Alabama Delivers Tennessee Worst Series Beating Since 1963
By the end of the third quarter, Vol fans were fleeing and Alabama fans were leading Roll Tide cheers. By late in the fourth quarter even Alabama fans were leaving. How bad did it get? Alabama had not beaten Tennessee this bad since 1963. And in the 93-year history of this series, Alabama had never beaten Tennessee by 31 points at Neyland Stadium.
Having just completed his seventh game at Tennessee, first year coach Derek Dooley, now 2-5, has already notched the worst beating in Neyland Stadium history -- Sept. 11 against Oregon -- and the worst beating in Neyland Stadium history against the Vols' biggest rival.
What's he going to do for a hat trick, lose to Kentucky for the first time in 26 years?
It seems likely.
As honeymoons go, Derek Dooley picked Baghdad in 2007. You halfway expect for land mines to start going off on the Volunteer sideline. By the end of the day there were only only two things that were flawless for the Volunteers: Dooley's immaculately coiffed hair which maintained its shape despite the points deluge and the Knoxville traffic. Everyone was gone by midway through the fourth quarter.
The Volunteer defense was particularly generous to the opponent. Alabama's Julio Jones set an all-time receiving record at Bama with 12 catches for 221 yards. "Everybody's throwing it on us," Dooley said. "They watch the film. Film says throw it." After throwing it for 264 yards Greg McElroy was pulled with 12 minutes left. That way redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron could get his own opportunity to scorch the Volunteer defense, which he did, going three-for-three for 62 yards. Eventually Alabama called off the first rounders and settled for 538 yards of total offense and a 41-10 victory.
The Volunteers' worst home performance in the 93-year history of the series was crystallized when Ben Martin, an injured defensive end wearing jeans and a jersey on the sideline, was flagged for a personal foul in the first half. At least Dooley has one record at Tennessee -- first player wearing jeans to ever cost his team 15 yards. After the game, Dooley suggested that the Vols were improving, although he acknowledged, "Statistically you don't see any improvement." Asked when Tennessee might be capable of competing against Alabama again, as the Vols were last year in a 12-10 loss in Tuscaloosa, Dooley replied, "I am not a wizard."
Merlin or not, on the other sideline Nick Saban waved his magic wand and his team delivered its best performance of the season. Granted it was against an anemic Vols team that might not be capable of winning a single SEC game this season, but, save a missed field goal that hit the uprights so hard it shook for three minutes, Alabama was virtually flawless. On a night when yet another top team fell to the wayside with Oklahoma's loss at Missouri, it's becoming crystal clear that Alabama still controls its own fate in the BCS race. Now 7-1, if the Crimson Tide can beat beat LSU in two weeks and Auburn on the day after Thanksgiving, they'll be set for the SEC championship game. Win that game in Atlanta, perhaps a rematch against South Carolina, and a 12-1 Crimson Tide team heads for Glendale, finishing ahead of undefeated Michigan State, Boise State, and TCU, unfair as that may be.
It's beginning to look like Alabama-Auburn is going to be the nastiest de facto playoff game in college football history. But that's in Alabama's future. Tonight in Knoxville, on the fourth Saturday in October, it's questionable whether any Volunteer team has ever been further from championship contention. Certainly in this generation, or more, at least. Asked if his 2-5 team was out of the woods, having now lost to Alabama, Oregon, Florida and LSU, among others, Dooley was apoplectic.
"Out of the woods? We're going right into the forest and there's animals everywhere," he said.
And right now the orange brick road is headed in only one direction: down. I'm not sure where rock bottom is, but I'm pretty sure there are orange and white pom-poms waiting there.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail returning for the football season, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com