The memory of Tennessee receiver Joey Kent racing 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play last year brings things into focus for Alabama.
The No. 7 Crimson Tide knows it needs to prevent the big plays in today's Southeastern Conference game against the No. 6 Volunteers (3:30 p.m., Ch. 4).
"I don't know what (Kent) runs in the 40 (yard dash), but I know he runs the best routes in the country," Alabama cornerback Fernando Bryant said. "If the quarterback hits him in stride, you can't cover him."
Kent's first-play touchdown sent Tennessee on its way to a 41-14 victory at Birmingham, breaking a nine-year non-winning streak for the Vols against Alabama.
A second big play last year was Jay Graham's 75-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, after Alabama had cut Tennessee's lead to 28-14.
"That's what you've got to stop," Alabama defensive coordinator Mike Dubose said, referring to Graham and the Vols' running game. "With Tennessee's passing game, if they can run the football you've got absolutely no chance."
The Crimson Tide leads the SEC in total defense, allowing 207 yards per game, but has been burned by long plays a few times this season. Vanderbilt's Bill Marinangel went 81 yards with a fake punt and North Carolina State completed a 72-yard pass.
But the Tide defense doesn't let down often. The longest run from scrimmage Mississippi managed in a 37-0 loss last week was 19 yards.
"They've had some scramble plays hit on them and a couple of long runs, but nothing you can put your finger on consistently and say, 'They're weak here,' " Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer said. "They are an exceptional defensive team."
Tennessee offensive coordinator David Cutcliffe said the Vols have to expect to grind it out.
"What we did last year was make big plays when the opportunity presented itself," he said. "We didn't miss."
Alabama (7-0 overall, 4-0 league) leads the SEC Western Division. Tennessee (4-1, 2-1) will be trying to beat an opponent with a winning record for the first time this season.