It was a quiet gesture from a not-so-quiet man.
Before exiting toward the visiting tunnel Saturday, Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin removed his visor, waved to a fan and flipped it into the crowd.
In his second trip back to Neyland Stadium as a visitor, the former Tennessee head coach didn’t need the last word in front of a hostile crowd. His offense had already spoken for itself.
Alabama racked up 594 yards, including 438 yards on the ground, in a 49-10 win over the Volunteers. The performance marks the most yards the Crimson Tide has gained against Tennessee all-time and most against any opponent since 2010.
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“We just wanted to establish a run game early,” Alabama running back Damien Harris said. “We worked on it all week in practice and we were trying to see how well we could run the ball and we live with the results.”
It also helps having a dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts to help shoulder the load. Hurts led the Tide in rushing with 132 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. The true freshman also added 143 yards on 16 of 26 passing.
This season Hurts has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 1,385 yards and nine touchdowns with three interceptions. He is also second on the team in rushing with 428 yards and eight more touchdowns on the ground.
Through seven games, Hurts has already rushed for 8 more yards and just one fewer touchdown than Alabama’s past two regular starters at quarterback. That’s including a 350-yard season from the Tide’s last dual-threat quarterback, Blake Sims, in 2014.
Kiffin played a part in all three quarterbacks. In his first season at Alabama, Kiffin coached Sims to a school-record 3,487 passing yards. Last year, Jake Coker finished second to Sims on Alabama’s single-season passing record with 3,110 yards en route to the Tide’s 16th national championship.
Enter in a true freshman, who enrolled into the university last December, and the Tide haven’t missed a beat. Hurts is on pace to finish the regular season with 2,374 yards and 15 touchdowns through the air while adding 734 yards and 14 more scores on the ground.
“Each year (Kiffin has) been here we’ve had a different guy playing the quarterback position,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban after the game. “We’ve been able to adapt, and I think systematically now we’re a lot further along than where we were before.”
Alabama has shown no signs of slowing down this season. The Tide leads the SEC averaging 45.4 points per game this season and has scored 48 points or more in four of its past five games.
“Lane’s done a really good job of bringing our guys along,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “They are sort of doing what they can do, adapting to the players that we have extremely well.”
Alabama’s 39-point victory last week was the Tide’s second largest margin of victory against Tennessee all-time, dating back to 51-0 drubbing of the Volunteers in 1906.
Lopsided wins against former schools have been a trend for Kiffin at Alabama. The Tide also man-handled Southern California, another of Kiffin’s former teams, 52-6 in its season opener earlier this year. In his three seasons at Alabama, Kiffin is 4-0 against his former teams, outscoring them a combined 154-50.
Numbers like that typically elicit a tip of the hat. Saturday, Kiffin went for the flip instead.