Game Recap: The Crimson Tide Show Road Woes in Win over Vols
Tuscaloosa– In a game that literally went all over the place, Alabama managed to come out on top over the Tennessee Volunteers, 34-20. While Alabama managed to play with the fans hearts throughout the second half, one thing was clear proven; Alabama is still not the team that they are at Home. While Alabama may have controlled the game, they certainly let Tennessee come back for a scare in the second half. “I think what we did is we relaxed a little bit, but you’ve got to give Tennessee’s guys a whole lot of credit because they surely didn’t flinch,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “They didn’t give up at all. They kept playing hard.” With all the drama surrounding this game, (Lane Kiffin’s homecoming, annual game, bitter rivalry), Alabama managed to produce out the get go. As soon as the Crimson Tide’s offense stepped onto the field in Neyland Stadium, things got ugly. After an 80 yard and 41 yard touchdown from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper, TJ Yeldon got into the mix with a touchdown run putting the Tide up 20-0. Next drive Blake Sims added onto the fire as he pushed his way into the end zone with a 28 yard touchdown run. At that point, fans were sure of another blowout.
Then things got interesting. After two drives with Nathan Peterman, head coach Butch Jones turned to third string quarterback Joshua Dobbs. As soon as Dobbs found his rhythm, things changed drastically. Tennessee marched down the field on three consecutive drive scoring 17 unanswered points. Dobbs, a dual-threat sophomore finished the day 19-32 for 192 yards and had 19 rushes for 75 yards. The Tide needed an answer and needed it fast. “We knew we had to make a huge stop,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said.”We needed to do our job and get the offense out there to score again.” Alabama came back out and finally put the game away after going five for five on third down leading to a Derrick Henry 28 yard run. While Tennessee was only down by 14, time wasn’t on their side to be able to pull off the upset in Knoxville. While there were issues on both sides of the ball, one huge positive for Alabama was the star-studded performance of Amari Cooper. After just five receptions in the first quarter, Cooper was already over the 100 yard mark. He would finish the day with nine receptions for 224 yards and two touchdowns. “I just try to do the best I can to get everything out of every ball thrown to me,” Cooper said. After tonight’s game, Cooper passed former Alabama player Julio Jones for the single game reception yards. Jones, who had 221 yards in his record setting game in 2010 also was also against Tennessee. Coach Saban couldn’t be prouder of Cooper’s performance and on his record-setting season. “We need to play to our strengths and start passing around to other guys a bit more,” Coach Saban said. “But, as long as 9 (Cooper) is open, we’re not going to tell the quarterback not to throw to him.” With all the hype surrounding Lane Kiffin’s return, Kiffin seemed fine throughout most of his play-calling. Even when fans screamed “Go Vols, Beat Kiffin” or “Thanks for nothing”, Kiffin remained calm and gave Alabama a 17 point lead heading in halftime. In his one season at Tennessee, Kiffin’s team averaged 226 yards a game, in the first half of his return, Alabama’s offense had 288 total yards. Coach Saban protected his offensive coordinator explaining what it’s like to return to a former school.
“The fans here are great in Tennessee, and I understand why they were mad, just like I understood why they burnt me at the stake when I first came back to Baton Rouge,” Coach Saban said. “Still, it think there’s a lot of fans, both our fans and Tennessee who can say that Lane Kiffin is a very good coach.” Alabama’s defense once again showed weakness, but also showed strength at times throughout the game. Alabama gave up more then 200 passing yards and wasn’t able to stop Tennessee on third down two consecutive drives. Still, the Tide’s defense came up strong in the first half with a forced fumble by Reggie Ragland that would lead to Sim’s touchdown. “I didn’t even know the ball popped out” Ragland said, who led the Crimson Tide in tackles with nine. “I just came up and saw everyone yelling and screaming so it was a good feeling.” Alabama has struggled all season with the passing defense and showed weakness tonight. While they did give up two passing touchdowns, cornerback Cyrus Jones came up with an interception in the 4th quarter to help Alabama seal the win.
“I knew they were going to try and take a shot,” Jones said. “I turned my head, saw the ball and knew I needed to make a play on it.” While the defense may have caused turnover’s, the offense still had trouble holding onto the ball. The Tide had three total fumbles and lost two including a huge one from Jalston Fowler on the 1 yard line that would have ended the game. Coach Saban mentioned last week after the big win against Texas A&M that everyone played “Alabama Football”. Mistakes such as those are ones that can cost the game and possibly the season. While Alabama heads into a bye week, they still need to be on alert non-stop in order to continue this tremendous run. They will travel to Baton Rouge to face the LSU Tigers November 8th and that will be a tough-fought game in it’s own. Last bye week, Alabama went on the road to Oxford and everyone seems to remember that upset. The Tide must focus on not making carless mistakes and silly penalties. Practice must be clean and sharp and everyone should be giving their a-game. “We definitely need to work this week on moving to the ball,” safety Landon Collins said. “we also got to work on running to the ball and finishing.” The offensive line will also have to step up due to an injury to freshman tackle Cam Robinson. Robinson went down in the third quarter and was seen on the sidelines with crutches and off his leg. With Robinson gone, multiple things could be done. What probably will most likely happen is guard Leon Brown will move to tackle and Grant Hill will be in at guard. Brown has practiced at both positions and Coach Saban has full belief that he can make an impact there. As Alabama tacks on another win in the infamous “Third Saturday in October”, Tennessee managed to scare fans coming as close to within 10 points. Too bad that’s as close as they’d ever get. Cole Thompson is the Alabama Beat Writer for WVUA-FM. Follow him on twitter at @ColeThompson32