The Crimson Tide headed into the locker room disappointingly knotted up at six with rival Tennessee. Heisman candidate Trent Richardson was limited to only 37 yards and AJ McCarron threw his first interception since the season opener against Kent State.
Alabama knew that it must perform better if it wanted to avoid what many feared would be a letdown game for the Tide.
“We just got together as a team, the offense and the defense,” wide receiver Kenny Bell said. “Marquis Maze and myself got together and we told the team we needed to step up our game, and that’s what we did.”
Though many assumed it was head coach Nick Saban who rallied the team during halftime, it was actually the players who responded themselves, calling for better performance in the second half.
“We take pride in that we take it upon ourselves to get everybody up,” offensive lineman Alfred McCullough said. “We shouldn’t have to have coaches get us up for a game.”
Whatever the players said, Alabama returned to the game a new team. After stopping the Volunteers on a three-and-out to start the third quarter, Alabama drove 75 yards down the field for a score, as quarterback AJ McCarron ran in a touchdown to put Alabama up 13-6.
A newly inspired Tide defense stuffed Tennessee on a fourth-and-one on the Tennessee 39, and one play later would break the game wide open. On the next play after the fourth-down stop, McCarron found Bell for a 39-yard touchdown strike to give Alabama a comfortable 20-6 lead.
That lead would be more than enough for the Tide as Alabama soon turned a close game into the blowout many had predicted.
“I saw something different in all of us,” wide receiver Darius Hanks said. “We wanted the win.”
Alabama would get the win, its fifth straight against the Volunteers, holding the Volunteers to 155 total yards en route to a 37-6 victory.
Next up for the Tide is a highly anticipated game against the LSU Tigers. Alabama will have two weeks to prepare for the Tigers and while Saban said the rest would be good for the team, Alabama players will have to ban together and focus themselves in order to not get caught up in the hype.
“We can’t watch TV,” Richardson said. “We can’t buy into the hype. I know they are going to be saying LSU is better, or they might be saying we are better, but we can’t buy into that. We’ve got to go out there and play one play at a time.”
Saban said the team would not over-prepare for the game and that they would use the bye week to rest up and work on fundamentals. The head coach also spoke on the anticipation of the game.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of hype about this game, but I think everybody needs to chill out,” Saban said. “We will have plenty of time to get ready for that game.”
Alabama will face LSU Nov. 5 at Bryant-Denny Stadium at 7 p.m.