When two starting offensive linemen get suspended, somebody has to step up. With Antoine Caldwell and right guard Marlon Davis out for Alabama, B.J. Stabler filled in for Davis at right guard and Justin Britt returned to his usual left tackle slot after missing practice two weeks ago to tend to his injured mother.
“It’s a team sport, so I play for the team,” Stabler said after the Tide’s 41-17 victory. “It’s all about life. Sometimes you get thrown a curve ball. Life gives you an orange, you have to make orange juice.”
In suspended running back Glen Coffee’s absence, Terry Grant carried 26 times for 104 yards. Roy Upchurch also had six carries for 15 yards. It marked Grant’s most yards since his 173-yard performance against Vanderbilt.
When asked about Alabama’s makeshift offensive line, Grant gave praise to the group.
“Those guys were ready,” Grant said. “They were patient. They stayed ready, and their time came and they showed what they could do.”
Crimson Tide fullback Baron Huber, a Knoxville native, used to worry about possible Alabama victories against Tennessee. Now he can celebrate one.
In the week leading up to the game, Huber talked at length about his affection for the Vols as a child. On Saturday, he was content to be on the winning side.
“It will make an easy drive for my parents,” Huber said. “They’ll be a lot more happy this year.”
Huber once joked that maybe the coaching staff would draw a play for him to run the ball, but it wasn’t meant to be.
On Alabama’s last series, Huber lined up behind quarterback Greg McElroy, but did not get a carry.
Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson refused to comment when asked if he had his victory cigar from beating Tennessee.
“Maybe,” Wilson said with a grin.
According to coach Nick Saban, it’s against NCAA rules to use tobacco, and his players never really said anything to him about it.
“I don’t think anybody even thought about it, to be honest with you,” Saban said. “The players were so happy. I know it’s a tradition here. The players never came and asked me about it.
“I never mentioned it to them. Nobody mentioned it to me. Nobody said anything about it after the game.”
Added Saban, “It’s not really my style.”
No call for Gilberry
Alabama defensive end Wallace Gilberry searched the numerous text messages in his phone following the Tide’s victory. There were none from Chuck Smith, a former Tennessee star and NFL All-Pro defensive end.
Smith has tutored Gilberry since he spoke to the Crimson Tide during preseason practice. He sent Gilberry a text message before the game
It said: “Keep hunting, attack all, Explode, play fast, use your hands as weapons, use head fakes and vision yourself being unblockable.”
Gilberry’s sack streak ended at two games, as he had three total tackles, but none of them of Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge in the backfield. The Crimson Tide did not sack Ainge. The Vols lead the nation by allowing only two sacks this year.
Linebacker Darren Mustin knew it would be a tough game on his sister Dametria, a 2003 graduate of Tennessee.
A native of Brentwood, Tenn., Mustin said his sister was rooting for the right person, if not the right team.
“My sister is going to call me and tell me that she loves me to death,” Mustin said. “My sister is a ‘me’ fan — she’s a Darren fan above anything else. She might be bleeding orange a little bit. But she is a Darren fan.”
Alabama’s linebacker rotation swung in a positive way for Decatur High grad Rolando McClain, a Tide freshman.
McClain split time with Prince Hall at middle linebacker throughout the game. McClain finished with five tackles, and Hall had six. Mustin led the Tide with eight tackles.
Following Alabama freshman defensive back Kareem Jackson’s second interception of the game, he walked over to fellow cornerback Simeon Castille and flashed two fingers.
Jackson had his first two interceptions of the season against the Vols, tying him with Castille for the team lead.
“I said something to him before the game, and I was kidding with him that he doesn’t have an interception,” Castille said. “He caught me in one game. I was very excited for him, and he played a monster game.”
In the third quarter, with Tennessee driving on Alabama’s 36-yard line, Ainge threw the ball to Denarius Moore. Jackson cut in front of Moore, caught the ball and returned it to the Alabama 39-yard line.
If Jackson didn’t make the play, Moore would have sprinted into the end zone, uncontested.
“They were driving on us and making plays,” Tide safety Rashad Johnson said. “We needed somebody to step up and make a play and that’s what he did.”
Namath at Bryant-Denny
Television cameras caught former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath watching the game at Bryant-Denny Stadium from the press box.
Namath was an All-American for the Crimson Tide in 1964, the year he led Alabama to a national championship.
Grading the CrimsonTide
Decatur Daily Sports Writer Josh Cooper grades Alabama’s performance in Saturday’s 41-17 win over Tennessee, giving the CrimsonTide a letter grade from A+ to F in four categories.
The Crimson Tide gained 510 yards on a Tennessee defense. Repeat it one more time. That is not a joke.
The subtraction here comes from the 17 points in the first half. Though the Tide shut out Tennessee in the second half, remember what Alabama coach Nick Saban says: It’s a 60-minute game.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
Leigh Tiffin’s only missed field goal was a 48-yarder in the first half. Javier Arenas also produced yet another ridiculous return, this one of the 62-yard variety.
THE BIG PICTURE:A+
Against one of its two biggest rivals, Alabama defeated the Vols by 24 points. Saban was brought to Alabama to win these kinds of games.
Best and worst
Best first play: What better way to show you have confidence in your team than with an onside kick to start the game. Alabama only got three points out of it, but the Tide played like it had something to prove the rest of the way.
Best time for a bye week: The Crimson Tide has to be spent after such a dominating performance. Last season, Alabama played 12 straight games, and it suffered down the stretch. There will be no such excuse this year.
Best possible debut: Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban handed Phillip Fulmer his worst loss to Alabama in his 15 years as Tennessee’s coach.
Worst time to be suspended: While a university release said only that Alabama’s Antoine Caldwell, Glen Coffee, Marlon Davis, Marquis Johnson and Chris Rogers were suspended for a “violation of institutional policy involving impermissible receipt of textbooks,” the Tennessee game is not a time to go in short-handed — even if the Tide won.
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