Alabama vs Tennessee Game Review

There are beatdowns and then there are Beatdowns, and on Saturday we witnessed a Beatdown of epic proportions. The Third Saturday in Rock-tober saw Alabama crush the Vols by winning 49-10. But, frankly, the game was never even that close. With eight starters out, the Vols came into the game beaten down and then were summarily beaten down by the Tide’s running game and a relentless Bama defense.

Insults to injuries. No mas. No lo contendre.

We here at the Bama Lighthouse believe that old school football still wins and that begins and ends in the trenches. We’ve said many times that you can have all the “pretties” you want at wide receiver, running back and quarterback but if you don’t have an offensive line then all the pretties in the world won’t matter. From Tennessee’s first offensive series of the game, it was evident that their patchwork offensive line would be no match for Bama’s beasties up front. As we say at the house, from Tennessee’s perspective it was “fugly.”

On the other side of the ball, Bama’s ever improving offensive line completely and totally dominated Tennessee on the ground. Three Bama ballcarriers nearly went for 100 yards with Jalen Hurts gaining 132, Bo Scarborough with 109 and Damien Harris with 94 yards rushing. There are so many stats that show Bama’s true dominance in this game but perhaps the most telling is that Bo Scarborough gained his 109 yards on only FIVE carries. My God – imagine if he’d played the whole game!

Bama outgained the Vols 594 to 163. Heck, the Tide’s defense and special teams outscored the Vols all by themselves. The beatings were so bad that both teams were playing their backup QBs for the final 11 minutes of the game. How did it happen? Well, look no further than the line of scrimmage…

Alabama on Defense

We are switching things up a little bit this week and giving praise to a group that seemed to be a little bit maligned after the Arkansas win. Going into the Arkansas game, we stated that Austin Allen was the best true QB we’d seen this year in the SEC and after the Hogs’ victory over Ole Miss we feel pretty good about that statement. But instead of giving Allen credit for getting beaten and battered but still passing for 400 yards, the Tide defense was taken to task for allowing the Hogs to move the football. This week, the Tide defense reminded folks that they can win a game all by themselves if they want to. Josh Dobbs came into the game leading the conference with 20 touchdowns yet he was completely eliminated from having an impact in this game.

The 2016 Bama defense is beautifully constructed to handle the zone reads and run pass option plays of today’s spread offenses. Bama still continues to control the edges but they do so with a lot more speed and athleticism than the days of Courtney Upshaw. Meanwhile, the Tide’s linebackers are exceptionally fast and can move from sideline to sideline as fast as any back can get to the edge. As they say, speed kills and on Saturday it killed the Vols.

Lastly, the Crimson Tide secondary features five guys who could all play corner if they had to and that makes the throwing windows become very, very constricted.   When you couple their cover skills in with the fact that they only had to cover their receiver for about two seconds, it makes for a long, long day for Josh Dobbs. And it was a long, long day for him…

Tim Williams: This game was over when Tennessee found it impossible to block Tim Williams. Everyone respects his speed around the edge so when a tackle sprints out to protect the edge, Williams smartly and quickly knifes inside to knock down the QB. Williams has also added a bull rush to his repertoire, giving him a ton of tools in his tool box that allows him to go to work in deconstructing an offense. If you want a good time, just watch 56 work over an offensive tackle. He’s a game changer.

Shon Dion-Hamilton: Reuben Foster gets all of the pub but SDH has had a terrific season as the “other” linebacker. Tennessee loves to get the ball out to their backs in the passing game but Foster and Hamilton eliminated any and all yards after catch. Hamilton came up with a huge tackle for loss against Jalen Hurd, diagnosing the play quickly and flying into the backfield to upend the big back.

Defensive Tackles: Another unsung pair of Crimson Tide defenders is Da’Ron Payne and Dalvin Tomlinson. This dynamic duo continues to control the middle of the line and this allows the Tide linebackers and safeties to fly to the football and make tackles. Tennessee had no answers for this pair as they often disrupted the pocket, forcing early and erratic throws.

Stack N Shed: No one stacks and sheds like Alabama’s defenders. Each play is a freaking clinic on how to jam your hands into your opponent (stack) and then disengage (shed) to make a tackle. Ryan Anderson is so good at this but, honestly, they all are. This is coaching, pure and simple, and no one does it like Bama.

Tight Coverage: As Gary Danielson pointed out, the Tide’s fast and furious pass rush allowed their secondary to come up and play very tight against the UT receivers. Bama’s corners and safeties were playing the sticks all afternoon long in anticipation of a quick throw.

