7:45 PM ET, October 26, 2002
Neyland Stadium, KNOXVILLE, TN
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Alabama's seniors can't go to a bowl game, but they can at least say they helped end the Crimson Tide's seven-game losing streak against Tennessee (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP).
Santonio Beard ran for two touchdowns, and the 19th-ranked Tide took advantage of six turnovers to beat the 16th-ranked Volunteers 34-14 Saturday night.
Alabama (6-2, 3-1 SEC), banned from postseason play because of NCAA probation, hadn't beaten Tennessee (4-3, 1-3) since 1994, when former Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning was a freshman. It was the Vols' worst home loss since a 31-0 defeat to Florida that same season.
"This is great for the seniors, because they always talk about winning the next time or the next year. And in our last chance, we pulled it out,'' said Alabama defensive end Kindal Moorehead, a senior.
All Alabama needed was its strong running game, led by Beard and Shaud Williams. Of course, the Vols helped immensely with their mistakes.
Not even the return of quarterback Casey Clausen, who missed the last game with a shoulder injury, could help Tennessee. Clausen was hurt Oct. 5 against Arkansas and returned to practice this week.
"Casey played his rear off. There were a lot of guys who played hard, but we're not disciplined and not very functional'' on offense, Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said.
The Vols were held to 59 yards rushing and 222 total yards, while Alabama ran for 172 yards and passed for 128.
"I told our team all week that they were better than Tennessee. They needed to come in confident,'' Alabama coach Dennis Franchione said. "They didn't need an out-of-body experience. They didn't need to do anything extraordinary.''
Tennessee's struggles started early when Clausen fumbled a lateral to Derrick Tinsley. Alabama's Gerald Dixon recovered it and ran 66 yards down the sideline for a touchdown with 11:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Tide never trailed.
Beard scored his first touchdown with 52 seconds left before halftime, after Clausen's pass was intercepted by Charles Jones in the end zone. Alabama capped an 80-yard drive with Beard's 10-yard run.
Beard, who led Alabama in rushing with 65 yards on 16 carries, particularly enjoyed winning in his home state.
"This is for all the seniors that have been here four or five years and have never beaten the University of Tennessee,'' he said. "I'm from Nashville, but I've loved Alabama all my life. It feels great to come back home and beat Tennessee.''
Clausen's second interception led to another Alabama score in the third quarter. Waine Bacon tipped Clausen's pass, and Ahmad Childress returned it 24 yards to the Tennessee 40.
On the third play, Brodie Croyle was being tackled and appeared to be down when he tossed the ball to Beard, who ran 18 yards to the Tennessee 8.
Fulmer argued the call, but it held up. Still, Alabama settled for Kyle Robinson's 27-yard field goal, and the Tide led just 17-7 with 8:42 left in the third quarter. Robinson added a 21-yarder at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
Alabama got a break late in the third quarter when Tennessee's Gibril Wilson was called for pass interference in the end zone, giving the Tide the ball at the Tennessee 2. Alabama went ahead 24-7 on the next play when Tyler Watts kept the ball and ran into the end zone.
Tennessee's offense seemed to get worse as the game went on, while the defense kept the game close.
The Vols finally sustained a scoring drive in the third quarter when Leonard Scott ran 13 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-14 with 1:46 left. Despite two penalties, Clausen kept the drive going with a 32-yard pass over the middle to Jonathan Wade.
Tennessee receiver Kelley Washington didn't play because of a slight concussion he received at Georgia on Oct. 12, coach Phillip Fulmer said.
Washington, who leads the Vols with 23 catches for 443 yards, showed no apparent effects of the injury and practiced every day since hitting his head on the turf when he was tackled.
Tennessee, which lost three of five fumbles in the first half, was held scoreless until Mark Jones returned a kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown with 39 seconds left before halftime.