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October 26, 2013

Alabama routs Tennessee again

Almost everyone stayed around, if only for the cigars.

The No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide once again snuffed out any vestige of drama by halftime as it rolled to a 45-10 victory over Tennessee on Saturday, its seventh straight win in the series. The crowd stayed loud, even as Alabama was wrapping up the second half largely as a formality.

The margin of victory was the largest in the SEC's most historic series since Alabama posted a 35-0 victory over the Volunteers in 1963.

"We felt disrespected that they called us the Red team all week, like we didn't deserve to be called Alabama," Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron said, hinting at the motivation that overcame head coach Nick Saban's worries about a possible slow start.

"We got off to a really good start," Saban said. "We played physical football, played with a lot of toughness.

"This is a 110-year old rivalry that means a lot to a lot of people in Alabama, and I am very happy with the win, and with the fans."

Except for a red-zone fumble, Alabama was nearly flawless in every phase of the game in the first half. The Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on each of its first four drives and reversed Tennessee's best scoring threat with an 89-yard interception return by safety Landon Collins.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper, continuing to hint a return to his freshman form, scored the first Crimson Tide touchdown on a 54-yard pass from McCarron, UA's longest scoring pass of the season. T.J. Yeldon added a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs, while Kevin Norwood scored the other first-half touchdown on a 22-yard pass from McCarron.

The Alabama quarterback completed 19 of 27 passes in the game for 275 yards and two scores.

Tennessee drove into the red zone late in the half, only to see Collins return an interception 89 yards to score with only 12 seconds remaining.

"We probably played our worst half of football that we've played all year," said Tennessee coach Butch Jones, whose team fell to 4-4 on the year, 1-3 in the SEC.

Tennessee changed quarterbacks in the second half and got some reasonable production from freshman Josh Dobbs, who led the Volunteers on drives that netted a 37-yard Michael Palardy field goal and a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Rajion Neal.

"I thought Josh managed the offense really well, given the circumstances when he went in," Jones said, adding that Dobbs would be in the competition for UT's starting quarterback post for the rest of the season.

Saban said Alabama came out of the game relatively injury-free - running back Jalston Fowler had to leave the game with a concussion and defensive lineman Brandon Ivory did not play because of what Saban described only as "a medical issue."

"Other than that, we've got a lot of guys nicked up and we can definitely use the off-week," he said.

The 8-0 Crimson Tide does not play again until Nov. 9 when it hosts LSU.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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