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October 21, 2012KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | Wearing a knee brace might have slowed AJ McCarron down slightly.
The Tennessee defense couldn't say the same.
McCarron threw for a career-best 306 yards and four touchdowns and No. 1 Alabama cruised to a sixth straight victory over the Volunteers, smashing UT 44-13 at Neyland Stadium.
"We came out and set the tone early and that is what we needed to do," McCarron said.
Freshman Amari Cooper caught two of McCarron's passes for scores, while Kenny Bell and Michael Williams also had touchdown catches. Freshman T.J. Yeldon added two touchdown runs as the Crimson Tide amassed 539 yards of total offense.
McCarron finished with 17 completion in 22 attempts, throwing no interceptions. Yeldon finished with a quiet, but efficient 129 yards rushing on 15 carries.
Cooper's first touchdown came on Alabama's second drive, as he waited wide-open in the end zone for a 23-yard pass from McCarron that gave UA a 7-0 lead. Tennessee answered later in the quarter with a Michael Palardy 32-yard field goal.
Alabama gradually pulled away from UT in the second quarter, although the Volunteers did themselves no favors with quarterback Tyler Bray throwing an unfathomable interception to C.J. Mosley to set up one Crimson Tide score and UT wide receiver Justin Hunter dropping what seemed to be a sure touchdown late in the half.
A.J. Johnson did score on a two-yard run but the Crimson Tide led 20-10 at halftime, then buried the Volunteers with 24 unanswered points in the next 21 minutes.
The Crimson Tide's second half points came on big plays -- a 34-yard touchdown catch by Cooper, a 39-yarder by Kenny Bell and a 43-yard touchdown run by Yeldon.
Tennessee's only second-half points came on a 21-yard field goal by Palardy. Bray was 13 for 27 for 184 yards and threw two interceptions.
"This is a good win, a tough place to play," said Alabama head coach Nick Saban. "We have up so big plays and that is something will still have to work on."
"I am disappointed that we didn't play better on offense," said UT head coach Derek Dooley. "We took our shots. We tried to go to Justin Hunter five times in the first half and we were 0-for-5. We went to (Cordarelle Patterson) twice and didn't hit either one.
"Every game we've played, we've performed for a period of time. Tonight we didn't and I've got to go find out why. But a lot of it is Alabama.
"We got whipped by a good team in just about every phase of the game."
The Volunteers fell to 3-4 overall, 0-4 in the SEC.
Alabama's 44 points were the most for the Crimson Tide against Tennessee since a 45-30 win in 1989. UA will face unbeaten Mississippi State at Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.