At halftime in Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday, a veteran sports reporter seeing Alabama live for the first time this year remarked, “I think Coker looked better on television than he does in person.”
Jacob Coker has been having good games in Alabama’s recent run of five consecutive wins – the time since he has become the unquestioned starter at quarterback for the Crimson Tide. It may not have looked like it at halftime because the score was tied and Coker had been sacked three times, hurried some others, and had thrown an interception.
At the end of Alabama’s 19-14 win over Tennessee, though, Coker had a very impressive day. Even against an innovative and aggressive Tennessee blitz attack, the fifth-year senior from Mobile completed 21-27 passes for 247 yards on a day in which the Bama offense was below average.
Coker was particularly clutch on Alabama’s drive for the winning touchdown in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Bama had fallen behind, 14-13, with 5:49 to play. It didn’t star well with Coker making a fine run to avoid a sack that was much greater than the loss of two yards he achieved. He then made a pass on which ArDarius Stewart made an excellent catch along the Tennessee sideline, gaining 29 yards to the Vols’ 44. Two runs brought up the only third down of the winning drive and Coker made his second pass of the drive, a 15-yard gain to Calvin Ridley on the Alabama sideline at the 25.
From there, Derrick Henry, took three runs for the final score of the game.
And Coker had three more satisfying plays – taking a knee as Bama ran out the clock.
Alabama had 23 first downs (12 of them passing) to 21 for Tennessee. Although Derrick Henry had 28 carries for 143 yards and two touchdowns, because of lost yardage on sacks and kneeldowns, Bama’s net rushing was less than Henry’s, 42 runs for 117 yards. The Vols had 39 rushes for 132 yards.
Against Coker’s 21-27 passes for 247 yards, Joshua Dobbs for UT completed 13-22 for 171 yards and one touchdown, and he, too, was sacked five times.
Alabama tight end O.J. Howard (7 receptions for 55 yards) and wide receiver ArDarius Stewart (6 catches for 114 yards) had their best games of the season, and freshman Calvin Ridley had another excellent game (6-62).
Bama had 69 plays for 364 yards, 5.3 per play, and the Vols 61 plays for 303 yards, 5.0 per play.
The Tide did not fumble and Tennessee lost its only fumble. Bama was penalized 7 times for 64 yards, UT 6 times for 30.
One very positive performance for Alabama was punter JK Scott, who kicked 4 times for 199 yards (49.8 yards per punt) with only 3 yards on one return. His final two punts were both 56 yards and both had to be fair caught.
Bama was 5-12 on third downs, Tennessee 7-13. The Tide scored on 4-5 trips into the red zone, the only failure the kneeldown time at the end of the game. Tennessee was 2-3 in the red zone, missing a field goal – one of three missed three-point tries by the Vols. Adam Griffith was 2-2 for Alabama, and also averaged 64.6 yards on kickoffs (4-5 touchbacks, including his kick to start the game that cleared the end zone and went into the stands).
Alabama dominated time of possession, 35:39 to 24:21.