TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama players once again got to light up those celebratory cigars after another win over border rival Tennessee.
This one just didn’t come quite so easily for the first three-plus quarters.
Bryce Young passed for 371 yards and two touchdowns, ran for two more scores and led No. 4 Alabama to a dominant fourth quarter and a 52-24 victory Saturday night over the Volunteers.
Brian Robinson ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns, helping the Crimson Tide (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) score 21 of their 28 fourth-quarter points in a little over six minutes.
“It’s a special rivalry to the Alabama fans and the players so we wanted to just have fun with it while we can,” Robinson said.
That fourth-quarter flurry turned a mostly competitive game against the Volunteers (4-4, 2-3), fueled by Hendon Hooker’s 282-yard passing performance, into another lopsided final score.
“The offense answered and we kept putting up points,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.
The result was Alabama’s 15th consecutive win in the border rivalry, with the previous five having an average margin of 33 points. And the players got to return to the field after it was over to light up and celebrate.
The Tide monopolized the ball for more than 40 minutes and converted 15 of 20 third-down plays. Tennessee was 2 of 13.
Young, a leading Heisman Trophy candidate, completed 31 of 43 passes and turned five of his frequent scrambles into first downs or touchdowns.
John Metchie caught 11 passes for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Jameson Williams gained 123 yards on six catches.
Hooker was 19-of-28 passing with three scores after . But he had a fourth-quarter pass intercepted by Jalyn Armour-Davis, who returned it 47 yards to set up another ‘Bama score.
“I thought Hendon battled all night long,” Vols coach Josh Heupel said. “I thought he was really efficient for the most part during the football game.
“I thought he continued to fight and play in the second half and had some big-time plays.”
Hooker’s status had been uncertain after a lower body injury sustained against No. 12 Mississippi.
“I was kind of just going day by day,” he said.
Tennessee’s Cedric Tillman had seven catches for 152 yards, including a 70-yard TD early in the fourth when Hooker hit him in stride down the right sideline.
That came quickly after Young pump faked, then ran and dove over the goal line for a 6-yard touchdown to open the fourth for a 31-17 lead. He bobbled the ball near the goal line before falling on it.
Thirty seconds. Two scores. But that one had to be reviewed before the on-field ruling was upheld.
“I was initially talking to the side judge, and he said the box didn’t have a view for it to be overturned and that he had crossed the goal line based on the footage they had,” Heupel said.
Then Alabama struck again, with Young launching a 65-yard bomb to Williams. That set up Robinson’s 15-yard touchdown that effectively quashed the Vols’ upset hopes.
“I’m not going to be negative about the game, I’m not going to be negative about our team,” Saban said. “Really positive about the way they went out there and kept competing in the game and even though everything wasn’t perfect we made the plays that we needed to make to win the game.”
Tennessee: Too many penalties (12 for 98 yards), too few rushing yards (64) is a hard combination to overcome against ‘Bama. But the Vols hadn’t scored that many points against the Tide since a 51-43 overtime win in 2003.
Alabama: Got off to a sloppy start with a roughing the kicker penalty setting up a Vols touchdown and a fumble inside the Tennessee 10 along with a blocked punt later. But the defense stood firm on some key drives and the offense delivered plenty of big plays.
Alabama figures to stay put in the rankings with No. 2 Cincinnati and No. 3 Oklahoma both winning close games and top-ranked Georgia off.
FACING FORMER TEAM
Alabama linebacker Henry To’oTo’o, who transferred from Tennessee, downplayed facing his former team.
“Playing Tennessee, it was fun,” he said. “A huge rivalry game. Being able to see my guys that I played with, it was fun. It was just the next guys on the schedule.”
Tennessee visits No. 15 Kentucky after an open date.
Alabama has an open date before hosting LSU.
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