Alabama doesn't play to Saban's standard, still demolishes Tennessee in Neyland Stadium

Tennessee Athletics photo by Kate Luffman / Alabama quarterback Mac Jones sprints away from Tennessee linebacker Henry To'o To'o (11) during Saturday's game in Knoxville. Jones was 25-of-31 passing for 387 yards to lead the second-ranked Crimson Tide to a 48-17 victory at Neyland Stadium, handing the Vols their 14th straight loss in the border rivalry.

KNOXVILLE - There continues to be no light at the end of Tennessee's tunnel when it comes to its football rivalry with Alabama.

Mac Jones made Neyland Stadium his latest playground Saturday afternoon, completing 25 of 31 passes for 387 yards in guiding the No. 2 Crimson Tide to a 48-17 shellacking of the Volunteers before an announced crowd of 23,394. The redshirt junior quarterback opened the game with 11 consecutive completions for a school-record 19 straight dating to last weekend's 41-24 dumping of No. 3 Georgia in Tuscaloosa.

The 19 straight completions broke Greg McElroy's previous mark of 16 set during the 2010 season.

"They were just able to connect," Tennessee senior receiver Josh Palmer said when asked about Alabama's relentless aerial attack. "They have a great quarterback and great receivers. They play their game."

Jones directed an offense that amassed 587 total yards, with senior running back Najee Harris complementing his quarterback with 96 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries.

(READ MORE: Pruitt praises QB Jarrett Guarantano for maturity, performance)

Alabama's 14th consecutive win over Tennessee was historical from a Southeastern Conference standpoint, as the Tide became the first to reel off seven straight wins in an opposing league stadium by 14 or more points. They extended their major-college record of consecutive games with at least 35 points to 18, and coach Nick Saban improved to 23-0 against former assistants.

"We didn't have our best week coming off the Georgia game," said Saban, whose team is 5-0 this season. "I didn't think we played our best or to the standard that we'd like, but it's great to win, and we want the players to enjoy the win."

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt still has a winning record in this rivalry given his time as an Alabama assistant, but his three Vols teams have lost by the average score of 47-17. That beats the five-year average of 47-14, but should these tradition-rich SEC programs continue to be this far apart?

"As a fan? No it shouldn't. As a coach? No it shouldn't," said Pruitt, whose Vols are 2-3 this season. "I promise you I don't want it to be this way. For us to beat these guys today, we needed to play really clean football and needed a couple of things to go our way, and that's the truth of the matter.

"I think a great indication of talent level is look and see who gets drafted, you know? We've got young guys and old guys in our program who continue to improve, but we obviously have to execute at a higher level on both sides of the ball to give ourselves a chance."

Pruitt again insisted the gap is closing between the two programs with a combined 40 SEC championships.

Vols senior defensive end Matthew Butler was asked about the difference between the two and said, "The way I see it is that Alabama has a winning culture, and we have a winning history. We need to make a winning culture and a winning history coincide."

If this latest rivalry rendition wasn't decided by Alabama's 28-10 halftime lead, then it was certainly put out of reach 33 seconds into the third quarter, when freshman defensive back Malachi Moore stripped the ball from Tennessee running back Eric Gray before racing 28 yards to the end zone and a 35-10 advantage.

Gray's miscue was Tennessee's lone turnover of the game.

"It's frustrating to me and frustrating to our players that we've done good things at times, but as a team, we haven't put offense, defense and special teams together," Pruitt said. "That's what the elite teams in our conference do. They don't have many bad plays. They make the other team beat them.

"Our players are not discouraged. Frustrated would be the right word, because we're not playing the way we're capable of playing."

Alabama took its first possession to midfield before electing to punt on fourth-and-1, but there would be no stalling on the Tide's second series. Opening with a Jones 30-yard strike to Slade Bolden to the Tennessee 40, Alabama covered 70 yards in six plays and scored the game's first points on a Harris 1-yard run at the 7:40 mark of the opening quarter.

Harris has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 12 consecutive games dating to last year's 35-13 win over Tennessee in Tuscaloosa, a stretch with 26 rushing scores overall.

The Tide went 76 yards on seven plays with their third possession, using a 45-yard pass from Jones to John Metchie to set up a 1-yard sneak by Jones that extended their advantage to 14-0 at 2:54 in the first quarter. Tennessee got its first points with 12:11 before halftime on a Brent Cimaglia 33-yard field goal that capped a 13-play, 60-yard drive and pulled the Vols within 14-3.

Jones completed 17 of 22 first-half passes for 297 yards on an offense that racked up 396 yards in the first 30 minutes.

Alabama will host Mississippi State next weekend, while the Vols have an open date.

"Nobody is more disappointed than the people within our program," Pruitt said. "It's the reason that I wanted this job. I understood the passion, energy and expectations of Tennessee football. When I took the job, I knew exactly where it was at, which is why I wanted the job.

"I wanted to get it where it's supposed to be. It's a hell of a challenge, and I'm glad I took the job."

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.