Alabama-Tennessee grades: Tide’s running game, defense dominate

Crimson Tide O-line opens up huge lanes for QB Jalen Hurts and running backs, while defense shuts down the Vols' attack.

| 2 months ago
(Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

(Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images)

Alabama-Tennessee grades: Tide’s running game, defense dominate


Alabama Crimson Tide 49, Tennessee Volunteers 10

Here are the biggest takeaways and highest-graded players from Alabama’s 49-10 win over Tennessee.

Alabama Crimson Tide

Quarterback grade: Jalen Hurts, 69.8

Hurts struggles through the air but does it all on the ground

If you look solely at his passing performance, it’s not a pretty sight for Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. His accuracy was all over the place, and he threw a wobbly crossing route with 10:25 remaining in the second quarter that was one of the ugliest off-target passes you will ever see. As a runner, however, Hurts was on the complete opposite end of the scale. He averaged 14.3 yards per carry on 10 designed runs, and broke two tackles.

Top offensive grades:

C Bradley Bozema, 82.5

RG Lester Cotton, 77.7

WR ArDarius Stewart, 77.2

RT Jonah Williams, 76.1

LG Ross Pierschbacher, 73.7

Bama’s offensive line dominates

If 2015 Heisman-winning Bama running back Derrick Henry would have been running through holes like the ones created by the Tide offensive line Saturday a season ago, 3,000 yards wouldn’t have been out of his reach. Alabama runners averaged a ridiculous 4.9 yards before contact and totaled 235 such yards on the day. Right guard Lester Cotton was particularly impressive, as he bulldozed the Tennessee defensive tackles into the dirt on multiple ocassions.

Top defensive grades:

DT Jonathan Allen, 88.5

S Ronnie Harrison, 85.9

LB Shaun Dion Hamilton, 84.4

DT Dalvin Tomlinson, 83.2

OLB Ryan Anderson, 82.8

No weaknesses for Tennessee to exploit in Tide’s defense

All three levels of the Alabama defense came to play in this one. The defensive line pressured opposing quarterbacks on 18 of their 34 dropbacks, the linebackers didn’t miss a single tackle while combining for eight stops, and the secondary broke up three passes to go along with a pick-six. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick was the only starter to finish the day with a below-average grade.

Tennessee Volunteers

Quarterback grade: Joshua Dobbs, 61.3

Nothing downfield for Dobbs

The underneath passing game is a fantastic tool for teams when the run game is working and you’re in favorable down and distances. When that’s not the case, however, a quarterback has to prove he can throw the ball accurately down the field, and Joshua Dobbs proved once again on Saturday that that’s not his strong suit. The Tennessee QB was 2-of-7 on passes targeted 10-plus yards downfield for a total of 30 yards.

Top offensive grades:

TE Ethan Wolf, 70.1

WR Josh Malone, 70.0

WR Jauan Jennings, 67.0

WR Josh Smith, 65.2

RB John Kelly, 61.5

Star running backs Kamara and Hurd shut down

In a game where Tennessee absolutely had to have their star running backs Alvin Kamara and Jalen Hurd come up big, both were shut down worse than they had been all season. They combined for 49 yards on 21 carries and only one broken tackle. A good deal of that could be put on the offensive line, but there were a handful of times each had space in which to work and couldn’t create against the Alabama linebackers and safeties.

Top defensive grades:

CB Emmanuel Moseley, 75.8

DE Derek Barnett, 75.7

CB Rashaan Gaulden, 72.0

DT Shy Tuttle, 69.2

LB Elliott Berry, 68.2

Vols defense struggles to defend the run

Tennessee’s contain players and unblocked edge men on option running plays had trouble versus Alabama all day long Saturday. Bama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin installed an interesting wrinkle to the traditional zone-read play that sent the Volunteers’ defense reeling. He flipped the reads so that the inside-zone blocking set up for the quarterback, while the running back would be running free towards the edge. Defensive end Corey Vereen got suckered on it multiple times, and it led to big gains. Tennessee gave up 170 yards on 22 carries that hit well wide of the tackles.

| Senior Analyst

Mike is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus. His work has also been featured on The Washington Post, ESPN Insider, and 120 Sports.

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