KNOXVILLE – Former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer and many of his 1997 SEC champion Volunteers were on the field before the Alabama game Saturday in Neyland Stadium.
A number of 102,455 fans would’ve probably preferred that he’d remained on the sideline during the game.
The Volunteers offered little resistance in a 44-13 loss to top-ranked Alabama, which dropped third-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley’s record to 0-14 against ranked opponents.
Alabama improved to 4-0 in the SEC and 7-0 overall, while Tennessee (0-4, 3-4) remained winless in the league.
“Well, we got whipped by a great football team (in) just about every phase,” Dooley said.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron was 17-of-22 passing for 306 yards and four touchdowns while working against a UT defense that continues to botch assignments and allow big plays at a dizzying rate.
Freshman receiver Amari Cooper found room to roam early and often. He was so open in the end zone that she essentially appeared to be fielding a punt on a 23-yard TD pass that gave the Tide a 7-0 lead with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
Cooper added a 42-yard TD catch that made the score 30-10 with 2:56 left in the third quarter and finished with seven catches for 162 yards, an Alabama record for freshmen.
Tight end Michael Williams was also open for a 1-yard play-action TD pass that gave Alabama a 20-3 lead with 6:55 left in the first half, and Kenny Bell was inexplicably ignored by sort-of-blitzing cornerback Justin Coleman for an easy 39-yard scoring strike that made the score 37-10 early in the third quarter.
“We just did a poor job,” Dooley said. “I mean, they throw four balls over our head. Twice we’re one-on-one and we get disoriented back there and we can’t make a play.”
Alabama finished with 539 yards total offense. Freshman T.J. Yeldon had 129 yards rushing and two TDs, and Alabama finished with 233 yards rushing.
Tennessee threatened to make the game interesting in the second half. The Vols trailed 23-10 and had 3rd-and-1 at the Alabama 33 midway through the third quarter, but incompleted a deep pass on third down and saw A.J. Johnson stuffed out on a fourth-down carry out of the Wildcat package.
Alabama answered with a six-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Cooper’s TD catch.
Tennessee drove to the Alabama 18 on the ensuing drive, but Tyler Bray was intercepted in the end zone on a 2nd-and-13 throw.
“Really disappointed we didn’t execute a little better on offense,” Dooley said. “That’s probably the thing I was a little surprised at. Quarterback didn’t play well. I’m not sure why. …
“We take a shot on 3rd-and-1 and we get stuffed on 4th-and-1, and then we throw a pick, which was a bad throw, the next series.”
Bray finished 13 of 27 for 184 yards and two interceptions.
Justin Hunter had four catches for 70 yards, although he dropped a long pass that would’ve put Tennessee in field goal range with eight or nine seconds left in the first half.
The drop amplified boos that had begun when Dooley chose to allow some 25 seconds to elapse after the Vols advanced the ball to their 37-yard line with 37 seconds remaining and two timeouts.
Marlin Lane led UT with 15 carries for 55 yards and five catches for 48 yards.
Dooley said after the game that he believes he has the support of the administration.
Alabama’s 23-10 halftime lead was its smallest since leading LSU 9-0 in last season’s national championship game.
Alabama transfer Darrington Sentimore had a sack and two quarterback hurries. Tennessee defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri’s son Vinnie, a sophomore safety at Alabama, had six tackles and one tackle for loss.
Tennessee visits South Carolina on Saturday (noon, ESPN).