The Alabama defense responded admirably, switching on occasion to a five-back set and surrendering ground and points grudgingly, despite having its back against the wall after a couple of atrocious punts gave Tennessee excellent field position. Chuck Webb, Cobb's replacement, had a pretty fair day, gaining 110 yards on 23 carries. But without Cobb—and the luxury of having a fresh tailback on every down—the rest of the Vols gained only 37 yards rushing against McCants & Co.
For its part, Alabama piled up 562 yards and 47 points against a defense that had surrendered an average of only 340 yards and 11 points in five previous games this fall. Stacy, a junior college transfer who had sputtered after rushing for 169 yards and four touchdowns in Alabama's opener, filled in brilliantly for Hill. Besides being the game's leading rusher, with 125 yards on 33 carries, he caught a game-high nine passes, for 158 yards. In addition, his 317 all-purpose yards (he gained 34 on kick returns) broke the school record.
Still, this was Hollingsworth's day. Instead of going deep, he probed the sidelines and the underbelly of the Tennessee defense for five, 10, 15 yards a pop. Aside from the 75-yarder, none of his completions covered more than 21 yards. He exhibited poise in finding his second and third receivers, and his ball handling was precise.
"We thought there was air in their pass defense," said Smith, "so we took advantage of it, especially after they stuffed some of our early runs. Gary did a great job. He hit on 80 or 85 percent of his audibles. That's great management."
Hollingsworth was recruited out of Hamilton ( Ala.) High by former Alabama coach Ray Perkins, but his development as a quarterback has been hampered by his interest in baseball. He has been excused from spring practice to pitch for the Tide nine. His idol is Tom Seaver, not Joe Montana.
Smith doesn't begrudge Hollingsworth his interest in baseball—indeed, he says the same loose-jointed, whippy motion that serves him well on the mound helps him as a quarterback. However, he points out that Hollingsworth's absences from spring practice relegated him to backup duty, mainly because he wasn't as familiar with the offense as Dunn or David Smith, last year's starter who is now gone.
"He wants to become a professional baseball prospect, but he can become a professional football prospect if he gets some meat on his bones," says coach Smith. "Gary doesn't eat real seriously. When he came out of the Kentucky game and the trainer asked him if he needed anything, he said, 'Yeah, 20 pounds.' "
Since the beginning of the season, Hollingsworth has worked with strength coach Rich Wingo on both his menu and his muscles, and he has put on 10 pounds since early September. Alas, nothing can be done about his lack of speed. He can be an artful dodger when escaping a pass rush, but the hole doesn't exist that can stay open long enough for Hollingsworth to meander through it.
By the time Alabama makes its first-ever appearance at Auburn, on Dec. 2 in the regular-season finale for both teams, a lot more could be at stake than the usual bragging rights. Hollingsworth and the Tide could mosey right on into the Sugar Bowl.