Checking the Film: Looking back at UT’s 34-20 loss to Alabama

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    Von Pearson1st Quarter

    13:40: Some really good blocking from the offensive line on the first few plays. Alabama gets to Nathan Peterman on this play, however. Crowder and Kendrick both give up pressure from their men and it gets to Peterman to knock the Vols out of scoring range on what looked to be a promising first possession.

    12:51: Here’s the 80-yard touchdown to Amari Cooper. A lot happened on this play. Butch Jones was rightfully upset because Alabama ran a player onto the field late and the official did not hold the play up to let UT sub. From the time he got in the formation to the time the ball was snapped, only about five seconds elapsed. That’s obviously not enough time for UT to match personnel. That being said, it was a great play call and execution. Cooper runs behind the line of scrimmage and the UT defense loses him. Sims dumps it off in the flat and LaDarrell McNeil and Michael Williams both get pinned by really nice blocks. Brian Randolph dives for him and misses by a foot or two and he’s gone for the early 6-0 lead.

    12:01: Tough spot there and the Vols fail to get a first down on this drive. Hard to see exactly where Hurd’s foot goes out, but it appears that his body landed past the first-down marker.

    11:04: Incomplete pass here, but dangerous matchup. T.J. Yeldon got left with Curt Maggitt in space. That might’ve been another quick touchdown for the Tide if Sims threw a better ball to Yeldon.

    9:12: Two big third-down conversions and both went to Cooper. The Vols had a man over the top on Cooper here, but he breaks inside and Sims hits him in stride for a nice gain.

    9:02: Early dagger No. 2 from Cooper here. Cam Sutton just bites in the route early and Cooper runs right by him. Safety help can’t get there and it’s a pretty easy 41-yard touchdown for the Tide.

    8:55: A lot of good blocking down the field for the Vols. Von Pearson gets a nice one here to spring Jalen Hurd for a first down on that flare route they ran multiple times.

    8:05: Nice throw from Dobbs here, hits Ethan Wolf right in stride, but Wolf doesn’t secure it well enough and Reggie Ragland gets his hand in there enough to break the pass up

    8:00: The Vols don’t get a first down here, but it’s a good example of what Dobbs can do. Several Alabama defenders get close to him, but he pulls it down, breaks a tackle and picks up five positive yards instead of taking a massive loss or losing the football on a sack like Justin Worley has several times. It helps the Vols with field position and they punt it inside the 10.

    7:12: Here’s the personal foul call on Dylan Wiesman that Mike Pereira wrote about yesterday. It takes the officials an eternity to figure this one out and it looks like they’re getting some help from some kind of third party.

    7:12-3:12: Just an incredibly impressive and efficient drive for the Tide. They mixed it up on the ground and through the air, they found Cooper and looked at other options. All three levels of Tennessee’s defense got completely whipped on this drive. T.J. Yeldon did fumble on the 1-yard line, but got a good bounce and the ball came right back to him on the play before he took it in for a touchdown.

    2:34: Nice route by Alex Ellis and a smooth throw from Dobbs to get the Vols 25 yards.

    :12: It just wasn’t Cam Sutton’s best day. He had nice coverage on Amari Cooper here, but if he gets his head around quicker, he has an interception and maybe room to run. He then drops back and muffs the punt on the next play, though the Vols were able to recover it.

    2nd Quarter

    14:30: Designed run all the way here for Dobbs. Jacob Gilliam pass sets, lets the defender run past him and Dobbs charges through that hole. He breaks two tackles and gets the first down and a nice gain for the Vols.

    13:04: Another nice elusive run by Dobbs here to avoid a sack, but he doesn’t secure the ball all the way and when he does get hit, the ball pops out. That’s one of the things he’ll need to work on going forward.

    12:10: Sims killed the Vols with his arm earlier, and now he gets them with his feet. Corey Vereen comes crashing down on the running back, Sims keeps it on the zone read, A.J. Johnson can’t quite get there to clean it up and Sims is gone for a 28-yard touchdown to give Alabama a 27-0 lead.

    11:57: Vic Wharton getting some significant snaps here.

    8:58: Really big throw from Dobbs here. It’s 3rd and 13, the Vols are in their own territory and just went down 27-0. A punt here and any kind of comeback might never have been in the conversation. He gets pressured, but gets enough on the ball to get it to Pig Howard for the first down.

