Vol Notebook: Game 7

You can always find colorful coverage of Vol football at InsideTennessee. Check out this insightful review of the Big Orange's most recent game:

One of these days sophomore linebacker A.J. Johnson is going to be Tennessee's Offensive MVP and Defensive MVP in the same game.

The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder further enhanced his reputation as a tackling machine with a 14-stop performance in Saturday night's 44-13 loss to top-ranked Alabama. Counting a career-high 21 stops a week earlier at Mississippi State, he has 35 tackles in the past two games. Prior to that he posted 11-tackle efforts against Florida, Akron and Georgia, giving him five consecutive double-digit outings.

Johnson also made his mark on offense as a wildcat quarterback in the short-yardage package Tennessee calls "The Beast." He bulled his way for a four-yard gain on a third-and-one at Bama's 38-yard line to extend a drive that produced a Vol field goal. In the second quarter he punctured the Tide defense for a two-yard touchdown run that narrowed the gap to 20-10.

Johnson's big night was marred a bit in the third quarter, however. With Tennessee down 23-10 and facing fourth-and-one at Bama's 33-yard line, he took a shotgun snap, was immediately hit in the backfield and dropped for no gain.

If the NCAA ever goes back to one-platoon football, this guy might be a Heisman Trophy candidate.


Bama's A.J. McCarron torched Tennessee for four touchdown passes Saturday night, becoming the first opposing quarterback to accomplish that feat since Kentucky's Andre Woodson threw six TD passes in a four-overtime 52-50 loss to the Vols on Nov. 24, 2007. Oddly enough, the last quarterback to throw four scoring passes against Tennessee in a regulation game was another ex-Wildcat. Jared Lorenzen turned the trick on Nov. 17, 2001. Tennessee won that one, too, 38-35.

McCarren killed the Vols with big plays en route to 306 passing yards Saturday night. He hit Amari Cooper with a 54-yard pass in the second quarter, found Kenny Bell for a 29-yard gain in the same quarter, hit Kevin Norwood for 35 yards in the third quarter, combined with Cooper on a 42-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and hit Bell with a 39-yard TD toss in the fourth period.

Sophomore cornerback Justin Coleman said all of those big gainers were due to assignment busts by the Vols.

"Everything was because of us," he said. "Everything they did was because of us ... what we did wrong."

Darrington Sentimore had his finest game as a Volunteer.
(Danny Parker/InsideTennessee.com)

The 44 points Bama scored were the most the Tide has produced against Tennessee since posting a 47-30 romp at Birmingham's Legion Field on Oct. 21, 1989. Tennessee entered that game ranked sixth nationally, Bama 10th. Saturday night also represented the most points the Vols have surrendered at home to Alabama since absorbing a 56-28 beat-down at Knoxville on Oct. 18, 1986.


Redshirt freshman defensive end Trevarris Saulsberry was a well-kept secret heading into Saturday's game. He played in just one of Tennessee's first six games, seeing mop-up action in Game 2 versus Georgia State.

Getting his first significant playing time of the season, Saulsberry performed productively against Alabama. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder led all Vol defensive linemen with 5 stops. He posted 4 solos, an assist and a tackle for loss.


The fact Alabama posted 539 total yards and 44 points makes clear that good defensive performances were hard to find among Tennessee defenders Saturday night.

Two players with Alabama connections competed fairly well, however. End Darrington Sentimore, who played for the Tide in 2010 before spending 2011 at junior college, posted a stop, 2 assists, a sack and two hurries. Linebacker Willie Bohannon, a native of Mobile, contributed 3 assists in a reserve role.


Tennessee made two changes to its starting lineup — one by necessity and one by design.

With Rajion Neal slowed by an ankle injury, sophomore Marlin Lane got his first career start at running back. Alex Bullard, a former starter in the offensive line, started at tight end in place of Mychal Rivera.

Freshman LaDarrell McNeil started for the second week in a row at strong safety. He was credited with 2 tackles and an assist.


When Michael Palardy booted a 32-yard field goal to cap Tennessee's third possession it marked the first points all year Alabama had allowed in the first quarter. Prior to that the Tide had outscored foes 90-0 in the opening period. The last team to score first-quarter offensive points on Bama? Tennessee in 2011 on a 40-yard field goal by Palardy.

Tennessee rushed for just 79 yards on 27 carries Saturday night, yet that was the second-highest rushing total by a Crimson Tide opponent this season. Ole Miss gained 80 yards. Missouri managed just 3 net rushing yards against the Tide on Oct. 13.

Lane led Tennessee with 15 rushes for 55 yards, posting the second-highest individual total Bama has allowed this fall. Arkansas's Knile Davis gained 59 on 20 carries.


Cordarrelle Patterson saw his kickoff-return average drop Saturday night, despite posting runbacks of 45 and 36 yards. His other two returns versus Bama netted just 30 yards combined, giving him a 28.0 average on four attempts. He entered Saturday's game with a 38.2-yard return average that ranked No. 2 nationally.


Tennessee went to halftime trailing by just 13 points (23-10). That was Alabama's smallest intermission lead since the BCS Championship Game last January, when it led LSU 9-0 at the break.

A.J. Johnson

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