Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) gave No. 8 Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) a respectable fight, but when it came time to make a big play in the clutch, Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs lost control of the football and fumbled away the football to Alabama’s defense as time was winding down in the game. In the end, Alabama held on to avoid a serious upset bid by Tennessee, winning 19-14 to hand the Vols their ninth straight defeat against Alabama.
Tennessee seemed to stun Alabama midway through the fourth quarter when Jalen Hurd maneuvered through the Alabama defense for a 12-yard touchdown. The score gave the Vols a 14-13 lead quickly after Alabama took a 13-7 lead. Tennessee’s scoring drive needed just four plays to a 75-yard touchdown drive that included a pair of big passes from Joshua Dobbs to Josh Smith and Josh Malone. Like a prized champion fighter though, Alabama got the last punch in. Derrick Henry scored on a 14-yard touchdown run to put Alabama up 19-14. The situation called for a two-point conversion attempt, but a pass attempt fell incomplete to keep the score a five-point differential.
Alabama quarterback Jake Coker completed 21 of 27 pass attempts for 247 yards, but he was without a touchdown pass. Henry took care of that on the ground, running for 143 yards and two scores to continue padding his Heisman Trophy candidate profile. though not the case for much of the game, Alabama did end the game with more total offensive yards (364-303).
Alabama will be off next week. The next time we see the Crimson Tide take the field, they will face a likely undefeated LSU team. The Tigers take on Western Kentucky in soggy Baton Rouge tonight and should enter their bye week with a clean 7-0 record. Like Alabama, LSU will be off next week as well before the big SEC West showdown in Tuscaloosa. The game could very well provide more clarity to the SEC West race, although LSU still has games against Ole Miss and Texas A&M to play before the end of the regular season.
Tennessee will return home next week for a primetime matchup with Kentucky in an SEC East battle. Tennessee still has a favorable schedule ahead of them to finish on a hot streak in the regular season. Tennessee must visit Missouri, but the back end of the schedule also features games against Vanderbilt, North Texas and South Carolina. That should lead to some nice momentum heading to a bowl game.
Alabama has had a knack for getting off to some slow starts this season, giving their opponents some confidence. It may juts be a matter of time before Alabama starts flexing some muscle against the Vols, but at halftime this SEC rivalry is all tied at 7-7 in a defensive battle.
Alabama running back Derrick Henry ran 20 yards for the first score of the game midway through the first quarter, but the Vols answered. Tennessee went 75 yards on 10 plays to even the score at 7-7 with Joshua Dobbs finding Josh Smith for an 11-yard touchdown inside the red zone.
Tennessee owns the upper hand in total yardage, 177-133, and the Vols have limited Alabama’s running game to just 40 yards so far. Tennessee has also done a decent job getting off the field, holding Alabama to two-of-six on third-down opportunities while the offense has converted five of nine. Tennessee head coach Butch Jones is a bit upset at the officiating, having seen his Vols called for five penalties in the first half. Regardless, Tennessee has more than held their own in Bryant-Denny and will be in position to win this one in the second half if it continues to hold Alabama down.
The Crimson Tide got a bit banged up in the first half as well. Safeties Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison were each injured in the first half.
Through one half at a sufficiently amped Neyland Stadium, No. 23 Tennessee looks every bit like the team deserving of all that offseason hype and not the one that’s one for its last 28 against ranked opponents. The Vols hold a 17-3 lead over No. 17 Oklahoma at the break.
Tennessee opened the scoring with a 19-yard Aaron Medley field goal with 9:51 to go in the first quarter, and Josh Dobbs pushed the lead to 10 when he found Josh Malone for a nine-yard strike at the 1:56 mark of the opening frame.
Dobbs then pushed the lead to 17-0 when he hit Josh Smith for a 19-yard gain and then raced in from four yards out two plays later at the 12:14 mark of the second quarter.
Austin Siebert finally put the Sooners on the board with a 35-yard field goal with 4:56 to go before the half.
The combination of Dobbs and Jalen Hurd has carried Tennessee; Dobbs has completed 6-of-12 throws for 61 yards and a touchdown and rushed 10 times for 19 yards and another score, while Hurd has totaled 66 yards on 13 carries.
Led by Derek Barnett, the Tennessee front has harassed Baker Mayfield into 13 incompletions and one interception on his 20 throws, good for all of 77 yards. Joe Mixon has rushed five times for 35 yards, while Samaje Perine has added 31 yards on 11 carries.
Worth noting: Tennessee is 13-1 under Butch Jones when leading at the half.
Tennessee will receive the ball to open the second half.