Tennessee was supposed to lose to No. 1 Alabama by at least five touchdowns on Saturday night. Instead, the Vols gave the Crimson Tide everything they could handle. The final score may have been 35-13, but it’s not indicative of how the game actually went.
If Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer plays the whole game and Darrell Taylor isn’t called for an unnecessary roughness penalty for simply playing football, Tennessee has a chance to upset the top-ranked team on the road late in the fourth quarter. Even without Maurer, Tennessee still had a chance to cut it to a one-score game in the fourth quarter.
Here’s the group of Vols that deserve a game ball following UT’s trip to Tuscaloosa.
Tennessee’s offensive line
When was the last time we saw a Tennessee offensive line just dominate Alabama’s defensive front from beginning to end? It’s been a minute, but that’s what we saw from Will Friend and Jim Chaney’s offensive line group on Saturday. And sure, Alabama is suffering from injuries and a lack of experience up front, but it’s still a good Crimson Tide defense that Tennessee’s offensive line took to town.
The big uglies up front were able to keep Tennessee’s quarterbacks fairly clean against Alabama, but more impressively, they helped the Vols’ trio of running backs average 5.4 yards per carry. Tim Jordan rushed for 94 yards on 17 carries, and Ty Chandler and Eric Gray both found some success while in the game as well.
Tim Jordan, RB
Tennessee’s running back room has turned into the Tim Jordan show over the last few weeks. Jordan rushed for 94 yards on 17 carries against the Crimson Tide, and his 33-yard rush to set up a field goal was the longest of his career. His 94 rushing yards were a season-high and the second-highest of his career. That total marks the most rushing yards by a Vol running back against Alabama since Tauren Poole totaled 117 yards on the ground in 2010.
Nigel Warrior, S
Warrior has found himself receiving a game ball quite often as of late. The senior safety played well against Georgia and followed that up a week later against Mississippi State, too. Warrior tallied a third consecutive strong performance against Alabama. He had six tackles and picked off Tua Tagovailoa in the end zone and returned it 59 yards to set up Tennessee’s only touchdown of the night.
The interception marked the fifth-straight game in which Tennessee has picked off a pass against Alabama.
Brent Cimaglia, K
Cimaglia once again showed up on Saturday. The junior kicker was perfect, making both of his field goal attempts against the Crimson Tide. After making a 37-yard field goal and a 32-yard field goal, Cimaglia is now 13-for-14 on the season. His 92.9 field goal percentage is tops in the SEC, and he’s made all 16 of his extra point attempts.
For his career, Cimaglia is now 31-of-40 on field goal attempts. His 77.5 success rate is the second-best in Tennessee history as of now.