Every game lasts 60 minutes, but most Alabama games effectively last five, maybe 10. The No. 1 Tide’s tilt with Tennessee appears headed that way through one half.
Alabama leads 42-14 at the break in Knoxville.
Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and, for the eighth time in eight tries, scored a touchdown on its opening possession. Tua Tagovailoa guided the Crimson Tide 58 yards in nine plays, including a 10-yard connection to Jaylen Waddle on a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 35 and an 11-yard scoring toss to Jerry Jeudy.
And then came the knockout punch.
On a 3rd-and-10 from the Tennessee 25, Alabama’s Xavier McKinney sacked Tennessee’s Jarrett Guarantano and forced a fumble, which was recovered by Christian Miller for the visitors at the Vols’ 3. Josh Jacobs punched it in for the score, putting the Tide up 14-0 at the 10:35 mark of the first quarter.
After the score, Alabama’s defense forced a three-and-out, and Tagovailoa hit Waddle for a 77-yard touchdown strike on the first snap of the ensuing possession.
After another Vols three-and-out, Alabama moved 93 yards in nine plays, gaining 46 yards on two completions to Jeudy and scoring on a 3-yard Damien Harris rush, pushing Alabama’s lead to 28-0 with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.
Tennessee regrouped in the second quarter, forcing two straight three-and-outs (a first for Alabama this season), then moving 75 yards in five plays to get on the board. Guarantano hit Josh Palmer for a 30-yard gain but was forced to leave the game after taking a hit. Keller Chryst entered and found Ty Chandler for consecutive gains of 26 and 10 yards, the latter putting Tennessee on the board at 28-7 with 7:21 to play in the first half.
Jeremy Pruitt called for an onside kick after the score, which Tennessee recovered… one yard before it was allowed to do so.
Alabama took over at the Tennessee 43 and capitalized with its fifth first half touchdown, a 2-yard Jacobs plunge that moved Alabama’s lead to 35-7 with 4:23 left in the first half.
But Chryst’s presence in the game continued to exploit a vulnerability in the Alabama secondary. Facing a 3rd-and-12 at his own 17, Chryst found Jauan Jennings for consecutive gains of 23 and 40 yards to move the ball to the Alabama 20. After an incompletion to Jennings, Chryst connected with Tyler Byrd for a 20-yard touchdown strike, pulling the Vols back within 21 with 2:18 left before the break.
Though Tennessee may have cracked the Alabama defense, the Tide’s offense remained unstoppable. Alabama needed 123 seconds to move 85 yards in nine plays, scoring on a 9-yard toss from Tagovailoa to Irv Smith, Jr.
The sophomore missed on an uncharacteristic 10 passes, wrapping the first half 15-of-25 for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Jacobs carried 11 carries for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
While Guarantano closed the half 5-of-10 for 63 yards, Chryst sliced the Tide to the tune of 119 yards and two touchdowns on 5-of-7 passing.
Alabama has out-rushed Tennessee 95 to minus-11.
The Vols will receive to open the second half.