Tennessee (2-5, 1-3 SEC) traveled to Tuscaloosa to face an undefeated No. 1 Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) on Oct. 19.
The Vols fell 35-13, but Tennessee played well against the top team in the country.
“We didn’t come down here to do anything else but to compete,” Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said in the post-game press conference. “Unfortunately we made some mistakes. You can’t do that against a good football team.”
Hamstrung by the Refs
Tennessee was flagged 13 times on Saturday, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
“I’ll be the first to say that the officials have a very tough job,” Pruitt said. “I don’t know until you watch the tape, but there was a lot of flags. I know this; we’ve played six games and we’ve been the least penalized team in the SEC, and probably got more penalties in the first quarter than we have for an entire game this year. We might be guilty, I don’t know.”
Pruitt also seemed unhappy about the no-call when Vol quarterback Brian Maurer was knocked out of the game with a concussion.
“I know this; they hit our quarterback and he got a concussion and there wasn’t no flag, so I don’t know,” Pruitt said.
Tennessee made a couple of critical errors, including a roughness penalty on Darrell Taylor on third down that eventually turned a Tennessee defensive stop into an Alabama touchdown.
While the penalty was questionable, the Vol linebacker could have prevented the penalty by refraining from pushing off on the Alabama quarterback as he got up.
“We made some very critical mistakes in the game,” Pruitt said. “We turn the ball over on fourth-and-two inches, you know we get them stopped and we get a penalty there on third down that they turn into points.”
Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano elected to leap over the top of his line in an attempt to score on a sneak in the fourth quarter, but he fumbled. Trevon Diggs recovered the fumble and sealed the game with a 100-yard return for a touchdown.
“We elected to run a sneak, and shouldn’t have jumped over the top. Should have pushed it there in the middle,” Pruitt said.
A week after being knocked out of the Mississippi State game with a concussion, Maurer was knocked out again at the end of the first quarter against Alabama.
Maurer threw for 62 yards and a pick before being removed from the game, and he rushed for a touchdown.
Guarantano took over and threw for just 55 yards before being benched following his fourth-quarter fumble.
Third-string quarterback J.T. Shrout played out the remainder of the game, but he could not complete his only pass.
Pruitt said that Maurer’s status is unclear at this time, but he also complemented Guarantano’s play.
Tote the Rock
Tennessee ran the ball well against a solid Alabama front. Tim Jordan turned 17 touches into 94 rushing yards, while Eric Gray and Ty Chandler combined for another 35 yards.
“I thought our offensive line ran the ball better than probably we have all year,” Pruitt said. “We got some push in there and we created some explosive runs against a good defense. It’s really positive, our backs hit it up in there.”
The Vols made mistakes, but they also played a solid game on both sides of the ball against a very tough opponent.
“Our guys played hard. We didn’t always play smart,” Pruitt said. “In my opinion, we played better this week than we did last week.”
Next up, Tennessee will play South Carolina at Neyland. The Gamecocks may prove to be a tough opponent after they upset No. 10 Georgia 20-17 in Athens earlier this season. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 43-14 in Neyland the week prior.
Tennessee can come out on top in this one, but the Vols will need to deliver another complete game this Saturday to beat South Carolina.
Edited by Ainsley Kelso and Maddie Torres
Featured image by Ben Gleason