Vols Hang With Alabama, Fall 35-13

Vols Hang With Alabama
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The Tennessee Volunteers entered Saturday night as 35-point underdogs against the number one ranked team, the Alabama Crimson Tide. The game began with Brian Maurer and Tua Tagovailoa under center but that would change early in the first half. Tennessee stayed within one possession for much of the first three quarters but crucial mistakes led to Alabama pulling ahead in the fourth quarter. With the loss, the Vols are now 2-5 and will face South Carolina next week as the look to keep their bowl hopes alive. As for Alabama, they advanced to 7-0 and will face Arkansas next Saturday.

Vols Hang With Alabama, Fall 35-13

Vols Came To Compete

It was clear from the beginning that Coach Jeremy Pruitt and his team came into Bryant-Denny Stadium with confidence and a desire to stand toe-to-toe with the best team in the country. And that they did. On Tennessee’s first possession, Jauan Jennings bobbled a pass that was intercepted and led to an easy Alabama touchdown. The Vols’ offense came out on the next possession and drove the ball down the field as they scored on a Maurer sneak on the goal line. The drive included key receptions from Jennings and elusive runs from Ty Chandler and Tim Jordan. Maurer would leave the game late in the first quarter with an apparent concussion. The offense would stall as Jarrett Guarantano struggled to find a rhythm and get the offense moving.

The defense had a somewhat mediocre performance against Alabama. However, it is Alabama who is led by the top rated quarterback and receiver in Tua Tagovailoa and Jerry Jeudy. The defense had a big interception early as Nigel Warrior intercepted a pass in Alabama’s end zone and returned it 60 yards. The drive would be capped by Maurer’s touchdown run.

Aside from that Alabama mishap, Tennessee struggled to stop the Alabama offense early. Tagovailoa went 11-12 for 155 yards and an interception before he left the game with a sprained ankle. Sophomore Mac Jones would enter the game for Alabama and go 6 of 11 for just 72 yards. Following their star quarterbacks departure, Alabama adjusted their gameplan to rely heavily on their rushing attack. The Tide would end the game with 151 rush yards and three touchdowns. Alabama would go on to defeat Tennessee for the 12th consecutive season, 35-13.

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What’s Next for Guarantano?

If there was an opportunity for Jarrett Guarantano to shine and earn the respect from his teammates and fans, it was tonight. That did not happen, at all. Gurantano continued to struggle reading defensive schemes and failed to gain any meaningful yards through the air. His stat line backs it up as he finished 7 of 16, 55 yards and just three yards per attempt. The junior quarterback also failed to connect with a wide open Jauan Jennings that, if completed, would have resulted in Jennings waltzing into the end zone and Tennessee being within a single possession.

Guarantano’s passing was not the worst of his night. With seven minutes to go and Tennessee on the one yard line down by two scores, Guarantano attempted an over-the-top quarterback sneak despite the rest of the team blocking for a run play to the left. It is safe to say that Coach Pruitt did not take very kindly to Guarantano’s rogue-like call. Pruitt gave the quarterback an earful on the way to the sideline and additional five minutes afterwards. That play would be the last for Jarrett Guaratano against Alabama. It could very well be his last play as the quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers.

Impressive Performance

The Tennessee coaching staff has done a steady job of progressing player development throughout the season. The progression has become obvious over the past two weeks from two players in particular, Tim Jordan and Quavaris Crouch. Jordan led the Vols rushing attack for the third straight game. Against a stout Alabama defense, Jordan ran the ball 17 times for 94 yards. Tim Jordan’s downhill running style is a great compliment to the shifty, more elusive style of Ty Chandler. With his recent success, Jordan should continue to split the carries with Chandler next week against the Gamecocks.

The Volunteers began the night without linebacker Henry To’oto’o who was serving a first-half suspension for a targeting call against Mississippi State. To make matters worse, the Vols lost their defensive leader, Daniel Bituli, to a targeting call in the second quarter. The Vols would rely heavily on true freshman linebacker Quavaris Crouch to lead the defense. Crouch did just that as he recorded four tackles, a tackle for loss and multiple quarterback hurries. The linebacker also had a goal-line carry for the Vols as they introduced a formation similar to that ran by former Tennessee linebacker AJ Johnson. Crouch has continuously shown improvement on defense and will see plenty of playing time in the coming weeks as Tennessee looks to continue to impress on the defensive side of the ball.

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On To The Next One

The Vols return to Neyland Stadium next Saturday as they welcome Will Muschamp and the South Carolina Gamecocks to town. Both teams enter the game coming off loses as South Carolina lost to the Florida Gators last Saturday. South Carolina is led by freshman quarterback Ryan Hilinski who has been streaky so far this season. The Gamecocks do have a dangerous run game led by Rico Dowdle and Tavien Feaster. Their offense has nearly six yards per carry and 13 rushing touchdowns on the season. It is unclear if Brian Maurer will be available for Tennessee as he will likely enter the concussion protocol for the second straight week. If he’s unavailable, the quarterback position would be wide open heading into next Saturday. Whoever the quarterback may be, they must protect the football as the Vols will likely rely on their run game and defense to win the game.