TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The most vivid example of Alabama's 45-7 decimation of Tennessee on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium did not result in a score, a turnover, a first down or a sack.
On the final play of the first half and the game essentially decided at 21-0, Volunteers quarterback Jarrett Guarantano tried to make something happen 53 yards from the Crimson Tide end zone. Instead, Alabama linebackers Rashaan Evans and Mack Wilson along with nose guard Da'Ron Payne converged on Guarantano, resulting in him being separated from his helmet as he threw an incomplete pass and tumbled to the ground.
"To be honest, I didn't even realize it was that big of a hit," Evans said afterward as a smile engulfed his face. "When his helmet flew off and I saw it rolling on the ground, I was like, 'That may have been a big hit.' I think we did a good job.
"The No. 1 thing we wanted to do was affect the quarterback, and you could see that we were trying to do anything we could to get him to scramble or throw a bad pass."
Alabama did everything it wanted while racking up an 11th consecutive victory over the Vols. The top-ranked Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) had a 35-7 advantage in first downs and a whopping 604-108 edge in total yardage.
The only score for Tennessee (3-4, 0-4) came on a 97-yard interception return by linebacker Daniel Bituli off Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa midway through the third quarter. Yet the Tide regrouped and won by a larger margin than the 37-point spread at kickoff, which was the largest in the history of this series, which is now at 100 games.
"This is a big game for us, and it's a big game for a lot of our people," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "It's a traditional game that means a lot to a lot of folks. I'm excited and pleased and happy that we were able to win this game, and I was pleased with the way we played in the second half.
"I thought we were a little sluggish in the first half, and I thought we were sluggish in practice this week, which kind of carried over."
Alabama took its opening possession 63 yards in 12 plays, grabbing a 7-0 lead on Bo Scarbrough's 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-1, but the Crimson Tide's next two drives did not produce points. There was never a lull for Alabama's defense — the Tide recorded nine lost-yardage stops and held the Vols to an average of 2.3 yards per play.
The most intense moment occurred with 11 minutes remaining in a 38-7 game, when Alabama's Xavian Marks fumbled a punt that was recovered by the Vols at the Tide's 20. Tennessee drove to the Alabama 1, but Trey Smith drew a false-start penalty, and a fourth-and-goal pass from the 5 was intercepted by Wilson.
"I thought that was great, and I thought our fans had a lot to do with that," Saban said. "They contributed to the penalty when they were inside the 1, and on the fourth-down play we did a great job of matching the pattern. It was exciting to see our players not wanting to let them score, and the fans were into it. It was great, and I think it speaks to what this game means and what this rivalry is."
Said Tide cornerback Levi Wallace: "We like those situations. You want to see what the defense is made of in those situations — when you have to turn around and put a fire out. That was a big stop."
Wallace, a former walk-on, tallied a career-high six tackles with three tackles for loss, including two sacks. Wilson's interception extended Alabama's streak of games with at least one takeaway to 35.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of 21 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown, while Tagovailoa went 9-of-12 for 134 yards with a touchdown and the pick-six. The Tide rushed for 272 yards and 5.1 yards per carry, with Damien Harris leading the way with 72 yards and a touchdown on 13 rushes.
"We just went out there and ran our offense and did a decent job of executing," Hurts said. "It was not our best day. The first half was sluggish and sloppy, but we'll take the win."
The Tide are entering their lone open date of the season. They will return to Bryant-Denny on Nov. 4, when they face LSU in a game that will be televised by CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern.
Moving on up
Calvin Ridley had eight catches for 82 yards and now has 202 receptions for his career, ranking second in Tide history behind Amari Cooper's 228 from 2012 to '14. Cooper and Ridley are the only Alabama receivers with at least 200 career catches.
"I'm pretty happy about that, being in the books and doing some things around here," Ridley said. "My name is pretty good at Alabama, so I'm pretty happy with it."
Alabama has now outscored opponents 107-9 in the first quarter and 190-26 in the first half, and the Crimson Tide have yet to allow a first-half touchdown in SEC play this season. Freshman receiver Henry Ruggs III, whose 60-yard touchdown from Tagovailoa capped the scoring with 4:49 remaining, has five catches for 112 yards through eight games, with all five going for scores. Alabama is 11-for-11 on fourth-down conversions this season, going 2-for-2 Saturday with a pair of 1-yard Scarbrough touchdowns. The Crimson Tide have surpassed 600 yards in three of five league games (677 vs. Vanderbilt, 613 vs. Ole Miss and 604 vs. Tennessee.)
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.