By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. ?? Junior quarterback John Parker Wilson threw for 363 yards and three touchdowns against No. 20 Tennessee Saturday, leading the Alabama offense to a 24-point win over the Vols at Bryant-Denny Stadium, 41-17.
Wilson’s 363 yards gave the Hoover native his second 300-yard passing performance of the season, and for the sixth time this year senior receiver DJ Hall was his primary target. Hall caught 13 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the game, setting the Alabama single-game record for catches.
“It feels good,” Hall said. “It just shows the confidence [Wilson] has in me. He played great. Today’s one of the best games I think he’s ever had since I’ve been here. He spread it all around today.
“We clicked better than we have in the past.”
The Alabama defense shut out the Tennessee offense in the second half, led in large part by freshman Kareem Jackson’s two interceptions and two pass breakups in the Alabama secondary. The freshman had six tackles on the day including one for loss.
“The defense did a great job in the second half getting a couple of turnovers, getting a couple of key stops, not allowing them to get momentum to get back in the game,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama opened the game with an onside kick, recovering it at its own 45-yard line. The drive led to a 39-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Leigh Tiffin, his first of four on the day, to give the Tide an early 3-0 lead.
After a Tennessee punt, Wilson led the Alabama offense down the field again, connecting with Hall for 42 yards and finding freshman tailback Terry Grant in the end zone for a four-yard score to extend the Tide’s lead to 10-0.
Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge then led the Volunteers on their only two touchdown-scoring drives of the day ?? a 71-yard drive that ended with a two-yard run from tailback Arian Foster, and a 68-yard drive that was capped by a three-yard pass from Ainge to Luke Stocker.
Alabama closed the first half with a pair of touchdown catches from Hall ?? one a 16-yarder that capped an 86-yard drive, and one a two-yarder that capped a 75-yard drive to give Alabama 24 first-half points.
“We were able to throw a lot of out-routes today on play-action when they gave them to us,” Saban said. “You’ve still got to throw and catch it and those guys are doing a great job of doing it. DJ’s having a fantastic year for us.”
Alabama opened the second half with a pair of field goals before Grant added an eight-yard touchdown in the start of the fourth quarter. The two-point conversion, which was caught by Hall, made it 38-17 before a Tiffin field goal with less than five minutes left in the game gave Alabama the 24-point win, the largest margin of victory in the series since 1995.
“I’m really pleased and happy for our players,” Saban said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen them any happier than what they were today. I’m really pleased and happy for our fans and our coaching staff. They’ve worked hard and when you really put everything in something like our players did in this game and go out and play a complete game. We’ll have a chance to be successful, and the players did an outstanding job of that today.”
While Hall had the big day in the Alabama receiving corps, senior Matt Caddell had four catches for 58 yards, tight end Travis McCall had three for 21 yards and Grant had six for 31 yards and a score.
On the ground, Grant had 26 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. The score was Grant’s seventh of the year, breaking former Alabama tailback Shaun Alexander’s previous freshman touchdown record of six.
“We had to have everybody focused on one play, doing their job, doing their assignment, and that’s what we came out and did,” Caddell said. “We just had great focus and great mental intensity.”
Alabama (6-2, 4-1 SEC) is off next week before returning to Tuscaloosa Nov. 3 to host the LSU Tigers.