The lyrics of the song assure that “there ain’t no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top.”
Bryant-Denny Stadium? That’s a different story.
For the 11th straight year, Alabama players fans were able to light up their traditional cigars and enjoy a few relaxed puffs of victory, this time in a one-sided 45-7 blowout of Tennessee, a team that seems as far from being a worthy rival as it has in 100 years.
No. 1-ranked Alabama rolled up 604 yards on offense. The Crimson Tide defense held UT to 108 yards and no points — Tennessee’s lone touchdown came on a 97-yard interception return by Daniel Bituli in the third quarter. The defense even generated a stadium-shaking roar — one of the few in a game that was decided by halftime — with a late goal-line stand.
“I’m excited, pleased and happy that we were able to win this game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s a big game for us, a big game for a lot of our people.
“I thought we came out in the second half and were more physical.”
That came after a week in which Saban described practice as “sluggish,” resulting in a “come to Jesus” meeting in which Saban again discussed the importance of individual motivation in the face of overwhelming acclaim. Despite that, Tennessee probably felt Alabama was more than sufficiently motivated.
The Crimson Tide had some fits and starts offensively in the first half but managed to finish two touchdown drives with Bo Scarborough going over the top of the defensive line for one-yard scores. Damien Harris added a third UA touchdown with 1:18 remaining in the half, giving Alabama a 21-0 lead.
The second half was more crisply played. Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts played just two series after halftime, completing a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr., ending the game with 198 yards passing on 13 of 21 accuracy. Backup Tua Tagovailoa completed 9 of 12 passes for 134 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs (who with five career receptions for five touchdowns) and added a 23-yard touchdown on the ground.
Meanwhile, the Alabama defense limited UT to just 42 yards in the second half. The Volunteers did not have an offensive play that covered more than 20 yards in the game.
“You aren’t going to go out and have methodical drives against that defense,” said embattled Tennessee coach Butch Jones. “You’ve got to make big plays. We didn’t do that.”
The loss was Tennessee’s third in a row and dropped the Volunteers to 3-4. Alabama is off to an 8-0 start for the eighth time in 11 seasons under Saban. Alabama is 5-0 in the SEC.
With its 11th consecutive win in the series, Alabama equaled its run from 1971 through 1981 under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. The win was also Alabama’s 22nd straight against SEC competition, including two wins in the SEC Championship Game.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.