First half scores push Alabama past Vols

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, October 25, 2014

By Steve Megargee

Associated Press Writer

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Lane Kiffin figured out a winning strategy for his return to Knoxville.

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Throw the ball to Amari Cooper early and often.

Cooper caught nine passes, scored two touchdowns and set an Alabama school game record with 224 yards receiving to help the No. 4 Crimson Tide beat Tennessee 34-20 on Saturday night for its eighth consecutive victory in the series.

Cooper’s big performance produced a triumphant return for Kiffin, the Alabama offensive coordinator who coached Tennessee in 2009 and angered Volunteers fans by leaving for Southern California after only one season.

“I just try to do the best I can to get everything out of every ball thrown to me,” Cooper said.

Cooper broke the receiving yardage record set by Julio Jones, who had 221 yards receiving in a 41-10 victory over Tennessee in 2010.

By the end of the first quarter, Cooper already had five catches for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

Tennessee (3-5. 0-4 SEC) rallied from a 27-0 deficit to make it competitive thanks largely to Joshua Dobbs, who provided a spark after entering the game on the Vols’ third series.

Dobbs went 19 of 32 for 192 yards with two touchdown passes and one interception. He also rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries in his first action of the season. Dobbs helped the Vols cut the lead to 27-17 in the third quarter before Alabama’s Derrick Henry stopped Tennessee’s momentum with a 28-yard touchdown run.

“I thnk what we did is we relaxed a little but bit you’ve got to give Tennessee’s guys a whole lot of credit because they surely didn’t flinch,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They didn’t give up at all. They kept playing hard.”

Dobbs was in the game because a shoulder injury prevented usual starter Justin Worley from playing. Nathan Peterman started in place of Worley before Dobbs came on. Tennessee coach Butch Jones said there was no timetable on when Worley might return.

“I thought (Dobbs) was in command,” Tennessee coach Butch Jones said. “I thought Josh showed some very good poise.”

The biggest suspense leading into the game was how the sellout crowd of 102,455 would treat Kiffin, who joined Alabama’s staff this year after USC fired him midway through last season.