KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Alabama's opponents have figured out how to limit its powerful running game. Now the Crimson Tide (No. 8 BCS, No. 7 AP) has shown it can be just as dangerous in the air.
Julio Jones set a single-game school record with 221 yards on a career-high 12 catches, Greg McElroy threw for 264 yards and A.J. McCarron hit Trent Richardson on a 5-yard touchdown pass as Alabama (7-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) scored 28 unanswered second-half points to beat Tennessee 41-10 on Saturday night.
"Our focus this week was to try to distinguish ourselves by playing to a higher standard, and I challenged everybody to do that and I feel like in the second half we did that," said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who got a win over his former assistant, first-year Tennessee coach Derek Dooley, in their first meeting on opposite sidelines.
Saban was displeased with the Crimson Tide's effort in recent games and worried this week that his players had become satisfied with simply winning. Through the first half, the Tide appeared to be in for another competitive game like its 12-10 victory over the Volunteers in 2009, when it needed Terrance Cody's block on a 44-yard field goal attempt by Tennessee to win.
The Vols (2-5, 0-4) took a lesson from South Carolina and Mississippi, who successfully limited the Crimson Tide the past two weeks by blitzing and pressuring McElroy. The effort wore down a team plagued by a lack of depth, and Alabama got its fourth straight win over Tennessee for the first time since a seven-game winning streak from 1986 to 1992.
"As a defense we compete for a half -- tackling, wrapping up the running backs, filling gaps. The second half I thought we fell apart, which seems to be a story that keeps coming," Tennessee linebacker Nick Reveiz said.
Alabama, which has now won 22 straight over unranked opponents, came out of halftime with only a 13-10 lead but wasted no time in the third quarter. The Tide racked up three straight first downs on its opening drive before Mark Ingram pushed the ball 1 yard for the touchdown for a 20-10 lead.
"[At halftime] everyone just sat and thought about the opportunities we might have missed in the first half," McElroy said. "We are pleased with the way we came out in the second half."
McElroy's success connecting with Jones opened it up for Alabama on the ground. Richardson and Mark Ingram had just 91 yards rushing at halftime, but added 96 yards on the ground in the third quarter.
Richardson broke a 65-yard run for a touchdown on Alabama's next drive, and Ingram followed that up with another 1-yard touchdown run to make it 34-10 with 3:45 in the third quarter. McElroy completed 21 of 32, mostly to Jones.
"We fought them pretty hard for 30 minutes and were scrapping and fighting," Dooley said. "When we came out in the third quarter they got some big plays, and we made some bad mistakes. They took advantage with a few scores and then the game got away from us. The third quarter, obviously, was the difference."
For their part, the Vols had a few shots to keep the game competitive in the second half. Matt Simms led a long drive that eventually stalled at the Alabama 35 after three straight run plays, and Michael Palardy missed a 52-yard field goal attempt that could have cut the Crimson Tide's lead to a touchdown.
Simms drove the Vols the length of the field when they got the ball back after Richardson's touchdown, but Robert Lester stepped in front of a would-be touchdown pass to Gerald Jones and took the ball to the Vols 20. Simms was also taken to the ground by Dont'a Hightower on that play and never returned to the game.
Simms finished 12 for 22 for 117 yards and an interception, but no touchdowns.
Tennessee got the first score for the first time since the Vols' 17-13 win in 2004. Tauren Poole found a gaping hole in the line and ran 59 yards to the end zone with 8:44 left in the first quarter.
Poole finished with 117 yards on the ground, becoming the first player to rush for more than 100 yards against Alabama since Mississippi's BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 131 on Oct. 13, 2007.
"We still have a lot of things we are needing to work on," Alabama defensive end Marcell Dareus said. "We are just coming into our own."
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