KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — In 2016, the Alabama football team defeated Tennessee by 39 points.
In 2017, Alabama won by 38 points.
On Saturday, Alabama rolled to a 37-point win.
By 2056, this rivalry is going to be fierce.
Although it probably won’t take that long, there is still a substantial gap between the two as the No. 1 Crimson Tide emphatically demonstrated in a 58-21 win at Neyland Stadium.
The 58 points are the most ever scored by either side in the 101-year rivalry. Alabama (8-0, 5-0 SEC) had reached that total before the end of the third quarter, then spent the fourth quarter running the ball more powerfully, but just as mercifully, as Mother Teresa.
Tua Tagovailoa, after a week of speculation about his knee (despite assurances from UA head coach Nick Saban that the sophomore quarterback was “fine”) had another stellar performance, completing 19 of 29 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns. As in every game this season, Tagovailoa left action before the start of the fourth quarter.
“Tua had a good day,” Saban said. “Everyone is going to want to know, he’s fine. He could have gone back in the game.”
Alabama opened the game with a steady touchdown drive, not a lightning strike, with Jerry Jeudy catching an 11-yard pass from Tagovailoa. But a fumble on a sack of Vol quarterback Jarrett Guarantano gave Alabama quick field position and Josh Jacobs cashed in the turnover with a 3-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 before five minutes had elapsed.
Alabama added a 77-yard Tagovailoa-to-Jaylen Waddle touchdown and a three-yard run by Damien Harris to cap the first quarter with 28 points.
Guarantano left the game after a heavy hit from Mack Wilson late in the second quarter, although his backup, Keller Chryst, had a solid showing with two touchdown scores.
Meanwhile, Alabama added a second Jacobs’ touchdown run, a 9-yard pass from Tagovailoa to Irv Smith Jr., a 41-yarder to Henry Ruggs and a 21-yard scoring run by Jalen Hurts.
The Vols intercepted Hurts once, with 275-pound defensive end Kyle Phillips returning a tipped ball 27 yards for the final Vol score.
The win was Alabama’s 12th straight over Tennessee, the longest streak by either side in the series.
“They come to play and you’ve got to come to play, too, when you play them,” said Tennessee defensive back Nigel Warrior. “They’ve got a great quarterback, great receivers and that’s what you can do with weapons.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225