TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Alabama senior quarterback AJ McCarron completed 19 of 27 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns Saturday afternoon to lead the Crimson Tide to a 45-10 rout of Tennessee.
Who knew he was just getting started?
McCarron, who had 180 yards at halftime as Alabama built a 35-0 lead, expressed his displeasure after the game with Tennessee players using the term "red team" last week when discussing the top-ranked Tide.
"I never really say anything about the other team, but I kind of took this one personal," he said. "I felt disrespected, and I know a lot of people on the team did, too. To kind of say we haven't deserved the respect to call us Alabama and then call us the red team and for their head coach to come out and say they can play against anybody -- I don't think we're just anybody.
"We've won two national championships in a row, and we're undefeated right now, so we're not just anybody."
Tennessee players, as well as Jones, began using the "red team" phrase last Monday. Volunteers receiver Pig Howard actually provided a compliment when giving his red team explanation, saying Crimson Tide opponents are "mentally beat before they step on the field" when they hear the name Alabama.
There was no doubt it served as motivation all week, especially with McCarron.
"I wanted to come out and score as many points as possible," he said. "I didn't want to come out of the game, either. There was a lot of trash talk, and that's not the way we are. We let our play do the talking, and I thought we did that today."
Alabama scored on its first three possessions and racked up 180 first-quarter yards compared to 48 for Tennessee. McCarron connected with Amari Cooper for a 54-yard touchdown just three plays into the game and found Kevin Norwood alone for a 22-yard score with 28 seconds left in the opening quarter.
The gap widened in the second quarter when T.J. Yeldon notched his second 1-yard touchdown run and safety Landon Collins returned an interception of Justin Worley 89 yards for a score with 12 seconds left in the half. The interception return by Collins was the fifth-longest in Alabama history and marked the 34th non-offensive touchdown in the Nick Saban era.
"He threw it right into my hands," Collins said, "so I had to go for the score after that."
Collins had to be patient on his return down the right sideline, waiting for defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan to arrive and apply a block on Worley.
"I didn't know it was him," Pagan said. "I just got there and laid out."
Alabama took its largest lead at 42-3 on a third 1-yard touchdown run by Yeldon with 2:55 remaining in the third quarter. That marked the largest advantage the Tide had held over the Vols since their 51-0 drubbing in 1906.
The Crimson Tide improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in SEC play before heading into this week's open date, which will precede a Nov. 2 showdown against visiting LSU.
"I want to say how proud and how pleased I am with the how our guys came out and competed in the first half of this game," Saban said. "We didn't play great in the second half, but I was really pleased with the way we pretty much came out and dominated the first half. We stopped ourselves one time by fumbling the ball on the 1-yard line, but we had an interception that Landon made a great play on and returned for a touchdown, so I guess it all kind of balances out."
Alabama limited Tennessee to 14 first downs and 127 rushing yards. Since surviving Texas A&M 49-42 on Sept. 14, the Crimson Tide have allowed just 26 points in the six games since.
Pretty good times indeed for the team that wears something close to crimson.
"We just took it as we can be the red team, but we're going to be the Navy SEAL red team," cornerback Deion Belue said. "Whenever we stepped in, it was time for everything to stop."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524