October 20, 2007

Rocky Toppled

There was no Andre Caldwell, no Marlon Davis, and thanks to a first-half injury, there might as well have been no Ezekial Knight.

But there was DJ Hall.

And on a day when Alabama took the field without five suspended players against its toughest opponent yet, Hall was just about all the Crimson Tide needed.

Alabama (6-2, 4-1 SEC) rolled to a 41-17 victory over rival Tennessee Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium as the senior wide receiver set yet another school record with 13 receptions. The performance was the third 100-yard game against Tennessee in Hall's career, and this one - 13-185, two touchdowns - was the best yet.

"We move him around," said coach Nick Saban. "In a lot of our spread formations he's the third inside receiver, which usually you're not getting the best player to cover him there. He's done a great job of getting open, and done a great job of using his hands. DJ's having a fantastic year for us."

Hall had 10 catches for 130 yards by halftime, but as Tennessee made halftime adjustments to slow down Hall, Crimson Tide quarterback John Parker Wilson found it all the easier to connect with other options.

"They kind of switched the coverage up to what they call a two-man," said Hall. "That kind of pretty much took me out of a lot of stuff, but that's how other guys got open and made plays too."

Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer said Alabama showed little with Hall that the Volunteers had not prepared for.

"They put him in a lot of places, but they did that coming in," said Fulmer. "The under routes, the corner routes, they did a nice job. When we were in man, they'd pick us a little bit and run away from us. It was nothing we hadn't seen or worked on."

Wilson's day - 32 of 46 for 363 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions - marked his best career performance in his first signature victory. The junior tied a school record with 32 completions (Gary Hollingsworth vs. Tennessee, 1989) and set a new career personal mark with 363 yards.

"We got in a good rhythm early and stayed in it the whole game," said Wilson. "It makes it easy when guys are getting open like that."

As for the suspensions of Caldwell, Davis, Marquis Johnson, Glen Coffee and Chris Rogers, Saban said he did not become aware of the investigation until Friday. Prior to the game, the university issued a release identifying those five players as part of a still-open investigation into improper receipt of textbooks. Director of Athletics Mal Moore was quoted in the release as saying that the suspensions were in response to the facts as the university knew them at game time.

"Obviously, there were some players who did not use good judgment in what they did," said Saban. "There's also a system in place that shouldn't allow this to happen that obviously didn't work. … One of the most difficult things I've had to do was tell those five guys yesterday, who made the same commitment that you saw from the guys on the field."

Alabama's offense tallied 510 total yards - it's highest total against a Southeastern Conference opponent this season. Terry Grant broke the 100-yard mark for the first time since the Vanderbilt game with a 26-for-104 performance, including one touchdown each rushing and receiving. Leigh Tiffin connected on four of five field-goal attempts, and while it wasn't converted into points, Javier Arenas broke yet another kick return with a 62-yard scamper in the first half.

Defensively, freshman Kareem Jackson made Alabama's most important play of the afternoon with an interception inside the Alabama 10 that he returned 29 yards. At the time, Alabama led just 24-17 and had done little to slow the Volunteers offense. Jackson had another interception in the fourth quarter.

"Two picks versus Tennessee?" said linebacker Darren Mustin. "Versus Ainge, who's going to be an NFL quarterback? That's saying a lot for a true freshman. The sky is the limit for that kid."

INVESTIGTAION - I wasn't infrmed of this until last night. Obv there were some players who did not use good judgemnt in what they did. There's also a system in place that shouldn't allow this to happen the obviously didn't work. … We can't tolerate poor judgement, and you need to do what's right, and when you don't do what's right most of the time there's serious consequences for it. … We're going to support our players… they obviously made a mistake. One of the most difficult things I've had to do was yesterday tell thoe five guys yesterday who made the same commitment thwt you saw from the guys on the field today, they made that commitment too and didn't get to do it. Hopefully there's a lesson that we learn from this.

Tennessee sidebar
If Alabama's offensive line thought it had to shuffle due to the recent absences of guards Marlon Davis and Justin Britt for personal reasons, it learned a new definition for the word on Saturday.

It's best and most versatile starter, Antoine Caldwell, was the most critical name among five Alabama players who sat out the game while the university investigates institutional policy violations related to textbooks. Davis was also suspended, leaving the Crimson Tide with only three regular starters available up front with no more than two days to practice without them.

As far as Tennessee was concerned, plug-in B.J. Stabler might as well have been John Hannah.

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