It wasn’t important for Alabama to beat Tennessee in order to run the Crimson Tide’s winning streak against the Vols to 10 straight victories, even though that’s what happened Saturday afternoon in Knoxville. What was important was that Alabama took a second consecutive road victory against a ranked Southeastern Conference opponent.
Alabama looked like the nation’s No. 1 team as the Crimson Tiderolled to a 49-10 win over ninth-ranked Tennessee.
Bama improved to 7-0 on the season, including a 4-0 record in SEC games. U-T, picked in preseason as expected to win the SEC East and challenge Alabama’s trwo-year run as league champion, fell to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the league with its second consecutive loss.
Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts scored three rushing touchdowns, the Tide picked up its eighth defensive touchdown of the year on a Ronnie Harrison 58-yard interception return, got its third punt return for a TD on a 79-yard runback by Eddie Jackson, and added a double reverse 29-yard run by wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, and an 85-yard burst by Bo Scarbrough.
Alabama continues its gauntlet of SEC games against ranked teams next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts sixth-ranked Texas A&M at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising. The Aggies had an open date this week.
As would be expected, Alabama dominated statistically.
The Tide had 28 first downs (20 rushing, 8 passing) to 11 by the Vols (2 rush, 8 pass, 1 penalty).
Bama had 49 carries for 438 yards (8.9 yards per rush), UT 32 carries for 32 yards (you can do the yards per rush math).
Alabama completed 17 of 27 passes for 156 yards, Tennessee 18-31 for 131 yards.
Total offense was Alabama 76 plays for 594 yards, 7.8 per play; Tennessee 63 plays for 163 yards, 2.6 per play.
Both teams suffered an interception. Alabama fumbled twice and lost one. UT did not fumble.
The Tide was penalized 5 times for 38 yards, the Vols once for 10 yards.
Alabama scored on a disappointing 2-5 in the Red Zone, while Tennessee was 2-2.
On third downs, the Tide converted 6-12, the Vols 3-16.
Individually for Alabama, Hurts was top rusher with 12 carries for 132 yards and 3 touchdowns. Scarbrough rushed 5 times for 109 yards and 1 TD, Damien Harris was 14-94, Josh Jacobs 6-38, B.J. Emmons 9-38, ArDarius Stewart 1-19 (TD), and Cooper Bateman 2 for minus 2 as he directed an offense ran off most of the final nine and a half minutes of the game clock.
Hurts was 16-26 passing for 143 yards, Bateman 1-1 for 13.
Stewart was top receiver with 8 catches good for 54 yards and Calvin Ridley was tops in yardage with 5 receptions for 65 yards. O.J. Howard had 1-23, Trevon Diggs 1-13, Jacobs 1-8, and Harris 1 for minus 7.
JK Scott punted 4 times for a 50 yard average.
On defense, Ronnie Harrison was in on 7 tackles (6 primary), had his interception return for a TD, and broke up 2 passes. Shaun Dion Hamilton (5 primary, 1 assist) and Minkah Fitzpatrick (4-2) were in on six tackles, and Dalvin Tomlinson (2-3) 5. Anthony Averett (4-0), Jonathan Allen (3-1 and a sack for 10 yards), Da’Shawn Hand (2-2), and Reuben Foster (2-2 with a 10-yard sack) were in on 4 each. Involved in 3 tackles each were Eddie Jackson, Christian Miller, and Keith Holcombe. With two each were Tim Williams (both were for loss, including a 17-yard sack), Rashaan Evans, Ryan Anderson, and DaRon Payne.
Alabama’s first half was certainly satisfactory with a 21-7 lead. The Crimson Tide had dominated statistically with 309 yards to Tennessee’s 41. But there was also disappointment.
The lead could have been much more. When Hurts tried to pass from deep in Alabama territory, he was hit and fumbled, setting up the Vols at the Bama 11 for a short touchdown. Jonathan Kongbo recovered the fumble and two plays later Alvin Kamara took it in from seven yards out to cut the Alabama lead to 14-7.
At the other end of the field, the Tide had second-and-2 at the Tennessee 12 and had a play go awry. Hurts had a play fake to Harris that got hung up and knocked Hurts off balance, He tried to throw the ball away, but Tennessee’s Derek Barnett blocked the pass, which went almost straight up, and then Barnett intercepted it.
Finally, Alabama had driven to the Tennessee 20 for a final play of the first half. Adam Griffith’s 37-yard field goal sailed wide right, leaving the halftime score at 21-7.
Alabama had a nifty drive on its second possession. Starting at its own 9-yard line, the Tide took only 8 plays to got the distance for a touchdown.
Alabama got out of the hole with a couple of Hurts completions, then turned it over to the runners. Harris had back-to-back runs of 12 and 18 yards and then Josh Jacobs had a 13-yard run to the Vols 36. After a Jacobs run gained 7, The Tide used a double reverse with a pitch to Ridley going right, who gave it back to Stewart going left, and Stewart took it to the end zone. Griffith’s extra point kick made it 7-0 with 3:10 to play in the first quarter.
Alabama’s eighth defensive touchdown of the year made it 14-0 with 14 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Ronnie Harrison did the honors for his second defensive touchdown of the year. With Tennessee at the Tide 37, quarterback Joshua Dobbs was under pressure and his scfreen pass attempt went right to Harrison at the 42. Harrison went the distance untouched.
After Tennessee cut the lead to 14-7, the Tide went 65 yards in 6 plays to make it a 21-7 lead.
Hurts made the play himself, taking it around right end and down the sideline for a 45-yard score.
Alabama had 245 yards rushing in the first half with three Tiders having more rushing yardage than Tennessee had total offense – Hurts with 92, Harris 72, and Jacobs 44.
That first half offense was broken down with Alabama having just 64 passing yards, but the Vols had only 11 yards on 20 rushes and just 30 yards on 6-15 passing.
Alabama getting the ball on the kickoff to start the second half was of no effect, but when Bama got its first punt from Tennessee, that was helpful. The Vols suffered a shanked punt that set Alabama up at midfield. It took just five plays for Alabama to extend its lead. Hurts hit Stewart for a 28-yard gain to start the drive, and the Tide quarterback finished it with back-to-back runs, the first 21 yards to the 2, and the second to the end zone. It was 28-7.
The Vols answered with a 37-yard field goal by Aaron Medley for a 28-10 margin, but Bama saw that and raised with an efficient touchdown march.
Hurts passed to Ridley for 31, Harris ran for 14, and Hurts hit tight end O.J. Howard over the middle for 23 as Bama moved to a first-and-goal at the 1. Hurts took it around right end for the TD and a 35-10 lead, which is how the third quarter ended.
It didn’t stay that way for long.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tennessee punted from its 30. Eddie Jackson took the ball at the 21. Three Vols were close by, but Jackson split them and raced down the sideline on a 79-yard touchdown return. It was 42-10 with almost 15 minutes to play, and it would not have been safe to attempt to come through the portals into Neyland Stadium. They were full of fast-moving Tennessee fans exiting the scene.
Alabama, though, would add just one more touchdown to the carnage. It was a dramatic one.
After Jackson made a fair catch of the next Tennessee punt, on second down from the 15 Bo Scarbrough made like Derrick Henry. He went up the middle, down the left sideline, and had no problem outrunning all UT defenders. It was 49-10 and the fun was over. Alabama spent most of the rest of the quarter with quarterback Cooper Bateman and other backups running out the clock.