Pick Six: It’s insane the number of touchdowns the Alabama defense has scored. Insane. This week’s version saw Reuben Foster take an inside rush designed to pick off the center, which allowed Jonathan Allen to have a free rush up the middle. However, Fosters rush was so powerful, it took him and the center right into Jalen Hurd’s path and it resulted in an ill advised screen pass getting thrown to Ronnie Harrison and the Tide’s easiest touchdown of the season.

Hit of the Day: I’m in no way, shape or form saying that this made ANY difference in the outcome of the game, however I do wonder how much of an impact Keith Holcombe’s hit on Alvin Kamara had on his ability to make plays.

Tidebits

  • Jeremy Pruitt had fun calling plays during this game. One thing we saw was Alabama line up very strongly to the weak side of the UT line and then blitz into the strong side with Fitzpatrick and others. Clever.  He blitzed fearlessly Saturday.
  • Anthony Averett had perhaps his best game of the season. He was challenged twice on jump balls and each time he defended the play perfectly. He is a little “handsy” and “grabby” so you could see a pass interference in his future.
  • After having 314 yards after catch last week against Texas A&M, Tennessee maybe had 10 to 20 yards against Alabama. The coverage was stifling.
  • Alabama employed a three man rush and still got a sack. Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams raced each other around the edges and met up at Dobbs’ midsection.
  • How about Ryan Anderson with a pass break up on Alvin Kamara? On one play it appeared he was spying Dobbs, as well. What a versatile player Anderson is…
  • Josh Frazier and Da’shawn Hand showed up several times this week, as did Christian Miller. Bama’s depth is just silly and it’s getting sillier with each rep these guys get.
  • I thought Alabama employed several run blitzes on first down. The Vols seemed reluctant to put the ball in the air and Pruitt jumped on this with several blitzes designed to stuff the run.
  • At halftime, Tennessee had run 33 plays and gained 41 yards. INCREDIBLE!
  • There was a coverage bust in the Bama secondary that Gary Danielson pointed out. On the play, Tennessee motioned to trips (three wide receivers on one side) and Foster, Averett and Jackson messed up the coverage.
  • Look out folks, Rashaan Evans is starting to figure things out at linebacker. He shot a couple of gaps and played very, very well at his new position – much, much better by him.

Alabama on Offense

Mercy. When you break down the offense’s performance, I guess you pretty much have to begin with 438 yards of RUSHING, right? When three backs go for 94 yards or more, that’s pretty significant, right?

Credit has to go all across the board for this kind of effort. Obviously, the line continues to gel together and has become one damn fine unit of this damn fine team. However, when there are so many yards gained on the perimeter of the defense, you have to start throwing out kudos to the receivers’ blocks, as well. Ridley, Stewart, Dieter and Diggs all had huge blocks that helped pave the way for those 438 yards rushing. Heck, even Jalen Hurts got out there and had a key block on Ardarius Stewart’s touchdown run off of a double reverse!

Bama’s front line dominated Tennessee to the point that Bo Scarborough could rush for 109 yards on only five carries. That’s just silly, people. From a rushing standpoint, this was obviously Alabama’s best game of the season, the decade and perhaps the century!

As good as Jalen Hurts was at running the ball, he struggled throwing the ball down the field so it wasn’t even close to his best game as a passer. Along with the two turnovers he committed, he missed several wide open receivers and even thru something that looked like an end over end pass. WTH?

This is What You Came For: Prior to the season, we went on and on about how Stewart eclipsed Ridley’s production in the last three games of the season last year and Stewart has done nothing to dispel the notion that he’s every bit as good or better. One area that Stewart most certainly is a LOT better than Ridley is on the fly sweep. Stewart is a former high school quarterback and appears much more confident with the ball in his hands. His cuts, vision and strength are far superior to Ridley’s on the fly/jet sweeps. His touchdown run on the reverse was a nice example of his speed, vision and patience as a runner. Stewart is a dynamic playmaker and it’s great to have him back in the lineup.

You Can Do Magic: Jalen Hurts can do magical things with the ball in his hands. His ball fakes and deception fooled the CBS cameras more than once and the poor Tennessee linebackers are still looking for the ball. Hurts rode one mesh point with Harris so long it looked like they were going steady for about three steps. But, now with numerous repetitions together, Hurts smoothly pulled the ball and strolled into the end zone for a touchdown. Kiddo is smoooooth and is currently running the zone reads about as well as anyone (of any age) can!

Serenity Now: Jalen Hurts is the calmest dude I’ve seen in the pocket this year. With chaos all around him, he calmly stepped up into the pocket and maneuvered his way until he could find a receiver. Sure, that calmness probably resulted in a batted ball that turned into a pick but there was far more good than bad. Love the way he keeps his composure and continues to scan the field.

