AJ McCarron has career day as Alabama shuts out Vanderbilt
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama turned a lackluster start into another easy win.
AJ McCarron passed for career-highs of 237 yards and four touchdowns and jump-started the second-ranked Crimson Tide en route to a 34-0 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday night.
Trent Richardson rushed for 107 yards and a touchdown in his fifth straight 100-yard effort for the Crimson Tide (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference), which already has two shutouts.
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."
In the end, it really didn't matter against Vandy (3-2, 1-2), a four-touchdown underdog that has now lost 11 straight games against ranked opponents.
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. That's what Coach (Saban) talked to us about at halftime, and we came out and did a better job."
On both sides of the ball.
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," Vandy coach James 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, the brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron 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.
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 Darius Hanks early in the fourth quarter.
2022 Southeastern Conference Standings