The Tennessee Volunteers (2-3) hosted the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0) in hopes of finding some kind of spark to reignite the 2020 season, but it was Mac Jones and the Tide who sparked a 48-17 win over the Vols in Neyland Stadium.
Jones’ day ended before the fourth quarter started, but he still managed to run for a touchdown and throw for 386 yards on 25-of-31 passing as Bama cruised to its 14th straight win in the rivalry.
Jaylen Waddle was lost for the year after suffering a severe injury during the opening kickoff, but that didn’t keep Alabama from immediately converting two consecutive first downs through the air. Tennessee held strong, however, and forced a 4th and 1 at midfield. Alabama punted the ball away and Jarrett Guarantano found Josh Palmer for a first down on the first play from scrimmage during the Vols’ first drive of the game, but three straight runs put the Vols in a 4th and long and they were also forced to punt.
It didn’t take long for the Tide to move down the field. They took over at their own 30 but arrived at the UT2 after four quick passing plays. A crucial moment came when Najee Harris appeared to fumble at the goal line, but the refs upheld the original call that he was down at the UT1. Harris punched it in on the very next play to give Bama the first points of the game and the first lead, as well. Will Reichard hit the PAT and they led, 7-0, with 7:40 left in the first quarter.
It was basically rinse and repeat after the Bama touchdown. Tennessee went three-and-out on its next possession and it took the Tide seven plays for Jones to punch it in from one yard out. The PAT was good to go and the Tide now led, 14-0, with 2:54 to go in the first quarter. Jones was putting on a clinic at this point. He was nine-for-nine with 145 yards through the air and the rushing touchdown at this point.
Tennessee was able to put together a scoring drive, but it was only a field goal instead of a touchdown. Regardless, the Vols’ rushing attack showed a lot of promise on that drive. Tennessee’s backs carried the rock nine times for 46 yards and converted two third downs via the run on the 13-play, 60-yard drive that ended in Brent Cimaglia’s 33-yard field goal. Tennessee was able to cut Bama’s lead to 14-3 with 12:11 left in the first half.
But Bama put together the perfect response and Brian Robinson Jr. led the way. The talented back carried it four times for 29 yards and a touchdown on the nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive. The PAT went through the uprights and Bama now led, 21-3.
It was becoming very clear that Tennessee would need to score touchdowns and not field goals if there was any chance at making this a competitive game.
And that’s exactly what they did. Guarantano found freshman receiver Jalin Hyatt for a 38-yard touchdown to pull within 21-10 with 6:13 left in the first half. It was a beautiful pass from Guarantano that hit Hyatt perfectly in stride as he crossed the goal line.
First of many for Jalin Hyatt pic.twitter.com/X0njfSgYvg— More Important Issues (@More_Issues) October 24, 2020
What Bama gives, it taketh away, however. An incredible 45-yard catch from John Metchie III in-between two Vol defenders gave the Tide the ball at the UT2 and Harris recorded his second rushing touchdown to plays later. Reichard’s kick was good and Alabama now led, 28-10, with 4:04 to go in the first half.
John Metchie doesn’t drop balls— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 24, 2020
Neither team could anything else done for the half as Tennessee went into the locker room down 28-10. The Tide had 21 first downs compared to the Vols’ nine and 297 passing yards compared to the Vols’ 76. In all, Alabama outgained the Vols 396-160 during the first half and averaged 9.2 yards per play to Tennessee’s 5.16 yards per play.
Tennessee had to find a way to create explosive plays a la the Hyatt touchdown or else there was not shot at winning this game.
Things couldn’t have gotten off to a worst start for the Vols as Eric Gray fumbled the ball on a 3rd and 5 during the opening drive of the third quarter. Malachi Moore pulled off the scoop-and-score and the PAT extended Alabama’s lead to 35-10 just 30 seconds into the second half.
Alabama with a Fumble-6!— Alabama DieHards (@AlabamaDieHards) October 24, 2020
Malachi Moore the true freshman pic.twitter.com/z3T0ydPvqd
Tennessee went three-and-out thanks to a false start on the subsequent drive, but caught a big break when Tre Flowers forced a Slade Bolton fumble on Bama’s first drive of the second half. But despite the turnover, the Vols couldn’t muster any more points on the board.
Another long drive and another Harris touchdown run put the Tide up 42-10 with 4:19 left in the third quarter. It looked like Alabama was about to start resting its starters, but two deep passes from Guarantano —a 48-yard bomb to Hyatt and a 27-yard touchdown to Josh Palmer— kept that from happening as Tennessee cut the Tide’s lead to 42-17 with 2:52 to go in the third quarter.
Reichard two more field goals and the Tide would go on to win, 48-17.
Tennessee now enters its bye week but will travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks on Saturday, November 17. Kickoff is currently set for 7:30PM EST.