TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Who says the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is dead?
The latest installment of the one-sided affair turned into a dogfight Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Of course, Alabama did everything it could to help the Volunteers stay in the game with untimely penalties, fumbles, dropped passes and breakdowns in the secondary.
In the end, No. 5 Alabama pulled away for the 52-24 win, its 15th straight over Tennessee.
"I'm not going to be negative about the game. I'm not going to be negative about our team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I'm really positive about the way they kept competing in the game. Even though it wasn't perfect, we made the plays we needed to make to win the game."
The clinching score came courtesy of a 1-yard Brian Robinson run. The score was set up by a 47-yard interception return from Jalyn Armour-Davis.
"It looked like (Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker) was going to run the option route," Armour-Davis said. "It's something we've seen before. We just prepared the way we were supposed to. With that type of preparation, when we see it we just react and trust our instincts."
After that the smell of cigar smoke wafted freely throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium, the traditional scent of victory in this series.
About five minutes after the game, Crimson Tide players spilled back onto the field and celebrated with fans, cigars in hand.
"It was fun being able to enjoy time with the fans in the student section," said linebacker Henry To'oTo'o, who transferred from Tennessee and smoked his first victory cigar.
Cigars weren’t the only thing that got lit up Saturday. Alabama torched the Vols’ defense for 574 yards, including 371 from quarterback Bryce Young, and a 107-yard rushing effort from Robinson.
Yet, despite an overwhelming advantage in yards and time of possession (40:26 to 19:34), Tennessee was still within a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After taking a two-touchdown lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, Tennessee needed just 21 seconds to cut it back to a one-score after a 70-yard touchdown pass from Hendon Hooker to Cedric Tillman.
"We weren't lined up and ready to play," Saban said. "Josh (Jobe) was looking at the sideline trying to get the signal and they go fast and snap the ball, and the guy ran right by him."
But Alabama was back on the scoreboard less than two minutes later, thanks in part to a 65-yard reception from Jameson Williams. Robinson scored on a 15-yard run the next play.
Alabama scored four times in the fourth quarter, punctuated by big strikes. Alabama had three scoring drives of five plays or less.
Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) made it look easy on its first drive of the game, going 85 yards on 12 plays in just over five minutes with a Brian Robinson 7-yard touchdown run that put the Crimson Tide ahead early.
It looked like Alabama was in for another easy night and a 15th straight win over the Vols (4-4, 1-2) was evident.
Instead, Tennessee answered with a touchdown less than two minutes later to tie it 7-7. Aided by a 39-yard pass from Hooker to Cedric Tillman, Velus Jones later scored on an 8-yard catch.
Alabama gave Tennessee a touchdown on its next possession. Facing fourth-and-23 from its own 23, Chris Braswell was flagged for roughing the kicker to give the Vols a new set of downs.
Saban was less than thrilled.
Two plays later Hooker connected with JaVonta Payton for a 57-yard touchdown for a 14-7 Tennessee lead. It’s the Vols’ first lead over Alabama since 2015.
It lasted about six minutes.
In the second quarter, Young marched the Crimson Tide 44 yards on seven plays, including a nifty 5-yard touchdown run after being flushed out of the pocket to tie the game 14-14.
Young showed off his run abilities again on the next Alabama drive with a nice deke on a defender that left him standing still. The 11-yard run on third down set up first-and-goal, and then Young hit John Metchie for the 6-yard go-ahead touchdown pass.