Alabama gets dominant win over Tennessee, awaits LSU
By John Zenor - AP Sports Writer
October 21, 2007
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama had mixed a little bit of
everything into the season, from fast starts and strong finishes
to blown leads and loads of drama.
Simeon Castille breaks up a pass in the end zone intended for Tennessee's Austin Rogers
But Nick Saban's first Crimson Tide team hadn't done this: Fashion
a dominant, drama-free victory like Saturday's 41-17 win over rival
Tennessee. In fact, it was the first time No. 22 'Bama had managed
such an impressive win over a Southeastern Conference power since a
31-3 upset of Florida in 2005.
It vaulted the Tide back into the national rankings heading into an
open date and set the stage for a showdown with Saban's former team,
No. 3 LSU, in two weeks.
"I wanted to win for our players," he said. "I wanted to win for our
fans. I wanted them to see them do what we knew they were capable of."
That means a passing game that produced big plays along with an
effective short game that helped John Parker Wilson and receiver
DJ Hall have career games. It meant shutting out the league's top
passing team in the second half and withstanding the Volunteers'
The win left the Tide -- which won just two league games last
season -- tied with LSU for the SEC Western Division lead and was
a welcome relief for a team whose last six games were decided by a
combined 22 points. A week earlier, Alabama needed an instant
replay reversal negating a late pass to secure a 27-24 win at
"We played good in the beginning against Arkansas and good at the
end against Florida State," said Wilson, who passed for three
touchdowns and a career-high 363 yards. "We hadn't put 60 minutes
The Volunteers (4-3, 2-2), meanwhile, had a three-game winning streak
snapped and missed a chance to take control of the SEC East following
South Carolina's loss to Vanderbilt. They fell from the rankings
after coming in at No. 20 but now get to face the Gamecocks.
Tennessee scored two touchdowns to take a 14-10 lead early in the
second quarter, stealing away some of the momentum Alabama gained
with a successful onside kick to open the game. Vols coach Phillip
Fulmer dismissed any impact from that play.
"That little thing didn't have anything to do with it except it
did take a possession away from us," Fulmer said.
The outcome had more to do with Wilson and Hall, who had a
school-record 13 catches for 185 yards and caught two TD passes
and often matched up with Vols freshman defensive back Eric Berry.
"I don't want to say we were picking on him, but we saw he was out
of position a lot and we were just trying to take advantage of it,"
Saban said it was a product of a passing game that has gained
confidence. Wilson had perhaps his best game of the season against
Ole Miss and easily topped that performance by going 32-of-46 with
no interceptions against the Vols.
He connected with six receivers for multiple catches. Plus, Terry
Grant rushed for 104 yards and Alabama dominated the second half 17-0.
The Tide's 510 yards was the most in an SEC game since 2002.
Defensively, freshman Kareem Jackson had two second-half
interceptions, including one that ended Tennessee's best scoring
threat with the Vols down just 24-17 in the third quarter.
"We had the fewest mental errors that we have had all year long,
and I think that is why we executed well," Saban said. "They
believe in each other and themselves, and they did what we asked
them to do, to play 60 minutes in the game.
"When you challenged somebody to do something and they do it and you
see how happy it makes, them, I'm really pleased about that," he
Linebacker Darren Mustin, a Nashville native, was just glad to have
a chance to spend his free weekend at home "wearing Alabama
everything" and celebrating only the Tide's third win in the past
Then, attention turns to an even bigger game with LSU that now has
high stakes beyond the Tigers fans' desire to beat their former coach.
"LSU's got a great team," Mustin said. "If we can play another
complete game, who knows what can happen?"