Tennessee vs. Alabama: 34-20 Final

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    Lane kiffin-1-2Check in throughout today’s game against Alabama for pre-game and in-game updates and notes from the RTI crew. Feel free to drop any thoughts or questions in the comments section.

    Game Preview

    Predictions

    Pre-game updates:

    • Lane Kiffin did make it into the stadium. Alabama rolled in with heavy security and got Kiffin inside. He walked around the field about two hours before kickoff, met with some UT officials, including Condredge Holloway, and former players such as Marsalis Teague and Marlon Walls.

    • The Vols will go all orange today.

    • Bowl reps are in attendance from the Citrus Bowl and the Belk Bowl. Big list of NFL scouts in the house as well: Texans, 49ers, Cowboys, Jaguars, Dolphins, Vikings, Lions, Eagles and Titans.

    • Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs have been on the field for pre-game warm-ups. No sign of Justin Worley yet. There are growing rumblings that he will not play against Alabama today. Tackle Coleman Thomas, running back Devrin Young, receiver Josh Smith and tight end A.J. Branisel are all among the players not dressed for the game.

    • Receiver Marquez North is out on the field going through warm-ups. There had been some unfounded rumors about his status for the game, but he appears to be getting ready to go.

    • Running back Marlin Lane is on the field in full for warm-ups with a heavily taped ankle. He worked with the second team as the running back.

    • There’s a ton of crimson in the stadium.

    • Worley came out onto the field in full pads with about 30 minutes before kickoff. He wasn’t wearing his helmet not going through any of the warm-up drills.

    • Nathan Peterman continues to look like the starter as he gets the reps with the first-team offense. The starting lineup in the final pre-game warm-up look was (L to R) Kyler Kerbyson, Marcus Jackson, Mack Crowder, Jashon Robertson and Jacob Gilliam. Peterman was announced as the starting quarterback. Brett Kendrick (not Gilliam) was announced as a starter as well.

    1st quarter (20-0 Alabama): The Vols had a nice opening drive, picking up a couple first downs after Evan Berry set them up with decent field position. But a sack spoiled that drive and UT punted for a touchback. Kiffin dialed up a nice play to Amari Cooper on Alabama’s first play of scrimmage. Cooper slipped out in the flat off a play-action boot, made the catch and took it 80 yards for a touchdown (extra point failed). The results weren’t much different on Alabama’s second drive. Cooper hauled in a 41-yard touchdown pass after Cam Sutton bit and Alabama took a 13-0 lead. Tennessee, which used Nathan Peterman and Joshua Dobbs at quarterback, punted four times and though they crossed into Alabama territory a few times, they never truly threatened to score. Alabama capped off the scoring in the quarter with a 75-yard drive that included more Cooper and was finished off with a 1-yard touchdown run by T.J. Yeldon.

    2nd quarter (27-10 Alabama): It looked like Alabama was going to run away with this one and never look back. They still could, but Tennessee battled back and went into the break with some momentum and hope. A Dobbs fumble set up Alabama’s fourth touchdown of the day – a 28-yard scamper by Blake Sims on a zone-read keeper. That was one of the few mistakes Dobbs made. The sophomore quarterback settled in and made some nice plays with his feet and his arm. It was senior Marlin Lane, however, that set up Tennessee’s first touchdown since the fourth quarter of the Georgia game with a 44 yard run down the right sideline. The Vols went backwards the next two plays, but Josh Malone made a nice 9-yard touchdown grab in the end zone to put the Vols on the board.

    Tennessee got a step after stuffing Cooper on a jet sweep and took back over. Dobbs made some nice plays on the ground and also hit Marquez North, who made a fantastic grab over an Alabama defender, for a 20-yard strike. The Vols got inside the 10, brought The Beast package on a third and 1 and A.J. Johnson was stuffed. Butch Jones elected to kick a field goal to cut it to 27-10 at the break. That’s a call that obviously will get some degree of scrutiny, depending how this game plays out. Personally, think they should’ve gone for it. Maybe play it safe in a closer game, but the Vols are going to need TDs to have a shot in this one. We’ll see how that plays out. Maybe the biggest surprise, however, might be UT’s success on the ground. The Vols are out-rushing Alabama 140-69 and the Tide came in the game just allowing 64 rushing yards per game. A much better effort in that quarter and we’ll see if the Vols can keep it going as Alabama starts the second half with the ball.

    3rd quarter (34-17 Alabama) : The Vols cut Alabama’s lead to 10 points, but Alabama had a nice answer at the end of this quarter. Dobbs is making a strong case that the quarterback job should be his for a long time. He led another scoring drive that was capped off by a rollout pass to Von Pearson, who made a nice juke at the goal line to make it in for the score on a tough 3rd-and-goal situation from the 9. Alabama had a championship-level response. With the stadium getting revved up, Alabama converted multiple tough third downs, worked their way down the field and a 28-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry finishes the drive up, putting Alabama back up 34-17. You have to admire Tennessee’s effort in fighting back in this one, but their early struggles might be too much to overcome.

    4th quarter (34-20 Alabama): Dobbs forced a deep ball early in the quarter that was intercepted by Alabama. It looked like the Tide would be able to grind the clock down, but a botched handoff between Blake Sims and Derrick Henry gave Tennessee the ball back in scoring territory. The Vols had Marquez North open in the end zone, but Dobbs threw it behind him, forcing the short field goal by Aaron Medley that cut it to two scores at 34-20. Alabama milked the clock from there. Multiple first downs on the following drive ran the clock down under three minutes. Alabama fullback Jalston Fowler fumbled at the 1 to prevent Alabama from going up more. Tennessee took back over on the 1, but couldn’t get it past midfield and lost the ball on downs before Alabama ended it on a knee.