Josh Malone

Tennessee fumbles away upset bid; No. 8 Alabama wins for 9th straight time vs. Vols

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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.

 

No. 4 Alabama comes out firing, leads Tennessee 27-10 at the half

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It’s hard to start a game hotter than No. 4 Alabama did at Tennessee tonight.

After forcing a Tennessee punt to open the game, Blake Sims found Amari Cooper for an 80-yard touchdown pass on Alabama’s first play from scrimmage. The Tide immediately forced a Tennessee three-and-out, and then marched 79 yards in seven plays, capped by a 41-yard scoring strike from Sims to Cooper, to take a 13-0 lead six minutes into the game.

Alabama then forced the Volunteers’ third punt of the first quarter, and promptly moved 90 yards in nine plays and exactly four minutes to push the lead to 20-0.

Sims added a 28-yard touchdown run with 12:03 to go in the second quarter to push the gap to 27-0, and Alabama’s overall run to 86-0 dating back to its 59-0 demolition of Texas A&M last week.

Tennessee closed the half on a 10-0 run, getting a nine-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Joshua Dobbs to Josh Malone and an Aaron Medley field goal to close the half, but the Tide have felt firmly in control of this game from the opening gun.

Sims has hit 8-of-16 passes for 219 yards and two scores, plus the 28-yard run, and Cooper has toyed with the Tennessee secondary, catching half a dozen passes for 194 yards and those two touchdowns.

Dobbs replaced starter Nathan Peterman after a 2-for-4 start for 10 yards and completed eight of his 13 passes for 89 yards and a score while also serving as Tennessee’s leading rusher with 10 carries for 56 yards.

Alabama will receive the ball to open the second half.

SEC schools once again dominate in recruiting rankings

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The SEC is home to seven of the top ten recruiting classes and all 14 SEC schools finished in the top 50 on the team rankings compiled by Rivals.com. Or, just another National Signing Day.

It is just silly how highly respected the SEC is viewed by the recruiting experts, and it does not appear there is much standing in the way any time soon. Worst yet for other conferences, the praise is deserved.

Alabama was once again crowned the recruiting national champions, their fourth straight such national title. The Crimson Tide highlighted their class with the signing of the top ranked player in the country according to Rivals, defensive end Da’Shawn Hand. Texas A&M signed the nation’s second-ranked player, defensive end Myles Garrett. LSU celebrated the signing of running back Leonard Fournette, the nation’s fourth ranked player. SEC schools thrived by keeping some of the top talent in its footprint close to home and capitalized by luring in some of the top players from outside the conference’s boundaries. Simply put, the nation’s best players are likely to be developed in SEC territory and those that are not are top candidates to move to the southeast.

In all, 45 players on the Rivals 100 signed with an SEC school. That leaves 55 players in the Rivals 100 for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten and Pac 12 (and Notre Dame) to battle over. Defensing national champion Florida State signed four of those players. Clemson got three. Ohio State had an impressive class with eight players from the Rivals 100, but the rest of the Big Ten was left in the dust. Urban Meyer’s SEC approach to coaching is having an effect with the Buckeyes, and it is little surprise why Ohio State is running away from the rest of the Big Ten. Meyer’s SEC flair is a difference.

The Pac 12 may have had a successful day across the country, including picking out some of the top recruits from under the SEC’s nose, but even with the kind of talent put together across the west coast conference it is clear the SEC is still the dominant force from top to bottom.

As far as surprises go there were not a whole lot to see in the SEC. Alabama getting linebacker Rashaun Evans right out of Auburn’s back yard raised some eyebrows but most of the day went according to plan. Tennessee made a bit of a statement in Butch Jones’ first full recruiting year with the Vols. Tennessee signed 31 players and finished with the third best recruiting class in the SEC despite having a losing record in 2012. The Vols added plenty of depth on the roster and should start to benefit from some of the new additions quickly. Among the signees at Tennessee are five-star wide receiver Josh Malone and five-star running back Jalen Hurd. Not one recruit added by Tennessee on signing day is below three stars according to Rivals. Just about every school succeeded in filling some needs, including Florida with the addition of dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris out of Miami. Harris had previously been committed to Florida State, so the Gators fill a need by benefiting from the Seminoles having a young Heisman Trophy quarterback.

Even despite looking like a mess of a recruiting class after James Franklin left for Penn State, Vanderbilt managed to keep the program above water on signing day. The Commodores may have fallen significantly in the team recruiting rankings over the last month, but ended the day with 12 four-star players and one five-star recruit, defensive back Jalen Tabor. Considering the circumstances, Vanderbilt more than survived a tough situation.

National Team Recruiting Rankings by Rivals.com

1. Alabama
2. LSU
5. Tennessee
6. Texas A&M
7. Florida
8. Georgia
9. Auburn
16. South Carolina
17. Kentucky
19. Ole Miss
29. Arkansas
35. Missouri
41. Mississippi State
50. Vanderbilt