I’m not disappointed with how the guys played last night at all. They showed heart, they showed aggression, they showed their progress against the current best team in the nation. It is very difficult to win a football game on foreign territory when you have to play against the other team, coaches, fans, officials, and even the announcers. But we were close, the 35-13 score is not an accurate representation of this game.
The Vols got the ball first and it seemed like we were in for a long night. After a quick 3-and-out, Bama took the ball and took an easy 7-0 lead. After trading interceptions with one another, the Vols took advantage of the good field position at the Bama 41 tying the game at 7-7 with a 2 yard Brian Maurer run. Bama responded with a drive of their own also dominated by the ground game. Brian Robinson Jr. finished of the drive with a 9-yard TD run putting the Tide on top 14-7.
The Vols’ next drive started off as almost a worst-case scenario. Brian Maurer, coming off a concussion in the Mississippi State game, was shoved late causing him to take another hard hit to the head on the knee of his own lineman, ending his night. Needless to say that this drive was spent on the ground rather than in the air. After Jarrett Guarantano overthrew a wide open receiver, that would have ultimately resulted in a Vol TD, Tennessee settled for a 37-yard field goal from Brent Cimaglia to close the gap to 14-10. Alabama took their next drive down the field setting them up for a 1-yard Najee Harris TD run and after a targeting call on Daniel Bituli at the goal line. The Tide took a 21-10 lead into the half as neither team could capitalize in the back end of the half, mostly due to both teams losing their starting quarterbacks to injuries.
I feel that with Bama getting the ball back first after half, it would make or break the rest of the game depending on how the Vols responded. Forcing the Tide to a 3-and-out is probably the best case that we could have asked for moving forward. After a questionable holding flag called a Tennessee TD back, the Vols settled for another Cimaglia field goal to cut the deficit to 21-13 Tide. The Vols came out on defense ready to play, they seemingly shut the Bama drive down until a very soft unnecessary roughness call kept the drive alive and allowed them time to go down the field and score making it 28-13 Bama. After a couple more punts, the Vols put together a great drive that took them all the way to the Bama 1. Just as it seemed they were about to punch it in, Guarantano called his own number on a sneak resulting in a fumble that Bama’s Trevon Diggs took all the way to the house. This play locked the game up for the Tide giving us the final score at 35-13.
It was so nice to see this team competing through the adversity. Some positives that I took from the game is that the run game is strong behind Tim Jordan and Ty Chandler, with Eric Gray not far behind. Our offensive line is aggressive, as we saw them push the pile to get us a first down early in the game. No, everything is not going to be perfect right now. What we need to watch for is improvement from the team, that is exactly what we saw last night.
B. Maurer: 5/7, 62 yards, 1 INT, 48.3 QBR (Left the game early with a head injury)
T. Jordan: 17 rush, 94 yards
J. Jennings: 6 rec., 66 yards
T. Tagovailoa: 11/12, 155 yards, 1 INT, 75.8 QBR (Left the game with an ankle injury)
N. Harris: 21 rush, 105 yards, 2 TD
H. Ruggs III: 4 rec., 72 yards
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