TUSCALOOSA, ALA. — It turns out even Alabama's students are coachable.
Chided by Nick Saban for their early exit from Bryant-Denny Stadium during the Crimson Tide's blowout of Arkansas a week earlier, most stayed to the very end of the 45-10 dismantling of Tennessee on Saturday.
"I'm really happy, our players are really happy and I hope our fans are really happy," Saban said afterward. "They stayed for the game and did a great job of supporting our team."
Those in attendance were treated — or subjected, as the case may be — to a blowout. The Vols never had a chance. They brought a toothpick into a knife fight. Alabama scored touchdowns on its first four possessions and fumbled on the goal line on its fifth.
The demolition underscored just how deep and wide the gulf now is between these old rivals. These days, Alabama plays for national championships. Tennessee plays for pride and perhaps a berth in a lower-tier bowl.
"Every mistake you make against a good football team is magnified," UT coach Butch Jones said. "Alabama's a great football team. The results speak for themselves. They're No. 1 in the country. … We didn't perform well."
With the score 35-0 at halftime, it made you long for the good old days of Derek Dooley. After all, Dooley lost to Alabama by only 31 points in each of his three matchups with the Crimson Tide.
To its credit, Tennessee played better in the second half. If you're into moral victories, you undoubtedly have noted that the Vols played the Tide to a 10-10 stalemate after intermission, thanks in part to the play of freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs, who replaced starter Justin Worley at halftime.
That's a step, I suppose. Not a very big step, but a step just the same.
Don't include Jones among those looking for an orange lining to this crimson-colored day.
"I'm not used to these," he said.
Maybe he should start getting used to them. In his first season, Jones has seen UT boat-raced by Oregon 59-14 and now Alabama. When the inevitable question was posed about a potential Alabama-Oregon matchup, Jones deferred. Clearly, he has enough to worry about with his Vols.
"I don't like to compare football teams. I'm concerned about our football team," he said before adding, "They're both very, very talented football teams."
UT offensive tackle Antonio "Tiny" Richardson also toed the party line but made it clear where his allegiances would lie.
"They're two totally different teams," he said. "Both are very dynamic. Oregon was fast-paced. Alabama kind of milks the clock a little bit.
"I couldn't really tell you how it would go, but if it was to come down to it, you know I'd be rooting for the SEC."
By the second half on Saturday, Alabama appeared to be using the game as preparation for what lies ahead. Saban kept quarterback AJ McCarron and the bulk of his starters on the field well into the fourth quarter. He didn't ease off the gas.
Not that he should. In the final year of the BCS, a team like Alabama has to do everything it can to impress those that vote in the subjective polls. You've got to protect your turf.
If it takes blowing out an inferior team, more power to you.
Besides, the last time I checked, UT was giving scholarships, too. It's just that the Vols haven't been giving scholarships to the caliber of players Alabama has.
In time, that could change. Early returns on Jones' watch are good. The upset of South Carolina a week earlier was encouraging. Also, recruiting has picked up, so much so that the Vols are in the same lofty strata as Alabama when it comes to ranking the Class of 2014.
It's just that Alabama is not going to sit back and let UT or anyone else catch up.
You don't win back-to-back national championships and three of the past four by having pity on the downtrodden.
Saban leaves nothing to chance. He recruits like crazy, hires great assistants, develops talent and even coaches up the student body.
On Monday, Saban used the bully pulpit of his weekly press conference to call out students who had vacated the building as the Tide was rolling Arkansas 52-0.
"In some kind of way, everybody that chooses to go the game should stay there and support the team for the game," Saban said at the time. "Maybe if you're not interested in doing that, you should let someone else go who would really like to go because I have a lot of people who want to go."
These days, all Saban has to do is clear his throat and things get done. University officials reviewed video (I guess everybody breaks down film at Alabama) and determined some student groups either arrived too late or left too early at the Arkansas game and took action.
Reserved block seating was suspended for 20 student groups for the Bama-UT game. Students from those organizations still got tickets but had to abide by a first-come, first-seated process.
Wonder if they'll impose a two-soft drink minimum for the LSU game in two weeks?