    8:39: If the comeback didn’t start on that previous play, it starts here. Dobbs’ threat to run freezes the defensive end just enough to get Marlin Lane to the corner. Alex Ellis doesn’t throw a great block, but he’s in the way enough to help him get there. Marquez North then seals the edge and Lane is loose down the sideline. He shouldn’t get caught by a 270-pound Xavier Dickson, but there’s Dooley vs. Saban recruiting for you. Still, a great run and play for the Vols.

    7:09: Really nice play by Dobbs and Josh Malone here. The pressure comes on third and goal and Malone finds he’s in man-to-man coverage. He gets his head around, Dobbs hits him on the back shoulder and Tennessee is on the board.

    5:29: Great penetration by Tennessee to blow up the jet sweep to Amari Cooper and put Alabama way behind the chains.

    4:04: Vols catch a slight break here. T.J. Yeldon had a ton of room on this screen play, but he gets his eyes downfield too quickly and drops the pass. Not sure if he would’ve gotten the first with 21 yards to go, but that certainly helped the Vols.

    3:53: Nice play design here, with Dobbs faking the quarterback run, rolling out and Pig Howard breaking behind the defense. It was a tough throw on the run, but one that Dobbs wishes he had back as he overshoots Howard on what could’ve been a quick TD.

    1:46: What a catch by North. Just great concentration and strong hands to make that grab and set UT up in the red zone again.

    :49: The Beast package returns here without a lot of success. A.J. Johnson is a little hesitant here and can’t get the first down. He implores Jones to try it again on fourth and short, but the Vols will have to settle for a field goal. Jones said he wanted the points for momentum heading into half, though there’s a pretty good case that the Vols should’ve gone for a touchdown.

    3rd Quarter:

    14:11: Really nice open field tackle here by Justin Coleman. White isn’t near the player that Amari Cooper is, but this was a very nice play by Coleman to break down and secure the tackle for loss and prevent him from getting the first down. Tennessee is able to hold on third down and get the ball back for the offense to start the third quarter, but it doesn’t happen without this tackle by Coleman.

    12:38: It is amazing how much faster this pass gets to Pig Howard when Josh Dobbs is throwing it compared to when Justin Worley is throwing it. That extra second is the difference between a play like this being a one or two yard gain and a seven yard gain like we see here.

    11:32: (The following assumes that this play is a read by Josh Dobbs and not a designed QB keeper….which it may be.) This is a play that Josh Dobbs would like to have back. It’s a nice look by Mike Bajakian to have Pearson coming across the formation in hopes to drag a defender with him. Dobbs keeps the ball on this play when he probably should have handed it to Jalen Hurd instead. It looks like Hurd had the angle on the defensive end and Marquez North was closing in to seal off the linebacker. Reps in practice will turn plays like this into big runs for Tennessee moving forward. All that said, if it’s a designed QB keeper, then Tennessee will likely expand it to include a read for Dobbs and Hurd moving forward.

    9:11: This was probably my favorite Josh Dobbs throw of the night. Really nice job to freeze the safety with the pump-fake and allow Ethan Wolf to cut in front of him, and then just a perfect throw over the middle that hits Wolf in the stomach. It was also a great route by wolf and a nice comeback catch after having a few drops earlier in the game.

    -Alabama’s defense is incredibly fast. They just close gaps and arrive to ball carriers so fast, it makes life very difficult for any offense.

    8:09: This is what Josh Dobbs can do that no other quarterback on the roster can even come close to. Tennessee tries to set up a screen to Jalen Hurd but Alabama reads it to perfection and has the play stopped dead in its tracks. Dobbs is staring down the barrel of three rushers that were intentionally allowed to get by the offensive linemen, yet he’s still able to make all three mis and escape to the sideline opposite of the way the play is designed to go. After that, he gives a pump fake to the incoming defender to get him in the air and is able to get up the sideline for a first down. This is the difference that having a mobile quarterback can make. What would have been a seven yard loss on third down is now a first down.

    7:48: If this isn’t Josh Dobbs at quarterback, Alabama probably sends a linebacker out wide to follow Hurd. However, because of Dobbs’ ability to run, Alabama doesn’t want to take a linebacker out of the box and give Tennessee numbers for a designed Dobbs run. Dobbs recognizes the defensive alignment and knows he’ll have an easy throw to Hurd for a first down. Dobbs uses his feet to his advantage on this play without actually having to use his feet.

