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For those who thought No. 1 Alabama against Tennessee-Chattanooga would be as easy as, oh, say, Tennessee, think again. And, by the way, everyone thought Saturday night in Bryant-Denny Stadium would be one of those games to get it over with quickly and let the subs have a day of fun.
It was tortuous. Not that Alabama was ever in danger of losing the game. The Crimson Tide improved to 11-0 with a 31-3 win over the Chattanooga Mocs, one of the better FCS schools in the nation, but certainly considered a member of the Cupcake Brigade which makes up Southeastern Conference fare on the next-to-last weekend of regular season play. The Mocs fell to 8-3 this year.
Alabama finishes the regular season next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts Auburn at 2:30 p.m. CST.
Alabama was not particularly bad, but wasn’t very sharp, either, and regulars played almost the entire game on both offense and defense.
Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, who became the all-time Alabama rushing leader for a season, completed two touchdown passes to slot receiver Gehrig Dieter and one to Calvin Ridley; and Damien Harris ran for a 25-yard TD. Andy Pappanastos kicked a 33-yard field goal.
The Mocs were held to a 47-yard field goal.
What started with such promise turned out to be about three hours one can never get back. Alabama’s first quarter looked to be off to the kind of start one would expect the nation’s number one team to have against Chattanooga. Instead, Jalen Hurts apparent 54-yard run on the second play of the game – after a 23-yard pass completion to Calvin Ridley on the first play – was ruled out of bounds at the Moccasins 34.
And from there is was nothing but frustration.
The defense couldn’t stop Chattanooga completely and the offense couldn’t get off go.
The Mocs first possession started at its 20 and didn’t stop until it got to the Bama 30. From there placekicker Henrique Ribeiro kicked a 47-yard field goal, and news outlets around the nation were reporting Chattanooga 3, No. 1 ranked Alabama 0.
Although never particularly inspiring in the first half, things picked up when Hurts and Ridley connected on a long pass that counted for something. Like a touchdown.
Alabama got the ball back at its 25 late in the first quarter. On the second play of the second quarter, Hurts rifled a 47-yard strike to a wide open Ridley in the end zone. Adam Griffith’s extra point kick made it 7-3. The 75-yard drive took just seven plays and 2:35.
Alabama’s next possession ended in a fail, but got unexpected fortune.
JK Scott, who has been the subject of much speculation this week after having been left off the list of semifinalists for the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s best punter, booted one to the Chattanooga 8, where the return man attempted a fair catch. The ball bounced away from him and was recovered at the 9 by Bama’s Keaton Anderson.
It took four plays, but Bama gambled on fourth-and-one and Hurts running right opted to throw to a wide open Gehrig Dieter for the one-yard TD and a 14-3 lead, which was the halftime score.
Late in the third period the Tide took advantage of good field position, starting at the Chattanooga 43. Harris was the workhorse with runs of 3 and 9 around a Hurts pass to Cam Sims for 6 yards to get to the 25. Harris then took it around right end and raced into the end zone with 4:07 left in the third quarter. Pappanastos kicked the extra point to make it 21-3.
In the fourth quarter, Pappanastos kicked a 33-yard field goal after Bama stalled at the Chattanooga 15. Hurts scrambled for a 34-yard gain to the Mocs 20 and Josh Jacobs picked up 5 yards on first down to make it second-and-five at the 15. Hurts then threw two incomplete passes, forcing the field goal, which came early in the fourth period and made it 24-3.
Bama got something of a gift to wrap up the scoring. A mishandled ball resulted in a Chattanooga fumble that was recovered by Rashaan Evans for Bama at the Chattanooga 20.
Only 4:45 remained, but Alabama first teamers were still in the game. Two completions from Hurts to Sims set up first-and-goal at the 1, and Hurts completed his second one-yard touchdown pass to Dieter to finish the scoring.
Alabama had only 14 first downs and Chattanooga only 10.
The Tide had 37 rushes for 196 yards, the Mocs 30-70. Bama’s Hurts completed 15 of 21 passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions, but he was sacked three times. UTC completed 17 of 24 with no interceptions for 114 yards.
Alabama had 58 plays for 332 yards, an average of 5.7 per play; Chattanooga 54 plays for 184 yards, 3.4 per play.
Alabama lost 1 of 2 fumbles, Chattanooga 2-4. The Tide was penalized once for 10 yards, the Mocs twice for 10 yards.
Bama’s JK Scott punted 6 times for a 48.8 yard average, putting four inside the 20 and having three over 50 yards. UTC punted 10 times for a 34.6 yard average.
Alabama converted only 4-13 on third down, Chattanooga only 2-13. The Tide scored on all three of its trips into the Red Zone (inside the 20) with two touchdowns and a field goal. Chattanooga did not penetrate the Red Zone.
The Mocs had a 34:06 to 25:54 advantage in time of possession.
In individual statistics, Alabama was led in rushing by Harris who had 13 carries for 91 yards. Hurts had 16 runs for 68 yards, Derrick Gore 3-20, and Josh Jacobs 5-17.
Ridley led Bama in receiving with 7 receptions for 94 yards and a TD. Cam sims had 4 catches for 34 yards. Dieter had one of the most unusual receiving stats lines imagineable. He had 3 receptions for a total of 1 yard with 2 touchdowns and a “long” reception of 1 yard. O.J. Howard had one catch for 7 yards.
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Ronnie Harrison led the Tide defensively with 11 tackles (8 primary, 3 assists). Dalvin Tomlinson had 8 tackles (2 primary, 6 assists), Tony Brown (5-1) and Jonathan Allen (4-2) 6 each; Reuben Foster (5-0) and Shaun Dion Hamilton (2-3) 5 each; Anthony Averett (3-0), Minkah Fitzpatrick (3-0), and Marlon Humphrey (2-1) 3 each; Terrell Hall (1-1), DaRon Payne (0-2), and Ryan Anderson (0-2), 2 each; and Hootie Jones (1-0), Tim Williams (1-0), Damien Harris (1-0), Gehrig Dieter (1-0), Jared Mayden (1-0), and Rashaan Evans (0-1) 1 each.
Videos by A.P. Steadham