'Dores drop road test at Alabama
Oct. 8, 2011
Final Stats | Quotes | Notes | Stan Jones' Photos | AP Photos
Franklin PC | Player Interviews | Highlights | Fisher's Report | Pregame Photos
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Vanderbilt played No. 2 Alabama just about even for the first 29 minutes or so.
Then the Commodores couldn't stop the Crimson Tide's long end-of-half touchdown drive, or do much else from there in Saturday night's 34-0 defeat.
Vanderbilt (3-2, 1-2 Southeastern Conference) missed two field goals and allowed a last-minute touchdown in the first half after hovering within seven points.
"When we had opportunities to make big plays, we didn't come up with those plays," Commodores coach James Franklin said. "Against a good team like that, you have to take advantage of those opportunities."
Vandy has now lost two straight games against ranked opponents after a 3-0 start, managing just one field goal against South Carolina and the Tide (6-0, 3-0). Quarterback Larry Smith left this one in the first half with a lower leg injury.
AJ McCarron passed for career-highs of 237 yards and four touchdowns for Alabama while Trent Richardson rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in his fifth straight 100-yard effort.
Still, Alabama looked downright ordinary for most of the first half as it tried to follow up dominant performances against Arkansas and Florida in much-hyped games that turned into mismatches.
"We obviously didn't play our best football game, especially in the first half," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We didn't have the mental energy and intensity that we like to have."
The Tide took a 14-0 lead into halftime after McCarron's 5-yarder to a leaping White in the back of the end zone with 21 seconds left. Even that 13-play, 78-yard drive didn't come without a couple of anxious moments.
The drive stayed alive when Vanderbilt safety Eric Samuels had to tackle a wide-open Darius Hanks downfield before the ball got there on third-and-10 - trading a pass interference flag over a likely touchdown. Then, McCarron converted a third-and-14 with a 29-yard pass to Marquis Maze, who had a career-high nine catches for 93 yards.
"We weren't executing at first," Tide cornerback Dee Milliner said. "We had to adjust and come out and do better. We came out flat, not emotional."
Alabama scored touchdowns on its first three drives of the second half, marred only by a missed extra point.
"The defense played well but we got worn down as the game went on because we were on the field too long," Franklin said. "We lost to a good football team."
McCarron was 23 of 30 passing and didn't add to Vandy's national-best 14 interceptions before sitting out most of the fourth quarter. He hit White for touchdowns of 5 and 39 yards, the first scores of the receiver's career.
Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers replaced starter Larry Smith in the first half and played the rest of the way. Smith sustained a lower leg injury.
"He could have come back, but I thought I'd give Jordan an opportunity to see what he could do," Franklin said.
Rodgers finished 11 of 18 passing for 104 yards and was intercepted twice in the second half. The Commodores ran for just 41 yards on 19 carries.
"We just have to execute better," Rodgers said. "I made little mistakes that hurt us."
Alabama outgained Vanderbilt 419 to 190 in total yards and allowed only 48 yards and two first downs after halftime.
The Tide, which has the nation's No. 1 scoring defense, has already recorded two shutouts for the first time since 2008.
This one came with some help. Vandy missed two field goals and failed to cash in on four trips into Alabama territory in the first half. The Commodores didn't get many more opportunities, getting outgained 174-19 in the third quarter.
"Our two missed field goals killed our momentum," Franklin said.
The game turned into a showcase for McCarron, who matched his total touchdown passes from the first five games, and his receivers.
Playing without injured No. 2 rusher Eddie Lacy (foot), Alabama switched back to smashmouth on its first drive of the second half after McCarron threw 23 passes in the first half. The Tide marched 94 yards with 11 runs by Richardson and 246-pounder Jalston Fowler and one pass.
Richardson practically walked the final yard for his 11th TD run and then McCarron added his long TD pass to White to make it 28-0.
McCarron polished his night off with a 17-yard scoring toss to Hanks early in the fourth quarter.