KNOXVILLE - It wasn't a Third Saturday in October to forget.
It was a Third Quarter in October to forget for the University of Tennessee football team.
The Volunteers clung close to seventh-ranked, defending national champion Alabama for one half, but the Crimson Tide turned quickly and forcefully in the third quarter.
Alabama scored three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and breezed to a 41-10 victory in front of 102,455 in Neyland Stadium.
Coach Nick Saban beat UT for the fourth time in his four seasons at Alabama, but Saturday was the first time his former assistant - Derek Dooley - was the Vols' head coach.
"We played a really outstanding football team tonight, and we fought them pretty hard for 30 minutes - scrapping and fighting," Dooley said. "The third quarter obviously was the difference.
"Give them a lot of credit. They're big, they're fast, they're physical and they just beat on you. That's what good teams do. And we really struggled that third quarter."
Senior middle linebacker Nick Reveiz, who again led the Vols with 11 tackles, said he'd seen that scenario before.
"In the second half, quite honestly, I felt like we fell apart - which seems to be a story that keeps coming," Reveiz said. "We've got to do a better job. That's what Coach Dooley always talks about. We just can't be affected.
"We've just got to go out there in the second half and play better. We've just got to keep pushing."
Freshman Michael Palardy's 33-yard field goal as the first half expired pulled UT within 13-10, but three touchdowns from the Tide's two terrific tailbacks put the Vols in a 34-10 hole heading into the fourth quarter.
Two 1-yard runs from reigning Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram sandwiched a 65-yard dash from speedy sophomore Trent Richardson, and UT missed a few opportunities to narrow the gap along the way.
"You have to give Tennessee a lot of credit," Saban said. "I have a lot of respect for the tradition of this game, their program, their coaches and their players. They played really hard, and it was a tough game in the first half.
"I'm really proud of the way we came out and dominated the second half of the game."
Alabama junior center William Vlachos also credited UT's early effort.
"They came to play, and they played hard," Vlachos said. "But it comes down to what we do, and the level we play to. In the second half, we played to our standard."
Big Bama junior receiver Julio Jones didn't score a touchdown, but that's about all he didn't do. The 6-foot-4 standout broke a program record with 221 yards on 12 catches against a UT defense that stacked the box in hopes of containing Ingram and Richardson.
"Everybody's throwing it on us," Dooley said. "They watch the film. The film says, 'Throw it,' so they threw it. And they threw it for 326 yards. We're struggling to stop anybody.
"I mean, we're just struggling. We fight a little bit, and we fight a little bit, and then we just break."
Jones' last big play wasn't a catch - at least not by him. He slanted inside to draw defenders away from Richardson, who caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback A.J. McCarron to give the Tide a 41-10 lead with 7:40 left.
"I feel all right," Jones said. "It [the record] was a goal, but I need to do that week in and week out."
Saturday, much like UT's early-season game against now top-ranked Oregon, started well for the Vols and ended with the deeper, more experienced team thumping them time and time again in the second half.
UT struck first on a big play from Tauren Poole. The junior tailback took a simple handoff and went 59 yards to the end zone, just beating the Tide secondary to the pylon to give UT a lead with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
"I just hit a crease that was wide open," Poole said. "You could have driven a truck through it."
Poole wasn't the Vols' only bright spot, but he was the brightest. He gained 117 yards on just 14 carries, becoming the first opposing tailback to top the century mark against the Tide in 41 games. The last player to do so was Ole Miss's BenJarvus Green-Ellis with 131 yards on Oct. 13, 2007.
"We were really just going to take what they gave us, and the cutback was what they gave me," Poole said.
The passing game didn't have Poole's punch.
As expected, UT gave tall true freshman Tyler Bray a few series in each half. As expected, neither Bray nor junior starter Matt Simms sustained consistent success against one of the nation's most statistically stout defenses.
Still, the Vols missed a few chances to make the score closer. Similarly to the loss at Georgia two weeks earlier, Bray led UT down the field late in the fourth quarter before getting stopped on a fourth down inside the 10-yard line. Minutes earlier, the 6-6 California native was intercepted by B.J. Scott in the end zone with 3:39 left.
The game was clearly settled by the time Bray's final two series stopped short of scoring - at least in part because of a Simms mistake earlier in the second half.
Simms drove UT to the Tide 10 before throwing an interception to Robert Lester in the end zone, keeping Alabama's lead at 27-10 with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
The Vols play this Saturday at 19th-ranked South Carolina (5-2, 3-2), which beat Alabama earlier this month, in a 12:21 p.m. game at Williams-Brice Stadium.
"The team we're playing next beat the team that just beat us 41-10," Dooley said. "We're going right into the forest, and there's animals everywhere.
"Every team on our schedule can beat us if we don't play our best. And if we play our best, it doesn't mean we're going to beat them. It only means we'll have a chance. Period."