Alabama vs. Tennessee Volunteers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly


Saturday night the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-1) held off a scrappy Tennessee Volunteers (3-5) team by a final of 34-20. After a dominating opening quarter, in with they jumped to a 27-0 lead, the Tide sputtered for a lot of the rest of the game and seemed to lose the intensity it started out with.

For those that thought Alabama had completely turned the corner against Texas A&M, myself included, this game should be an eye opener.

The Good

Alabama’s first quarter was as absolutely dominant as could possibly be. Alabama had over 250 yards in the first quarter alone yet finished the game with 469. Tennessee’s offense could not muster up anything in the first quarter either but ended up racking up nearly 400 yards for the remainder of the game. Amari Cooper was deadly in that first quarter, catching two touchdown bombs, one for 80 yards on the very first offensive play and the other for 41 yards, and went on to set a single school record for receiving yards in a game with 224, breaking the great Julio Jones mark against Tennessee in 2010.

Despite the team’s sluggish play after the first quarter, Blake Sims still played very well and ran the offense efficiently, throwing for 286 yards and two scores along with another heart -topping 28-yard touchdown run. Still, Sims made a few mistakes which included some poorly-thrown balls and mismanaged clock. Sims and Derrick Henry also had some miscommunication on a read option which resulted in a fumble, putting the defense in a tough situation. With that said, Alabama was 11 of 15 on third downs, continuing the progress this team has made on third downs since the Ole Miss game.

Reggie Ragland continues to get better each and every week and is becoming a true star on the defense. He led Alabama with nine tackles including 1.5 for loss, broke up a pass on third down, and forced a fumble on one of his multiple wicked hits in the game.

The Bad

Alabama completely lost focus after the first quarter and let their foot off the pedal. After committing no penalties against Texas A&M, Alabama committed six mostly bonehead penalties against Tennessee. They also turned the ball over twice, including once at the goal line by Jalston Fowler when he was plowing his way into the end zone. Fowler was carrying the ball far away from his body allowing the defender to get a hand on it. It was plays and mental errors like this that kept Tennessee in the game when they had no business still being even remotely in the game after the first quarter.

Alabama could only muster two sacks against a banged up offensive line that had allowed 30 coming in to the game. The pass rush was almost nonexistent in the second and third quarters and again this is inexcusable with a defensive line this good and this deep.

The play calling at times was brilliant and at times just downright head scratching. Running the wildcat on multiple plays, both for negative yards, made no sense, especially when it was painfully obvious Tennessee knew what Alabama was going to do. Teams aren’t being fooled by the wildcat anymore, so unless Kiffin and Saban are going to let Yeldon throw a pass out of that formation at least once it is time to just put the wildcat away for the most part.

Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White were the only two wide receiver or tight ends on the team to catch a pass against Tennessee. Running back TJ Yeldon added one catch but other than that no one else caught a pass. This is ridiculous and is a recipe for disaster against better teams. Christion Jones didn’t play in the game due to injuring his hamstring in warm-ups but that just gave backups like Chris Black and Cam Sims more of a chance to get on the field, yet neither caught a single pass. The same for nightmare matchup OJ Howard at tight end. Amari Cooper is a deadly weapon but to use him properly against better teams other players have got to make plays.

The Ugly

Allowing a quarterback that has taken zero snaps all year long to complete 19 of 32 passes for 192 yards and two touchdowns is abysmal and just downright pathetic. Tennessee’s Josh Dobbs also ran for 75 yards as Alabama continues to struggle against mobile quarterbacks. That can spell disaster against Dak Prescott of Mississippi State and Nick Marshall of Auburn. This has got to be corrected quickly or those two games could turn ugly. A case can be made for Alabama not being prepared for the mobile Dobbs, but not being prepared rests on the shoulders of the coaches because there is no reason that they shouldn’t have prepared for the possibility of him playing.

This teams inconsistencies are infuriating, probably no more so than for Nick Saban. I’ve never seen a team that can look as dominating and damn near perfect like it did against Texas A&M and for the first quarter against Tennessee and then seemingly fall apart like it did late in the game against Ole Miss and after the first quarter against Tennessee. There are a lot of things, mainly having to do with discipline and focus, that still need to be fixed. You could argue that this coming up bye week is coming at a perfect time, especially with all of the injuries this team is piling up, but a bye week didn’t help much for focus the week of Ole Miss. Regardless Alabama got a much needed road win against a hated rival and will now prepare for an ever improving LSU team that just knocked off Ole Miss.

Final Stats

Blake Sims: 14-24, 286 yards, 2 TD; 6 carries, 42 yards, 1 TD

Derrick Henry: 16 carries, 78 yards, 1 TD
TJ Yeldon: 14 carries, 52 yards, 1 TD; 1 catch, 3 yards

Amari Cooper: 9 catches, 224 yards, 2 TD
DeAndrew White: 4 catches, 59 yards

Reggie Ragland: 9 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble, 1 pass breakup
Nick Perry: 8 tackles
A’Shawn Robinson: 7 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Trey DePriest: 6 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Jarrick Williams: 4 tackles, 1 pass breakup
Eddie Jackson: 4 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 16 yards
Landon Collins: 4 tackles
Xzavier Dickson: 4 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack
Ryan Anderson: 4 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss
Cyrus Jones: 3 tackles, 1 pass breakup, 1 INT
Geno Smith: 3 tackles, 1.0 tackle for loss
Jonathan Allen: 3 tackles, 0.5 tackle for loss
Jarran Reed: 3 tackles
Dillon Lee: 2 tackles
Dalvin Tomlinson: 2 tackles
Tony Brown: 1 tackle
DJ Pettway: 1 tackle, 1 quarterback hurry
Da’Shawn Hand: 1 tackle, 1.0 tackle for loss, 1.0 sack
Rashaan Evans: 1 tackle

JK Scott: 4 punts, 42.8 yards per punt (long: 60 yards)
Adam Griffith: 4/5 XPs
Cyrus Jones: 3 kickoff returns, 57 yards
Landon Collins: 1 kickoff return, 16 yards