Better Man: As good as Hurts was on the ground, he had several struggles thru the air. Honestly, I’m not sure we’ve quite seen his best yet. Hurts’ miscues were a fumble, a pick and at least four passes where you wondered if he got hit or something on the release. Jalen himself would tell you he could do so much better…and he’s pretty dang good already, right?

Tidebits

  • If you go back and look, it was evident that Hurts’ running could be an issue for the Vols. On Alabama’s first drive they were facing 3rd & 2 and Hurts ran the zone read keeper wide to the right. Tennessee was completely outnumbered on the edge but a botched block cut down Bama’s pulling blockers and the play lost five yards. It was one Vol on three blockers and Bama realized this and exploited it throughout the game.
  • The threat of the fly sweep allowed Alabama to outnumber the Vols on the edge on numerous occasions. One or both of the UT linebackers would move to the strong side of the formation and then Bama would simply hand it to their back going in the opposite direction. This happened all night long and UT never could adjust. Again, they struggled to pick up where the ball was and that’s a credit to Hurts.
  • One one incompletion, it appeared Joshua Jacobs was supposed to go out for a screen pass but, instead, stayed in to block. The line allowed the rush to come on in and Hurts had no choice but to smartly throw the ball away.
  • Once again there was a series in the game where I noted we had abandoned the run again. Once it became 14-7, Bama went back to Ramming and Jamming the football down Smokey’s throat.
  • Each time Tennessee scored, Alabama scored on the very next possession.
  • Miller Forristall is a force at TE. He showed extremely well as a blocker and he’s got terrific hands. Love. This. Kid.
  • On Hurts’ 45 yard run, Jonah Williams had a down block on the end that wiped out both Tennessee linebackers. There was no pursuit of happiness for those two Vols.
  • My notes call out Diggs, Stewart and Howard for several great blocks but the best block goes to Gehrig Dieter. On Stewarts touchdown run, Dieter engaged with his block for 13 yards down the field, starting at the hashmark and ending when he deposited the UT defender out of bounds! AMAZING!
  • I thought it was interesting that Saban mentioned that Scarborough would have an expanded role and then Bo actually started the game on Saturday. Still, he only had five carries…but damn, he fast!
  • You know, Alabama just wanted to run the clock out and get to halftime but the UT defense was so bad the Tide ended up with a short field goal attempt!
  • The toughest hit Hurts took was when he fell down coming off the team bus.
  • Hey – was that OJ Howard catching a pass? SWEET!

Alabama on Special Teams

Eddie Jackson is so freaking smooth as a punt returner – he’s been a terrific addition to the punt return team. On his return, Jackson took a little jab step and then allowed two UT defenders to run into one another. Derrick Gore cleaned the clock of one of the defenders while Jacobs took out another. That left two great big offensive tackles trying to chase Jackson and only the punter to beat. I’ve never seen two big uglies cover punts – not sure what they are doing there at Tennessee but it ain’t working.

JK Scott quietly had a 50 yard punt average on the day and he continued to allow Alabama to dominate field position this season.

The only knock was the missed field goal by Adam Griffith – sigh.

Final Thoughts

Simply put, this was not a competitive game. Tennessee was outclassed on both lines of scrimmage and, as a result, they were taken out back to the outhouse where Big Al deposited 10 straight “victories” on Smokey’s head.

Jalen Hurts has obviously added a huge threat in the running game and his ability to read it out perfectly on nearly every play is probably undervalued. Also undervalued is his ball fakes and deception – multiple defenders are getting lost in the fakes and that is allowing the Tide to outnumber the defenders on the flanks. Meanwhile, the receivers and tight ends are kicking some serious ass on the edges. Right now, the rushing offense is a thing of beauty. There will eventually be a day when Hurts will have to prove he can win a game with his arm but that day shouldn’t be this week.

And then there’s the defense. I’ve never, ever seen a defense generate this much scoring! Nine straight games of scoring a non-offensive touchdown is ridiculous. The fact that they have scored as many touchdowns as they have allowed is even more ridiculous. Bama’s defense & special teams scoring alone would have beaten USC, Kent State, Kentucky and Tennessee! Credit Jeremy Pruitt for blitzing without remorse as that is creating some huge scoring opportunities for the Tide.

Up next is Texas A&M. At first blush, the Aggies look very overrated. Put it this way – they appear to be equal to the Vols. Vegas has installed Bama as a 17 point favorite – I’m not sure that’s gonna be enough.

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