards and a first down at the Alabama 30. From there, the Tide converted a first down on four consecutive plays. The first was a 16-yard pass from McCarron to Norwood. McCarron followed that with a 14-yard pass to Cooper to move the Tide into Tennessee territory. Christion Jones then took a reverse for what appeared headed for no gain before he crossed field and was pushed out of bounds at the Tennessee 20 after a 20-yard gain. McCarron and Norwood hooked up again for a 13-yard pass play for the fourth consecutive first down. Three plays later, Yeldon reached the end zone for his second touchdown of the evening to put the Tide up 28-0.
Tennessee opened its next possession at the Alabama 46 following a 44-yard return, but the possession was short-lived. On third down, Deion Belue picked off Worley’s pass at the Alabama 39 and returned it 28 yards to the Tennessee 33 with 5:33 remaining in the first half.
After an incompletion on first down, Drake rushed for three yards. On third-and-7, McCarron connected with Jones for a 6-yard gain. Alabama converted on fourth-and-1 after an 8-yard carry by Drake. On first-and-10 from the Tennessee 16, Drake rushed five yards up the middle. Drake scampered toward the end zone on the next play but fumbled at the one-yard line, and Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton recovered.
Taking over at its own 2-yard line with 2:36 remaining in the half, Tennessee attempted to travel the length of the field for a score before halftime. After an Alabama penalty gave the Vols first-and-10 at the Tennessee 18, Worley connected with Raijon Neal for 13 yards and another first down. Worley moved the Volunteers to the Alabama 24 before Collins picked off a pass near the sideline and scampered 89 yards for an Alabama touchdown. The pick-six was the fifth longest interception return in Alabama history and gave Alabama a 35-0 halftime lead.
Yeldon added his third touchdown of the afternoon in the third quarter to give Alabama a 42-3 lead. Tennessee’s Michael Palardy booted a 37-yard field goal early in the third quarter to break an Alabama streak of 104 unanswered points that dated back to the Kentucky game on Oct. 12.