No. 1 Alabama 44, Tennessee 13

Practicing against the nation’s best defense each day apparently

is helping Alabama develop a championship-caliber offense.

A.J. McCarron threw for a career-high 306 yards and four

touchdowns Saturday night as the top-ranked Crimson Tide trounced

Tennessee 44-13 at Neyland Stadium. The Tide have scored at least

30 points in each of their first seven games, the longest streak to

start a season in school history.

McCarron’s four touchdown passes matched a career high set twice

previously. He has 16 touchdown tosses with no interceptions this

season. The junior quarterback called it the most complete game

Alabama has played all year.

”We set the tone and we stayed on it,” he said. ”We never let

up, and that was the biggest thing Coach keeps preaching.”

McCarron got plenty of help from a pair of freshmen.

Amari Cooper caught seven passes for 162 yards, the most

receiving yards ever by an Alabama freshman. He scored on a 23-yard

reception in the first quarter and a 42-yard catch in the third.

Cooper also had a 30-yard touchdown in the third period nullified

by a penalty.

T.J. Yeldon ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries

for his second consecutive game with at least 100 yards.

”We just kept grinding and grinding,” Crimson Tide coach Nick

Saban said. ”We squandered a few opportunities at times, but I

think the key to the drill was just keep playing and play the next

play. Compete and be relentless in how you do it.”

Alabama’s defense also was as relentless as ever.

Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) had scored at least 31 points in each

of its first six games, but the Volunteers couldn’t muster much

offense against an Alabama team that entered Saturday leading the

nation in total defense, scoring defense, run defense and pass

efficiency defense.

Tyler Bray went 13 of 27 for 184 yards with two interceptions

and no touchdown passes for Tennessee.

Tennessee has lost 11 of its last 12 SEC games and is 0-14

against the Top 25 since Derek Dooley took over the program in

2010. The different circumstances surrounding each team were

evident from a look at the stands, as more than one-third of the

102,455 fans were cheering for Alabama (7-0, 4-0). By the midway

point of the fourth quarter, many of the Tennessee fans already had

headed to the parking lot.

”We got whipped by a great football team in just about every

phase,” Dooley said. ”I’m really disappointed we didn’t execute a

little better on offense. That’s probably the thing I was a little

surprised at. The quarterback didn’t play well. I’m not sure

why.”

Dooley returned to the sidelines less than two weeks after

undergoing surgery on a fractured right hip. Dooley had worked from

the press box last week in a 41-31 loss at Mississippi State.

Tennessee officials said before the game he’d sit on a stool

throughout the game, but he instead worked the sidelines on

crutches while frequently being shadowed by an officer as well as

assistant coach Antone Davis.

Tennessee’s beleaguered defense forced a three-and-out on

Alabama’s opening possession, but the Tide scored on four of the

next five drives to take a 23-10 halftime lead. Alabama’s lone

scoreless series the rest of the first half came when Cade Foster

was wide right on a 44-yard field-goal attempt.

Cooper opened the scoring and put Alabama ahead for good when a

coverage breakdown by Tennessee allowed him to get all alone in the

right corner of the end zone for a 23-yard touchdown. Yeldon added

a 1-yard TD run in the second quarter after C.J. Mosley’s diving

interception of Bray’s wobbly pass gave the Tide the ball at the

Tennessee 32.

”Awesome,” McCarron said of Cooper. ”(He) doesn’t surprise me

one bit. He can be as good as he wants to be. As long as he keeps

working and keeps putting forth the effort, the sky’s the limit for

that kid.”

The Vols’ best hopes for a second-half comeback disappeared when

they lost the ball on downs after reaching the Alabama 33 early in

the third quarter. After Bray threw a third-and-1 incompletion,

Tennessee linebacker A.J. Johnson took a fourth-down snap out of

the Vols’ ”Beast” formation and was stopped short of the first

down.

Alabama then put the game away by reaching the end zone on its

next three drives.

McCarron connected with Cooper on a 42-yard touchdown pass that

extended the Tide’s lead to 30-10 late in the third quarter.

McCarron found Kenny Bell for a 39-yard completion that made it

37-10, then Yeldon raced 43 yards around the right end with 9:07

left in the game.

”That’s the greatest feeling in the world as an offensive

lineman, (when) in the fourth quarter you can tell that you can run

the ball,” Alabama center Barrett Jones said. ”They know it’s a

run, and you know it’s a run, and you can still run it.”

Before the game, Tennessee honored former Vols coach Phillip

Fulmer and his 1997 SEC championship team that featured Denver

Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who made it to campus for the

ceremony.