Alabama’s victory over Tennessee on Saturday, with a final score of 34-20, had the fans at the edge of their seats. Let’s break down the game and find out what it means for the Crimson Tide’s future.
Saban’s Resilient Squad
Nick Saban’s favorite trait in his team, resilience, was on full display once again. The first half was a tough one for the Tide, trailing 20-7. Saban, never one to shy away from instilling positivity, emphasized the need to stay optimistic during the halftime radio interview.
“We’re not out of this game,” Saban reassured the fans. “We’ve got to stay positive, play better on defense, and move the ball on offense.”
And that’s exactly what happened. In a matter of moments, Alabama’s offense came alive. The second half started with a bang, as they scored their first touchdown in just two plays. Jase McClellan’s 29-yard run and Isaiah Bond’s 46-yard touchdown catch electrified the crowd. The defense held Tennessee to a three-and-out, and Alabama added a field goal. With another impressive defensive stop, the Tide took the lead late in the third quarter.
In the blink of an eye, Alabama’s season was saved. They outscored Tennessee 27-0 in the second half, proving that Saban’s focus on resilience pays off.
But, there’s a warning from Saban himself. Alabama’s inconsistent performances in the first halves of previous games could come back to haunt them. It’s a ticking time bomb, and it’s crucial that they address these issues before they face LSU in two weeks.
The Defense’s Heroics
Alabama’s defense, which had been a savior in previous games, came through once again. Tennessee took some big risks with two fourth-down attempts in their own territory, both of which backfired due to Alabama’s formidable front. The most significant play came in the fourth quarter when Tennessee needed a touchdown to tie the game. Alabama’s defense forced a strip sack, which was returned for a touchdown. It had shades of Alabama’s classic defensive plays and showcased the ability to make critical stops when it matters most.
In the first half, Tennessee gained 275 yards on 46 plays, scoring 20 points, with 175 yards coming from passes. The second half was a different story. The Vols were shut out on the scoreboard and gained only 135 yards, with 69 passing yards. This remarkable turnaround is a testament to Saban and Kevin Steele’s halftime adjustments.
Jalen Milroe’s Rollercoaster Performance
Jalen Milroe had a bit of a rollercoaster performance in the game. After a strong start last week against Arkansas, he struggled in the second half. Unfortunately, that carried over into the Tennessee game, with the offense starting slow once again. Milroe occasionally held onto the ball for too long and made a few misreads that led to setbacks. He was strip-sacked and also threw an interception in the end zone, although that one was more due to a tip by a defensive player. On a brighter note, he did manage to throw a 10-yard touchdown to Jermaine Burton for Alabama’s only first-half points.
The second half saw a more efficient Milroe. He began with a spectacular 46-yard pass to Bond and continued with a 22-yard completion to Burton, setting up a Jase McClellan touchdown run. Most importantly, Milroe avoided turnovers in the second half and was sacked only once.
Injuries and Flags
Alabama faced some setbacks with injuries. Terrion Arnold, the starting cornerback, left the game with an upper-body injury and did not return. Arnold had been a standout performer for the defense this season. However, right guard Jaeden Roberts, who left on a cart at the end of the first half, did return for the second half.
Notably, Alabama was penalized just once in the game, a single flag thrown for an illegal snap in the third quarter. This impressive display in terms of penalties is a positive sign for the team, as they’ve been struggling in this department.
In the end, Alabama’s victory over Tennessee was a testament to their resilience and a reminder that their defense can rise to the occasion when needed most. However, the inconsistency in their performances, especially in the first half, is a cause for concern as they gear up to face LSU. The Tide will need to bring their A-game for the entire match if they want to secure their path to the SEC title and beyond.