Posted by Jerry Hinnen
ALABAMA WON: The halftime score in Tuscaloosa was one of the most stunning of the season: Alabama 6, Tennessee 6. The score at the end of the third quarter -- after a 75-yard Tide TD drive, a stop of the Vols on 4th-and-inches, and two more quick touchdowns -- made a lot more sense. Still, lopsided final score or not, Nick Saban won't be happy--particularly with a rushing attack that only accumulated 35 first-half yards and finished averaging barely more than 4 a carry. Trent Richardson had his streak of five straight 100-yard games snapped, finishing with 77.
WHY ALABAMA WON: Because in the end, the Alabama defense is still the Alabama defense. Sure, the Vols got more push up front and more done on the ground than expected--those 61 first-half yards represented more than the Tide had given up in their first three SEC games combined. And Matt Simms was able to make the occasional play through the first 30 minutes, despite his expectedly ugly final line (8-of-17, 58 yards, 0 TDs, 1 pick).
But the Volunteers' second-half possessions went like this: three plays, punt; four plays, turnover on downs; three plays, punt; three plays, punt; one play, interception; one play, fumble recovery; four plays, turnover on downs. For the Tide defense for the half, that's infinity more turnovers forced (two) than first downs allowed (zero). When the night was over, despite the "strong" start, the Vols had gained all of 154 total yards. How good is the Tide defense? The team played its worst game overall in weeks--and still won by 31
WHEN ALABAMA WON: Give Derek Dooley credit: he came to Tuscaloosa aiming to win. And that's why, down 13-6 and facing a 4th-and-inches on his own 39 early in the third quarter, he kept his offense on the field. Simms appears to have earned the first down with the sneak, but a controversial spot put the ball just short of the marker and was upheld by replay. The very next snap, McCarron threw 39 yards to Kenny Bell, touchdown, 20-6. And in terms of deciding a winner, that was that.
WHAT ALABAMA WON: An undefeated record as they prepare to host undefeated LSU in two weeks in the Game of the Century of the Year. Whatever else you want to say about the Tide's performance tonight (and in the end, most of those things should be positive), that's all they really needed.
WHAT TENNESSEE LOST: The redshirt on freshman quarterback Justin Worley, surprisingly, who entered the game in the fourth quarter to hand off and nothing else; it may be an indication Dooley is planning on handing Worley a start in the Vols' next game. Other than that, not much--the Vols gave Alabama something close to their best shot. It just wasn't enough.