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Crimson Tide Uses 2nd Half Adjustments to Stifle Volunteers 34-20

Jase McClellan rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown, and the Alabama defense stifled the Tennessee offense in the second half as the Crimson Tide defeated the Volunteers 34-20 at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday afternoon. Quarterback Jalen Milroe completed 14 of 21 passes for 220 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the win for Alabama. Linebacker Jihaad Campbell had 10 tackles and recovered a fumble that he returned 24 yards for a touchdown to cap the scoring.

The game was a tale of two halves as Tennessee jumped out to a 20-7 lead at halftime. However, Alabama outscored the Volunteers 27-0 in the second half to solidify the victory. The message Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he had for his players at halftime was a simple message, “Everybody’s got to choose what they want.” And the Crimson Tide defense chose to shut down the vaunted Tennessee offense. Alabama held Tennessee to just 133 rushing yards, 80 yards less than their per-game average. Tennessee’s three-headed monster of Dylan Sampson, Jabari Small, and Jaylen Wright were held to under 30 rushing yards each.

In the first half, Tennessee quarterback Joe Milton hit wideout Squirrel White on a 39-yard touchdown pass. The 5-foot-10-inch White made a tremendous catch to secure the 7-0 lead. The Volunteers then had back-to-back drives where they had 1st and goal situations and were forced to settle for two field goals. A questionable no-call by the officials doomed one of those drives as tight end McCallan Castles was held prior to Milton’s pass being tipped. However, there was no call by the officials. Alabama got on the board in the second quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Milroe to Jermaine Burton to cut the lead to 13-7. Tennessee was able to punch in a late touchdown just before the half when Milton found Castles for a six-yard score.

The first-half statistics were dominated by Tennessee as the defense only gave up 16 rushing yards and 123 passing yards. In the 1st quarter, Tennessee held a 187-36 yards gained advantage over Alabama.

The second-half statistics were dominated by Alabama as the Tide gained 240 yards to the Volunteers 109. The first drive of the second half for Alabama set the tone for the rest of the game. Jase McClellan rushed for 29 yards on the first play then Milroe hit receiver Isaiah Bond for a 46-yard touchdown pass. The Alabama defense stifled Tennessee in the second half as the Volunteers had seven drives and managed no points. McClellan rushed for 83 yards in the second half, which included his five-yard touchdown.

A point of contention in this game was the officiating as Tennessee was penalized eight times for 55 yards while Alabama was only penalized once for 5 yards. A few of the penalties against Tennessee, or some no-calls that would have gone Tennessee’s way, will be a hot topic this coming week in Knoxville. A few examples of this are the no-call on a hold on McClellan in the endzone that was negated by a tipped pass even though the hold occurred prior to the pass being tipped. There was a very questionable defensive hold call on defensive back Gabe Jeudy-Lally on a third down that extended an Alabama scoring drive. There is also the no-call on a blatant 'hands to the face' of Tennessee’s Tyler Baron on the 46-yard touchdown pass to Bond. To his credit, when asked about the discrepancy in officiating Tennessee head coach Josh Heupel chose not to answer. Heupel instead was silent for 15 seconds before answering “next question, yeah, is that long enough silence?” Heupel’s frustration showed on his face during the 15 seconds.

The Crimson Tide MVP was running back Jase McClellan. The 5-foot 11-inch senior averaged 4.3 yards per carry.

The Tennessee MVP was quarterback Joe Milton. The 6-foot-5-inch senior completed 68.3% of his passes for 271 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Milton was also the Volunteers leading rusher with 59 yards.

For Tennessee, the loss takes the Volunteers to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC. Tennessee will head to Lexington, KY to take on the 5-2 Kentucky Wildcats next Saturday.

For Alabama, the win gives the Crimson Tide a 7-1 overall record and they are 5-0 in SEC play. Alabama has a bye next week before hosting LSU on November 4th.


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