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Tennessee Game Grades: Alabama Edition

Tennessee lived on the edge all season. Today they fell off the edge, and fell hard. See how each unit graded out in Tennessee Game Grades: Alabama edition.

Tennessee has lived on the edge all season. An overtime win against Appalachian State in the opener, overcoming double-digit deficits against Florida and Georgia, and a seven turnover performance in the double overtime loss to Texas A&M last week. It made for a compelling story line all season long.

But today the Vols feel over the edge and the fall was mighty.

Tennessee Game Grades: Alabama Edition

Offense: F

Yes, Tennessee was playing probably the best defense in the nation. Yes, the offensive line was playing three back-ups. Doesn’t matter. If you want to be elite, you have to compete in situations like this. The Vols offense was absolutely terrible today.

Offensive Stat of the Game: Total Offensive Yards: (116 at end of 3rd Quarter).

Quarterback: D
As good as Joshua Dobbs has been this season, he had a bad game today. He was extremely inaccurate in the passing game, particularly in the first half. He was under pressure all day, but was still inaccurate even when he had time. The biggest mark against Dobbs is his decision making in the read-option run game. Dobbs just didn’t seem in control of the offense today.

Running Backs: C-
Neither Jalen Hurd nor Alvin Kamara could get anything going today as well. The pair accounted for 49 rushing yards. They didn’t contribute in the passing game, either, with a total of six receiving yards. Not much to say here; the Vols couldn’t get many holes open and didn’t exploit them when they did.

Receivers: C 
The receivers didn’t have many data points to grade today, but when they did get a catchable ball, they generally made the catch. And there was a little fight after the catch, but no one could break a big run-after-the-catch play. Jauan Jennings, Josh Malone, and Josh Smith did what they could with what they had. But it wasn’t much.
Offensive Line: F
The offensive line was man-handled all day. We’ve already cited the injuries which compelled a start by Venzel Boulware and forced Drew Richmond into playing today. This league is — and always has been — a league decided at the line of scrimmage. And Tennessee was simply beat on the line today. No other way to say it. Pushed back in pass protection and unable to generate forward push in the run game. Even on screen passes, the line was pushed around and unable to get in position. This will be a game tape they should probably just throw away.

Defense: D

Tennessee’s defense was able to keep the Vols in the game for three and half quarters, but when your offense has nine of twelve drives with four plays or less (eight with three plays), it’s hard to stand your ground. To make it worse, Lane Kiffin tormented Tennessee was his normal expert play calling. Kiffin exploited Tennessee’s inexperience at linebacker all day. Jalen Hurts racked up 132 yards of rushing and was Alabama’s leading rusher.

Defensive Stat of the Game: Jalen Hurts, Alabama leading rusher, with 132 rushing yards.
Defensive Line: C
Even with the absence of Danny O’Brien and the in-game injury to Kahlil McKenzie, the defensive line was able to get good pressure against Alabama’s passing game. They weren’t very good at getting holes closed; although Alabama’s success came mostly on the outside. Shy Tuttle and Derek Barnett were again stand-outs for this unit.
Linebackers: F
While Elliot Berry showed some signs of ability, he was out of position and made several poor reads at the linebacker position. Colton Jumper played a better game, and was able to execute when he was in position, but was out of position several times. Alabama exploited the lack of experience — especially to Berry’s side — in the outside rushing game. The Tide leveraged QB Jalen Hurts’ mobility and absolutely crushed Tennessee in this match-up. The bye week cannot come quick enough for the Tennessee linebacking corps.
Defensive Backs: C-
The defensive secondary wasn’t tested in passing defense too much today because Alabama didn’t need too. The back half struggled to run support, with the notable exception of Rashaan Gaulden, who had several nice open field tackles.

Special Teams: C-

Trevor Daniel had plenty of opportunities today, and punted well with exception of one punt. Alabama also returned a punt for a touchdown. Tennessee’s return game was good, with several kickoff returns and punt returns putting Tennessee in good field position. The offensive effort squandered that good field position however.

Coaching: C

It’s easy to blame the offensive play calling of Mike DeBord. But it wasn’t all play calling. The offensive line couldn’t muster any protection or momentum at the line of scrimmage. And Joshua Dobbs couldn’t get into rhythm passing game. The biggest question mark about offensive play calling was the lack of aggressiveness late in the third quarter and fourth quarter. You might as well start heaving it, already down three touchdowns.

Defensively, it was a similar situation. You can only call so many plays when the defense is constantly on the field. Hurts didn’t seem to ever get into a passing rhythm, especially under pressure, but I suspect Bob Shoop was just trying to keep it close.

Looking Ahead

Next Week: Bye Week. Thank goodness.

Next  game: South Carolina (Away). South Carolina hasn’t looked very good this season, especially on offense. It’ll be critical for Tennessee to get off to a good start and establish themselves in a road environment. How the Vols bounce back from back-to-back losses on the road will tell us a lot about the potential this team has going down the stretch.

The bye week couldn’t come at a better time. Tennessee has to get healthy as it moves into the back half of the schedule. The Vols should win each game, facing South Carolina, Tennessee Tech, Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt to finish the season.

Tennessee has lost control of its own destiny in the SEC East. But they are still on track for a 10-2 season and still have a great shot at winning the Division and playing in Atlanta. It’s hard to see the big picture immediately after a crushing defeat like this. But Tennessee is still on track for what most people expected of them this season. If they can close out the five-game back half of the schedule, they will still be a player on the national scene in early January.

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