Grading Vols performance vs. Bama

Here's the top to bottom ratings for Tennessee's game vs. Alabama. Grades of 90-100 are regarded as championship quality. Grades of 80-89 equate to top 25 worthy, grades of 70-79 are winning marks. Grades of 60-69 are minimum to a winning effort against unranked teams. Any grade below 60 is considered failing.

QUARTERBACK: (93) It wasn't vintage Casey Clausen in terms of completion percentage (23 of 43) but the California senior's unerring aim in the clutch provided the difference for Tennessee in this five overtime classic. With the Vols down to their last gasp, Clausen connected on a fourth-and-19 pass for 29 yards to C.J. Fayton. His run to pick up the first down in the fifth overtime — arguably the best run of his college career — set up Tennessee's final touchdown which he scored on a sneak. He then lofted a perfect fade to James Banks for the two-point completion and an unsurpassable eight-point lead. Clausen threw for four TDs and ran for another, and his fingerprints were all over this critical Tennessee victory, especially the last scoring drive of regulation when he led the Vols 86 yards in 1:27 and eight plays, hitting Troy Fleming for the tying touchdown. That TD toss was set up by a 24-yard strike to Mark Jones.

SECONDARY: (91) Yes they made some mistakes and gave up a couple of big plays, but they were around the ball all night and came up with the winning play in the end. True Freshman Corey Campbell filled in for an injured Rashad Baker and intercepted a pass as well as tying for the lead in team tackles with 11. Campbell is one of the most exciting DB prospects the Vols have had in years and his future is bright. He's had two picks in two games. Sophomore corner Jason Allen and senior strong safety Gibril Wilson also had 11 tackles each, while Rashad Baker recorded six before going out with a knee sprain in the first half. All totaled Tennessee's DBs posted 45 tackles in the game, compared to 29 for UT's linebackers. The return of Brandon Johnson will give Vol coaches a lot of options down the stretch.

RECEIVERS: (90) Wide receivers became playmakers for the Vols as James Banks had his best game with seven catches for 107 yards, two receptions for TDs, one for a two-point conversion and he scored UT's first touchdown on a 25-yard run off a direct snap from center. He also had UT's longest play of the night on a 47-yard reception. Six Tennessee receivers caught at least one pass for 12 yards in the game. Mark Jones had a 19-yard run on a reverse and a 24-yard pass to set up Tennessee's winning touchdown. Derrick Tinsley picked up 28 yards on a reverse and added a six-yard TD catch in the first overtime. Tennessee's wideouts combined for 72 yards on three carries compared to 137 in 39 carries for the running backs. The development of this group is critical to Tennessee's offensive balance and consistency and it looks to be coming of age.

LINEBACKERS: (84) Robert Peace had what was perhaps a career best game with 11 tackles, including five behind the line of scrimmage, and a sack. Burnett added nine tackles and a physical presence on the edge. Simon recorded five tackles but dropped an interception opportunity and was flagged for a 15-yard face mask penalty in overtime. Marvin Mitchell and Jason Mitchell saw playing time and provided quality relief. Defensive line did a better job which enable the linebackers to do what they do best which is chase the ball and disrupt offensive timing.

DEFENSIVE LINE: (82) UT's D-Line showed considerable improvement over the last three games, playing particularly tough in goal line and short yardage situations. J.T. Mapu's maturation continues as he demonstrated with six tackles (two for losses) and one of Tennessee's two sacks. Mondre Dickerson was steady and Greg Jones and Justin Harrell provided solid relief in the trenches. There's talent in this young group and their progress will be reflected in the defense's improvement. Vols got a little more push inside but not a lot of pressure without blitzes. Most of Bama's rushing yards came off tackle as Shaud Williams gained 166 yards in 40 carries. Constantine Ritzmann recorded five tackles at defensive end and Parys Haralson added three.

SPECIAL TEAMS: (82) James Wilhoit was perfect on all three of his pressure field goal attempts and appears to be getting in a groove. He also kicked off well but poor coverage on Vols last kick almost costs Tennessee the game. Wilhoit picked up a 15-yard face mask penalty but he also saved what looked to be a game-winning touchdown. Dustin Colquitt was outstanding as usual averaging 47.3 on six punts with plenty of hang time. Mark Jones fumbled a punt when teammate Chris Heath bumped into him after losing track of the punt. Kick return unit is still looking for that big play.

OFFENSIVE LINE: (77) Tennessee got more done on the ground but the offense didn't get in gear until the second half and again forced the defense to stay on the field almost 13 minutes longer than opponent. Clausen was only sacked twice in 43 pass attempts but Vols got little done between the tackles with their trademark power football rushing attack. Line allowed defensive ends to get free shot a quarterback on consecutive plays in the fourth overtime and appeared confused over assignments, like on pass coverage in first quarter when a blitzer blind sided Clausen and forced a fumble. Vols found running room behind left tackle Michael Munoz who played one of his better games.

RUNNING BACKS: (69) Cedric Houston had 83 yards in 16 carries but took a long break after his first quarter fumble cost the Vols a scoring opportunity. It was the second straight game that Houston has coughed up the ball inside the opponents' 25-yard line. Jabari Davis didn't get a lot done (24 yards in 12 carries), but Larkins picked up the slack in the fifth overtime and finished with 44 yards in four carries. Gerald Riggs didn't make an appearance even on special teams, which would lead one to conclude he's still in the dog house.

OVERALL: (80) This was a winning effort in which the Vols didn't execute as well as they can, but still demonstrated the heart to overcome the odds in a game that was vital to the team's season. They had plenty of chances to surrender but refused to give in. They stopped Bama twice on short yardage in the final minutes of regulation to give the ball back to the offense which responded with a game-knotting 86-yard scoring drive. It may have been Vols best back-to-back series of the season could have impact far beyond this game.


Inside Tennessee Top Stories