Tennessee had little chance this Saturday against the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0), who blew Tennessee out 48-17.
After injuring his ankle while returning the opening kickoff, Jaylen Waddle, will not return for the rest of the Tide’s season. Waddle is one of Alabama’s two deadly receiving weapons, however, the loss did not slow down their offense.
Mac Jones was able to move the Crimson Tide offense down the field with ease in the passing game. Alabama opened up the scoring in the first quarter with a 1-yard rush by Najee Harris. Mac Jones punched another 1-yard rush in himself later in the quarter to put Alabama up 14-0.
Tennessee turned to a run-heavy approach early, and the Vols got on the board with a 33-yard field goal from Brent Cimaglia. However, the Tennessee defense could not stop Jones and the Tide. Alabama marched down the field a third time before Brian Robinson Jr. found the end zone from 8 yards out.
Tennessee struck back when Jalin Hyatt sped past a safety for a 38-yard touchdown that made it a 21-10 game. Jones uncorked a deep ball of his own on the next drive that found John Metchie for a 45-yard completion down the middle of the field. Harris ran it into the end zone from two yards out for his second touchdown.
Alabama was not able to make many big plays on defense, but the Crimson Tide offense bled Tennessee with numerous long drives. Alabama out gained Tennessee by 122 yards in the first half and went into halftime up 28-10.
The Second Half
“We have not played very well in the secondary for five games. Really, we’ve not played well defensively,” Jeremy Pruitt said.
Alabama did not have to wait long into the second half to see that first big defensive play of the game. Malachi Moore stripped Eric Gray and took the fumble back for a 28-yard touchdown on the third play of the half.
Theo Jackson recovering a fumble that Tre Flowers punched out of the hands of Slade Bolden provided the Vols with an exciting moment. However, the team was unable to capitalize on the turnover.
Alabama decided this game early, but the Crimson Tide and Vols continued to trade blows for the remainder of the game. Harris scored his third touchdown of the day on a 1-yard rush in the third quarter, but Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano struck back with a 48-yard completion to speedster Hyatt, followed by a 27-yard touchdown to Josh Palmer.
“I’ve said all along that I’m excited about these young wide receivers. These guys are fast. They’ve got instincts to play the position,” Pruitt said on the freshman Hyatt.
Alabama’s Will Reichard made field goals from 39 and 24 yards out to extend his team’s lead to 48-17 before Alabama once again left Neyland victorious.
A Quick Glimpse of Maurer
Brian Maurer saw a few snaps at quarterback for the first time all season against Alabama.
“Based on reps we felt like Brian earned it this week and we gave him the opportunity and I thought did a pretty nice job in there,” Pruitt said.
He completed his only pass for a yard, while Guarantano threw for 162 yards and two scores. Maurer and Guarantano also had the luxury of throwing from a clean pocket, as the Tennessee offensive line did not give up any sacks to Alabama.
The two quarterbacks were also able to pick up critical yardage with their legs all day, and they combined for 37 rushing yards. However, Tennessee struggled to pick up yardage on the ground against the stout Alabama front. Lead back Eric Gray rushed for just three yards per carry, picking up 57 total yards in the process.
Senior defensive lineman Matthew Butler said the Vols beat themselves on defense.
“Everything that allowed us to lose the football game, in some way, shape, or form was self-inflicted, so we have to be better,” Butler said.
Next up, Tennessee will get a week off before the Vols hit the road to face Arkansas. Kickoff in Arkansas on Nov. 7 is set for 7:30 p.m.
Edited by Maddie Torres and Ryan Sylvia
Featured image courtesy of VolsWire