TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Sophomore quarterback AJ McCarron passed for a career-high 284 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 2 Alabama football team defeated the Tennessee Volunteers, 37-6, before a crowd of 101,821 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play while Tennessee dropped to 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the SEC.
Alabama scored 31 unanswered points in the second half to seize control of a game that had been tied 6-6 at the half. Junior running back Trent Richardson totaled 110 yards (77 rushing, 33 receiving) on the day to go along with two touchdowns while senior wide receiver Marquis Maze added 106 receiving yards on five catches. The Crimson Tide defense held Tennessee to just 155 total yards while forcing two turnovers. Alabama held the Volunteers without a first down in the second half.
"I'm obviously very pleased and happy with the results and the way we responded in the second half," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "It was a little lackluster in the first half, which is a little bit concerning, but there was a concern going into the game, and something we tried to fight all week in terms of guys being focused on what's happening right now, and not being concerned about the future, and challenging themselves to play and having the proper respect for the team that we were playing. I think those guys did a fantastic job. Derek's done a fantastic job there, and they were certainly ready to play."
With the score tied at the half, Alabama opened the third quarter with a five-play, 72-yard drive culminating with McCarron punching it into the end zone from two yards out to give the Tide a 13-6 advantage. Following a Tennessee punt, McCarron needed just one play to find sophomore receiver Kenny Bell with a 39-yard touchdown strike to stretch the UA advantage to 20-6. The score was the first of Bell's career.
Richardson added the first of his two touchdowns on Alabama's ensuing possession, powering his way into the end zone from 12 yards out to cap off a six-play, 63-yard drive that pushed the score to 27-6.
From there, Cade Foster added a 45-yard field goal to make it 30-6 at the outset of the fourth quarter, before Richardson notched the final touchdown of the evening to give Alabama a 37-6 lead. Richardson's score was set up by junior linebacker Dont'a Hightower's first career interception and subsequent 29-yard return.
"AJ (McCarron) did a good job managing the game," Richardson said. "Marquis Maze made some good plays. Darius Hanks did an awesome job. Receivers were just on point and they just let everybody know that it's not all about the running game. We had a full team out there."
Tennessee notched the first score of the day with a 40-yard field goal midway through the first quarter to take a 3-0 lead. Alabama tied the score on the ensuing possession with a 26-yard Jeremy Shelley field goal setup by a 69-yard McCarron to Maze pass. The completion was the longest on the season for McCarron and Alabama. The Crimson Tide took a 6-3 lead at the outset of the second quarter on Shelley's 29-yard field goal before the Volunteers tied the score on the strength of a 52-yard field goal.
Sophomore linebacker C.J. Mosley led Alabama with eight tackles while senior linebacker Courtney Upshaw added seven tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. Freshman safety Vinnie Sunseri notched a fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, the first of his career, while Hightower added seven tackles, three quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, a sack and a tackle for a loss to go along with his interception.