    7:20: Practice reps will fix that.

    5:58: Really nicely designed play by Mike Bajakian right here. Pearson motions across the formation and settles in to give Tennessee a “bunch” formation with their receivers at the top of the screen. All of the crossing and weaving by the receivers causes some tough decisions for the defenders and Pearson is able to run free. If the outside defender takes Pearson too early then Dobbs has Pig Howard for an easy touchdown in the back corner of the end zone. The defender forces the underneath throw, but Pearson is able to give him the ‘okie-doke’ at the goal line for the score. Great execution by Tennessee here.

    5:46: Much like we saw for Tennessee with Josh Dobbs, there is a reason that Alabama chose Blake Sims as their starter this year over Jacob Coker and this play shows why. Derek Barnett does everything right on this play. He maintains his discipline on the play-action fake, closes in on Sims with great technique, doesn’t bite on the pump fake and has Sims dead to write for an eight yard loss. But Sims is athletic and strong with great balance and is able to break the tackle and get rid of the ball for the incompletion. Huge play for Alabama that probably saved them from going three and out. Bama would ultimately move the chains on third down by gaining five yards when they needed four.

    2:48: Really great play here by Blake Sims to avoid the rush and scramble for the first down, but his elbow was down well before the ball was anywhere near the line to gain for the first down. This should have set up Alabama for a 4th down and short, but instead, the official gives him a good spot and they are awarded the 1st. Would have maybe liked to have seen a challenge from Butch Jones on this play.

    :22: Tennessee and John Jancek guessed wrong on this play. They send LaDarrell McNeil on a safety blitz and Jalen Reeves-Maybin through the ‘B’ gap on the left side when Alabama is running to the right. It actually looks like a run/pass option for Sims who wisely hands it off to avoid the blitz. Derrick Henry follows his blocks to the right and goes untouched for the touchdown. Brian Randolph takes a bad angle, but I’m not sure if it would have mattered. Bama had the perfect play called for what Tennessee was doing defensively.

    4th Quarter:

    14:55: This wasn’t the best throw by Dobbs, but it looked like Pearson didn’t break when he should have. If Pearson gets his head around as he cuts towards the middle of the field, he at least gives himself a chance to make this catch. Justin Worley rarely threw over the middle, but Dobbs makes some of his best throws between the hashes. Pearson and the rest of the receivers will need to realize that when Dobbs is in the game, the middle of the field will be more utilized. As these guys get more and more reps together this week, I fully expect plays like this to be made moving forward.

    14:44: Alabama’s offensive line gives Sims all kinds of time in the pocket on this play and he is able to find White on the deep crossing route for the first down. It’s really hard to cover receivers on routes that cover the width of the field when the defense is playing man-to-man and that’s exactly what happened here. Coleman actually does a really nice job, but the lack of pressure on Sims allows him to throw a perfect pass.

    13:17: Curt Maggitt just abuses Alabama’s right tackle on this play for the sack on Sims. Look for a lot of this out of Maggitt over the next four games.

    11:57: Just a bad throw by Dobbs here. Marquez North gets a bad release and is being double-covered. I know that Dobbs has a lot of confidence in his roommate, but it looked like he knew where he was going with the football before the play even started.

    11:15: This will be a nice play for Tennessee moving forward. All of the motion and action is to the outside but Dobbs keeps it and shoots up the middle for the first down.

    9:47: Practice. Reps.

    -This offense with Dobbs under center has a chance to be very very good. You can see how close they are on a few plays here and there already, and that’s after less than a week of first team reps in practice. Assuming they stick with Dobbs the rest of the way, this offense should get exponentially better each week.

    7:40: Sims with another demoralizing scramble for the first down when the Vol defense had terrific coverage down the field. The Vols won’t have to face a quarterback with these type of wheels the rest of the year…thank goodness.

    -Alabama is in full clock-chewing mode at this point.

    5:10: Sims on another first down scramble. It’s an incredible weapon for an offense when the quarterback can make plays like this over and over and over.

    2:38: The game is over at his point, but what incredible effort by Cam Sutton on this play that shows you exactly the kind of player that he is. He was beat a few times earlier in this game by Amari Cooper, but he battled back and never stopped fighting. This is a play that would have been really easy to quit on for Sutton, but he doesn’t quit and gets his hand in there to force the fumble and give this defense a little bit of positivity moving forward.