Weary Alabama narrowly escapes Tennessee in Week 8
The biggest question coming into this game was, “Can Tennessee compete or even keep up with No. 8 Alabama?”
Now the question seems to be, “Does Alabama have the physical and mental energy to finish the season?”
The Crimson Tide looked gassed Saturday against the Volunteers (3-4 overall, 1-3 SEC), and they merely survived with a 19-14 victory.
After a big win in College Station in Week 7, the Tide (7-1, 4-1 SEC) appeared poised to run the SEC West table in the second half of the season. But they left many fans in doubt this Saturday after narrowly escaping a loss to Tennessee.
- The Crimson Tide needs a break: This bye week could not have come at a better time. Alabama played a stale game, and the team just couldn’t get energized. Two new injuries were incurred against the Volunteers, and previous injuries seem to be slowing the team down. The Tide will need to use this week to heal, rest and refocus.
- The upcoming rivalry games may be more problematic than expected: Coach Nick Saban has done his best to keep emotions out of big games. After winning eight straight games against the Volunteers, it looked as if emotion might not even be an issue this year, but it ruled the first half of the game. Three players were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct: DB Marlon Humphrey, RB Kenyan Drake and Vols DB Stephen Griffin. If there was this much emotion in a game that hasn’t had much significance in the last few years, how will the Tide keep its composure against LSU on Nov. 7 or Auburn on Nov. 28? If the players can’t keep their heads in the game, they will almost certainly fall to LSU in Week 10.
- QB Jake Coker is still struggling with consistency: Coker threw an interception in the first half, and he had a few other close calls throughout the game. He was sacked five times for a loss of 26 yards, went 21 for 25 passing, and his two rushing attempts came up empty. Where was the scrambling Coker we watched plow through Aggies defenders in Week 7? Saban said before the game, “[Coker] has improved with knowledge, experience, confidence.” But we didn’t see those improvements in Week 8.
- RB Derrick Henry is a workhorse: He was relatively quiet against the Volunteers, and he didn’t have many of the explosive runs that we’re accustomed to seeing from him. But he was efficient, and he became the second running back in Tide history to earn 1,000 rushing yards in the first eight games of the season.
- TE O.J. Howard is underutilized by this Alabama offense: Howard finished Saturday’s game against Tennessee with 7 receptions for 55 yards. He is a huge target at 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, but in the previous seven games this season, Howard had only 19 receptions for 235 yards. Why isn’t offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin targeting him more?
- Offense: B – The receivers were on point, and they even saved a number of poor throws from Coker, gaining a total of 247 yards in the air. But the rest of the offense was flat with just 120 yards on the ground.
- Defense: A- – The Tide defense allowed the Volunteers to rack up 132 rushing yards, but LB Ryan Anderson forced a game-ending fumble deep inside Tennessee territory, and Alabama only allowed 171 yards in the air.
- Special Teams: A – They weren’t all fantastic, but they did their jobs, and they didn’t make mistakes. P J.K. Scott continues to give his team an edge, flipping field position on every punt.
- Coaching: B – The coaches have to do a better job keeping their team composed and focused. And Kiffin should have given the ball to Henry more in this game.
- Overall: B – It was a win, but it was ugly.
- Derrick Henry: Henry rolled on with 28 carries for 143 yards and 2 TDs.
- ArDarius Stewart: WR Stewart exploded Saturday afternoon with 6 receptions for 114 yards.
- Reggie Ragland: LB Ragland continued to bully offenses in Week 8, racking up 12 tackles, including one for a loss.
- SS Eddie Jackson left the game in the first quarter after a blow to his knee, but he returned in the second half. Saban said in his postgame presser that Jackson sprained his knee but would be all right.
- Back up SS Ronnie Harrison suffered an ankle injury just before halftime. Saban did not give any updates on Harrison in the postgame press conference.