Head coach Derek Dooley stood on the sideline, leaning on his crutches, looking at the scoreboard, hoping for a miracle.
Still recovering from his recent hip surgery, Dooley watched, disappointed, as his team lost 44-13 to Alabama, the unanimous No. 1 team in the country. While Alabama (6-0, 3-0 SEC) was the definite favorite, the Volunteers (3-3, 0-3 SEC) looked to get the upset and put up their first SEC win, or at least put up a fight.
"We got whipped by a great football team in just about every phase,” Dooley said. “I'm really disappointed that we didn't execute a little better on offense. That's probably the thing I was a little surprised at. The quarterback didn't play well.”
The coach felt his team could have measured up pretty well, but missed plays determined the game.
“We had some chances in the first half, didn't capitalize. Opportunity ball, we dropped,” Dooley said. “Third quarter, we were down there twice 23-10 and got a chance to keep grinding and staying in it and we take a shot on third and one and we get stuffed on fourth and one. Then we throw a pick, which was a bad throw in the next series.
When you do that against this kind of team, they just keep pushing and keep pushing. That's what they do to most everybody and they did it to us too. That's about the sum of the game there."
Alabama head coach Nick Saban said the Alabama’s win was a great win for the university.
“This is still a big rivalry for us. This is a big game to all of us: all of our players and all of our fans,” he said.
The rivalry just made the loss greater to the Vols. Dooley’s disappointment in junior starting quarterback Tyler Bray was evident.
He said he didn’t know what happened to Bray.
“He was a little jumpy early. He didn’t even look good early,” Dooley said. “I thought he played his way out of it, hit a couple of good balls. Had a nice ball before the half, hits Justin Hunter on the in route, which was nice. They just couldn’t sustain it. Throwing balls early, getting them batted — he never gets balls batted — so I don’t know. He’s got to play well for us to score points. That’s just what it is.”
Dooley said his decision not to go for it on fourth down near the end of the half was based on both the score and the team’s performance.
“If we were moving the ball well, I’d have been more aggressive, but we took one shot and we dropped it,” he said. “I wanted to get out of there without making it any worse. We weren’t playing well on offense.”
He said he was disappointed with his offense’s inability to put points on the board.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t play better on offense,” Dooley said. “That doesn’t mean we played well on defense, but I thought we would play better for four quarters. I thought we’d score more points.”