Tennessee entered their 100th match-up with Alabama as 37-point underdogs. And they didn’t let the betters down.
The Vols looked fired up and ready to go on defense to start this one, but the offense couldn’t help them out. Tennessee was slowing down Alabama’s potent offense in the first half before they started getting tired after yet another bad offensive performance by the Vols.
All in all, Alabama managed to play a sloppy game and still dominated Tennessee up and down the field en route to a 45-7 beat down.
Here are the five biggest things we saw from the Vols’ 11th consecutive loss to Alabama.
Offense Remains Inept
The Vols’ offense faced their toughest test of the season on Saturday. And they failed in a big way.
Tennessee’s offense managed a mere 108 yards of offense and had six three-and-outs on 11 offensive possessions. The Vols averaged just 2.3 yards per play, and they failed to score a single point on offense yet again.
The one time the Vols actually had an offensive touchdown, they saw it slip through their fingers. John Kelly was awarded a touchdown at the goal line on a drive that saw Tennessee start in the red zone thanks to an Alabama fumble on a punt return, but then the officials reviewed the call and overturned it. Tennessee would then have a false start called against them, a run get stuffed at the line, and then Guarantano’s pass was picked off at the goal line.
Alabama’s defense is elite, but the Vols’ offense looked pitiful. They’ve now gone 14 quarters without scoring a touchdown.
The Drought is Over
Tennessee’s offense may not have scored, but the defense did.
The Vols’ overall touchdown drought reached 12 quarters before Daniel Bituli picked off a Tua Tagovailoa pass and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. That marked the first time Tennessee had a scored a touchdown of any kind since the second quarter of their match-up with UMass.
The Vols’ offense still hasn’t scored since then, but Tennessee’s defense was at least able to end the drought. Bituli’s 97-yard interception return totaled almost as many yards as the Vols’ offense did in the entire game.
The overall touchdown drought might be over, but the Vols’ offense has a lot of work left to do.
Defense Did What They Could
Alabama’s offense wasn’t getting as many big plays as they were used to in the start of this game. Tennessee’s defense was pushing back and holding the Tide at bay.
But that could only last so long, and as the Vols’ offense continued to give the ball right back to Alabama, the defense could only do so much.
Bituli’s interception touchdown was the lone highlight of the game for Tennessee overall, but the defense came out ready to play in this one. The offense just didn’t do them any favors, and it eventually caught up with the defense. Just like it has in many games before in this season.
Another Bama Blowout
For the sixth time in the last eight meetings, Alabama defeated the Vols by at least 30 points.
This loss at the hands of the Tide marks the 11th consecutive time Tennessee has lost to Alabama, and it is the eighth time during the streak that Alabama has beaten Tennessee by 20 more points. Alabama’s 38-point victory in this game was only surpassed by their 39-point win last year in terms of the largest margin of victory during the streak.
Vol fans have almost gotten used to blowouts at the hands of Alabama. And this once storied rivalry has turned into a one-sided affair in a big way.
Was This the End?
The Vols looked listless on offense, and the defense got worn down. That’s the synopsis of Tennessee’s game against Alabama and the synopsis of almost every other game the Vols have played this season.
And now many will wonder when, not if, Butch Jones will be fired as head coach.
This could very well have been the last game we’ve seen Jones coach at the University of Tennessee. Only time will tell, but this will go down as one of the worst losses Jones has sustained in his coaching tenure regardless.