KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Alabama's opponents have figured out how to limit its powerful running game. Now the No. 7 Crimson Tide has shown it can be just as dangerous in the air.
Julio Jones set a school record with 221 yards on a career-high 12 catches, Greg McElroy threw for 264 yards and backup quarterback A.J. McCarron hit running back Trent Richardson on a 5-yard touchdown pass as Alabama scored 28 unanswered second-half points Saturday night to beat Tennessee 41-10.
"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.
Saban was displeased with the Crimson Tide's effort in recent games and worried that his players had become satisfied with simply winning. In the first half the Tide appeared to be in for another tight game like its 12-10 win over the Volunteers in 2009, when it needed Terrence Cody's block on UT's last-second 44-yard field goal to remain unbeaten on the way to a national title.
The Vols took a lesson from South Carolina and Mississippi, who limited the Tide the previous two weeks by blitzing and pressuring McElroy. But the effort wore down a team plagued by a lack of depth.
"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," Vols linebacker Nick Reveiz said.
McElroy finished 21-of-32 for 264 yards, mostly to Jones, who broke David Palmer's mark of 217 receiving yards against Vanderbilt in 1993.
NO. 19 S.C. 21, VANDY 7: Brian Maddox came off the bench to run for a career-high 146 yards and the clinching touchdowns for the Gamecocks, who snapped a seven-game SEC road losing streak dating to 2008. Maddox replaced an ineffective Kenny Miles, who started for injured freshman Marcus Lattimore. "Brian did excellent," coach Steve Spurrier said. "Kenny just couldn't get a hole. I feel bad for Kenny but when Brian got his chance he was making things happen. He got the game ball." Maddox's touchdown from 2 yards with 4:59 left in the third broke a 7-7 tie.
No. 21 Arkansas 38, Miss. 24: Knile Davis ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns for the host Razorbacks. Down 24-3 early in the third, the Rebels twice pulled within a touchdown. Both times, Davis answered with touchdowns, from 71 and 22 yards. "The offensive line gives me a lot of support back there," Davis said. "And that gives me the time to do what I've got to do." It was the Razorbacks' first win over the Rebels in three tries since coach Houston Nutt left Fayetteville for Oxford after the 2007 season. Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, back from a concussion sustained last week, went 13-of-24 for 196 yards and a touchdown before leaving after the first of two lightning delays with a bruised shoulder.
NO. 24 MISS. ST. 29, UAB 24: Freshman LaDarius Perkins rushed for 131 yards and a touchdown as the host Bulldogs survived an upset scare. Playing as a nationally ranked team for the first time since 2001, the Bulldogs won their fifth straight, the program's longest streak since 1999. They also earned bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons and only the second time in a decade. UAB rallied to take a 24-23 lead before Mississippi State's Derek DePasquale hit his fourth and fifth field goals of the night. "I thought we came out flat as a team tonight, and we're definitely going to have an opportunity to address that in practice this week," MSU coach Dan Mullen said.
GEORGIA 44, KENTUCKY 31: Washaun Ealey set a school record with five rushing touchdowns for the visiting Bulldogs, who won their third straight. Ealey had a season-high 157 yards on 28 carries before getting banged up late. He broke the mark of four rushing TDs, set most recently by running back Robert Edwards in 1997, and matched Edwards' mark for total touchdowns in a game set in 1995 against South Carolina.