Alabama's Complete Game Beats Vols
Alabama improved its Southeastern Conference record to 5-0 with its second consecutive one-sided victory over Tennessee. The Vols fell to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in conference games.
Alabama returns to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday for a non-conference game. Arkansas State is the homecoming opponent. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. CDT with the only television coverage Pay-Per-View.
Alabama played an excellent defensive game, particularly in keeping the Vols from a touchdown despite two key errors in the kicking game in the first half.
Kicking was the name of the first quarter. There were three field goals and two of them were set up by punting game miscues.
Alabama drew first blood with a good drive to near the Tennessee 20, John Parker Wilson completting four passes in the 11-play, 50-yard drive. But when the march stalled with two incomplete passes, Leigh Tiffin was called on to kick Bama to a 3-0 lead with a 39-yard field goal.
Alabama held the Vols on Tennessee's first possession, but when Javier Arenas tried to field Britton Colquitt's 54-yard punt with two men bearing down on him, the result was a fumble, recovered by the Vols at the Alabama 5. Tennessee drew a penalty, had a short run and an incomplete pass, and then Tide safety Rashad Johnson sacked Vols quarterback Nick Stephens at the 14. Daniel Lincoln tied the game with a 31-yard field goal.
The third field goal of the first quarter came after a rarity, a shanked punt by Colquitt for only 22 yards which set Bama up at the Tennessee 47. After one first down, Bama faced fourth down at the Tennessee 26. Tiffin kicked the 43-yarder with 1:37 to play in the opening quarter to give Alabama a 6-3 lead.
Tennessee did not have a first down in the first quarter, but put together a couple in the second quarter and then Colquitt punted the Tide into a hole at the Alabama 3. Alabama didn't get a first down and then P.J. Fitzgerald, who had punted well, had his punt partially blocked by Montario Hardesty and the Vols got possession at the Alabama 32. Three plays lost a couple of yards and Lincoln's 51-yard field goal attempt was far short.
Alabama then put together a touchdown drive, keyed by back-to-back pass completions from John Parker Wilson to Julio Jones. The first went for 19 yards, the second for 35 to the Tennessee 12. Three plays gained just over nine yards and on fourth down Alabama Coach Nick Saban elected to go for it. Fewer than three minutes remained until halftime and tailback Glen Coffee cut inside the kickout block of left guard Mike Johnson to go in for the touchdown with 2:41 left in the second quarter. Tiffin's kick made it Alabama 13, Tennessee 3.
The final minutes of the half were filled with drama. First, Tennessee used about a minute and a half of the two and a half remaining to gain only 10 yards. Then Stephens went to work with passes of 26 yards to Luke Stocker and 19 to Arian Foster to get deep into Tide territory.
Tennessee appeared to move inside the Alabama 10 with just 11 seconds to play, but the Vols were guilty of offensive pass interference. Instead of the ball at Bama's 9, it was back at the 34. Tennessee got one pass completion to the 26, but on the final play of the half Lincoln was wide left on a 43-yard field goal attempt. Since the Vols were going to get the second half kickoff, the miss could have been important to momentum.
Although that final Tennessee drive of the first half didn't result in points, it did make the halftime statistics more competitive. Still, Alabama dominated. The Tide had 12 carries for 32 yards, Tennessee 15 for 29. Wilson completed 10 of 17 passes for 117 yards, Stephens 10- of 17 for 83 yards. Alabama had total offense of 149 yards, Tennessee 112...and 72 of those 112 came on the final, futile drive.
The important aspect of the first half was that Alabama had two grave kicking game errors--a fumbled punt and a partially blocked punt--and gave up only three points and had a 13-3 lead at intermission.
The kicking game led to Alabama extending its lead in the opening minutes of the second half. An Arenas sack of Stephens started the Vols in a hole, and Tennessee punted out to the Tide 45. Arenas returned that kick 22 yards to the Vols 33. However, Bama couldn't move it in and Tiffin kicked his third field goal of the game, a 30-yarder, with 10:28 left in the third quarter. Alabama had a 16-3 lead.
A big defensive play by freshman linebacker Dont'a Hightower led to Tennessee coming up just short of a first down on his second possession and the Vols punted Bama back to the Tide 21 with 8:03 left in the third quarter.
Bama used most of the remaining time in the quarter with Wilson hitting key passes and Roy Upchurch making clutch runs to take a 22-3 lead. Bama went 79 yards in 12 plays with Wilson sneaking the final yard for the touchdown. The Tide attempted a pass to tight end Nick Walker for a two-point conversion to make it a three-touchdown lead, but the pass fell incomplete. Still, Bama had a 22-3 advantage with 1:38 to play in the third quarter and some of the 106,000 announced in attendance began to ease towards the exit portals.
That touchdown drive included Wilson hitting passes of 13 yards each to Mike McCoy and Julio Jones, 14 and 8 to Will Oakley, and Upchurch having five consecutive runs, moving the ball from the Tennessee 36 to a first and goal inside the Vols' 1.
Many of those Tennessee faithful who had lingered into the fourth quarter, joined the early departures after Bama's first possession of the final stanza. After forcing a Tennessee punt and starting at the Alabama 20, the Tide moved 80 yards in just eight plays with Upchurch going the final four yards for the touchdown. Tiffin's kick made it 29-3 with 9:43 to play. The drive took just 4:31.
Coffee started it with a 13-yard run. Wilson completed a nine-yard pass to Walker and Wilson was roughed on the play, moving the ball to the Tennessee 44. Coffee got eight yards and then Upchurch took over. He had runs of 19 and 13 yards to a first and goal at the four. After a no-gain rush, Upchurch took it on over left tackle.
The Vols got a consolation score with a seven-play, 63-yard drive that was helped along by two pass interference calls against the Tide. Stephens connected with Josh Briscoe on a 10-yard play with 7:26 to play. A two-point conversion try was incomplete.
Roy Upchurch led the Tide in rushing with 14 carries for 86 yhards and a touchdown. Glen Coffee had 19 carries for 78 yards. John Parker Wilson completed 17 of 24 passes for 188 yards. Julio Jones had six catches for 103 yards.
Defensively, Dont'a Hightower led the Tide by being in on seven tackles. Rashad Johnson was in on six tackles and had a sack. Justin Woodall and Brandon Fanney were in on five tackles each.
Alabama had 23 first downs to 10 for Tennessee. Bama finished with 43 rushes for 178 yards, Tennessee 21 runs for 36 yards. Wilson had all of Bama's passing, 17-24-188, while Stephens had all the Tennessee passing, 16-28 for 137 yards. Alabama had total offense of 67 plays for 366 yards, Tennessee 49 plays for 173 yards. The only turnover in the game was the lost fumble by Arenas attempting to field a punt. Penalties were key with Alabama having only three for 35 yards, the Vols suffering seven for 60 yards. Alabama, which leads the SEC in time of possession, had the ball for 35:32 to Tennessee's 24:28. The Vols are last in the league in time of possession.
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