TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Tennessee muted the chatter about that Alabama-LSU showdown for a half, at least.
AJ McCarron passed for 284 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score to lead No. 2 Alabama to a second-half surge and a 37-6 rout of the Volunteers Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) scored on its first five possessions after halftime to turn a tie game with the rival Volunteers (3-4, 0-4) into a blowout. That set up a two-week bonanza of hype ahead of Alabama’s showdown with No. 1 LSU, which routed Auburn 45-19 in a game that ended shortly before this one kicked off.
Now, both SEC powers head into an open date. The “LSU” chants began with a couple of minutes left with most of the fans staying until the end and giving a roar when the public address announcer invited them back to the next game.
Alabama had either first downs or touchdowns on its first 10 plays of the second half to bust open a 6-6 game and let the pre-LSU hype start anew.
The Tide outgained the Vols 280-41 in the second half and the nation’s No. 1 defense didn’t allow a first down.
Trent Richardson scored two touchdowns in the second half but finished with 77 yards, leaving him tied with Shaun Alexander for the school mark of six straight 100-yard rushing games.
This one was more about the Tide righting itself from early struggles and overpowering an opponent than boosting Richardson’s Heisman credentials.
The offense that sputtered along in the first half exploded for 21 points in the third quarter. The defense that let Tennessee sustain a couple of drives of double-digit plays for field goals before the half put the clamps on emphatically.
The end result was a ninth straight win by at least 16 points and a fifth straight defeat of the Volunteers.
McCarron was 17-of-26 passing though a string of 152 passes without an interception ended on his second attempt.
It also ended Alabama’s string of 50 possessions with no turnovers. The Tide also failed to score on either of its first two possessions for the first time this season.
Those were just aesthetic matters given the final score.
Marquis Maze had five catches for 106 yards, including a 69-yarder.
Matt Simms completed 8 of 17 passes for 58 yards and an interception for Tennessee a week after facing LSU’s defense. Tauren Poole managed 67 yards on 19 rushes.
As for head-to-head comparisons, the game didn’t settle much. LSU won last week 38-7 for the same margin.
Whatever coach Nick Saban told McCarron and the Tide at halftime, it clearly worked.
McCarron completed his first four passes of the second half for 73 yards, then covered the final 2 yards himself for the game’s first touchdown.
Vols coach Derek Dooley then summoned one of his five fourth-down gambles, this one in Tennessee territory. Simms was stuffed inches shy on a sneak.
McCarron struck instantly, hitting Kenny Bell in the end zone for a 39-yard touchdown. There was little doubt after that.
Richardson got his 16th rushing touchdown by shrugging off a couple of attempted arm tackles for a 12-yard score. He added a 1-yarder with 9:27 left before heading to the bench.
The Vols cashed in on fourth-down gambles on each of their first-half field goal drives, including a fake punt that set up Michael Palardy’s 52-yarder to tie it at 6-all. It was Tennessee’s longest field goal since Jeff Hall’s 53-yarder against Oklahoma State in 1995 and the first second quarter points the Tide had allowed all season.