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October 23, 2011TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama gymnastics team was presented with national championship rings Saturday at halftime of the Crimson Tide's 37-6 win over Tennessee.
The celebration honored the fifth time the Crimson Tide gymnastics team has won a national title.
"To be able to stand in front of 101,000 fans as national champions is what you strive for every day as both an athlete and a coach," coach Sarah Patterson said. "For (husband and assistant) David (Patterson) and I, this will be the 10th time we have received championship rings during an Alabama football halftime, and I can tell you the feeling never gets old and that we are as excited to share this moment with this team as we were with our very first championship team in 1988."
A total of 16 gymnasts received rings: Olivia Carisella, Ria Domier, Lindsey Fowler, Jordan Moore, Hannah Toussaint, Becca Alexin, Alyssa Chapman, Megan Mashburn, Diandra Milliner, Sarah DeMeo, Marissa Gutierrez, Ashley Sledge, Kim Jacob, Ashley Priess, Geralen Stack-Eaton and Kayla Hoffman.
Alabama posted a program-best 3.71 team grade-point average last year on the way to its fifth NCAA title. Along with its five national championships, Alabama gymnastics has also been honored at halftime for Southeastern Conference championships dating back to 1988. UA's previous NCAA title came in 2002.
Poole last back to top 100 against Tide
Since coach Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has only allowed four players to rush for more than 100 yards against it, and the last one to break the century mark was Tennessee's Tauren Poole.
Poole rushed for 117 yards, which included a long touchdown run in the first quarter, last year in Knoxville. Alabama still rolled to an easy 41-10 victory, but Poole became the first player in 41 games to puncture the Crimson Tide defense for more than 100 yards. Last week against top-ranked LSU, Poole rushed for 70 yards and one touchdown.
In the first half Saturday night, Poole rushed for 50 yards on 14 carries. Alabama had only been allowing 38.1 yards rushing per game.
He finished with 67.
During Saban's tenure in Tuscaloosa, only Poole, Ole Miss' BenJarvus Green-Ellis (131 yards), Houston's Anthony Alridge (100 yards) and Arkansas' Darren McFadden (195 yards) have reached or surpassed the 100-yard rushing milestone.
Crowd noise a factor
Saban has always been adamant that Crimson Tide fans are part of the team effort with their ability to affect home games with noise. The Alabama faithful proved that Saturday night, contributing to three false-start penalties and a forced timeout by the Tennessee offense in the first half.
Two of the false start infractions occurred on the Volunteers' second offensive series, the first on lineman Dallas Thomas on third-and-8 and the second on left guard James Stone 1st-and-10. Tennessee got a field goal on the drive to lead 3-0. Prior to that, crowd noise caused UT to spend its first timeout of the first half on a fourth-and-4 play on the Volunteers' first offensive possession.
Streak ends for McCarron
AJ McCarron broke a streak of 152 passes without an interception with a first-quarter pick. McCarron threw an errant pass over the middle that UT linebacker Austin Johnson nabbed and returned 19 yards down to the Alabama 41-yard line. The first-year starting quarterback last threw an interception in the season-opener against Kent State. It is the third-longest streak in school history. The school record of 190 is held by Brodie Croyle.
Tennessee converted two of three fourth-down plays for first downs against Alabama in the first half, including one on a fake punt. The Volunteers coaching staff also went for two fourth downs with its regular offense in Alabama territory early in the game, converting one of those. ... Michael Palardy's 52-yard field goal for Tennessee was the first second-quarter score against the Alabama defense all season. The kick knotted the score 6-6 with 5:52 remaining in the first half. ... Alabama receiver Marquis Maze took a direct snap Saturday for the first time this season for a rushing loss of 1 yard. UA has used the wildcat formation sparingly this season, primarily with running back Trent Richardson. ... Alabama's game captains were linebacker Jerrell Harris, offensive lineman Barrett Jones, linebacker Dont'a Hightower and safety Mark Barron.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196. Sports Writers Alex Scarborough, Michael Southern and Aaron Suttles contributed to this report.