KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Quinnen Williams wrecked stuff. Alabama’s defense drove Tennessee backward. It punished the Volunteers and knocked their quarterback out of Saturday’s game at Neyland Stadium.
The Crimson Tide took another step toward defensive dominance. It wasn’t a shutout, nor a complete shutdown, but Alabama bullied the Volunteers from the start and maintained that posture for much of the game.
After five snaps, Tennessee had turned the ball over once and lost 28 yards. It wasn’t until the Volunteers’ fourth possession, and the final moments of the first quarter, that UT reached positive numbers in total offense.
“I think it’s always important when you play on the road to take the crowd out of the game a little bit,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “But we’ve got to be able to sustain that.”
Tennessee got a spark from backup quarterback Keller Chryst, a transfer from Stanford who replaced Jarrett Guarantano midway through the second quarter when the starter was injured as he released the ball on a 30-yard completion, his longest play of the day. Chryst completed 9 of 15 attempts for 164 yards and two touchdowns, but only passed for 45 yards in the second half after UA made some adjustments.
“In the second quarter, I don’t think we played too well,” Saban said.
Defensive end Raekwon Davis sat out the first half as a disciplinary action stemming from an incident the weekend before when he repeatedly punched a Missouri player in a pile-up. It didn’t derail UA’s aggressive approach.
Alabama held Tennessee to 3 of 13 conversions on third down. The Vols were sacked three times and had 39 yards in losses on sacks and tackles for loss. Safety Deionte Thompson had seven tackles and forced a fumble, Shyheim Carter had five stops, including two tackles for loss, and a force fumble.
Xavier McKinney had five tackles with a sack that resulted in a turnover when he forced a fumble on UT’s third offensive snap.
“I saw an opening, took it, the hole was pretty much open with nobody there to block me so I tried to make a play,” McKinney said. “It was a called blitz. I tried to make the biggest hit that I could to get the ball loose. I thought I hit him pretty hard.”
Said Williams, “That’s what we want. It feels good to come out first time on defense and get a turnover.”
UA’s defense has been on a mission for the last two weekends after giving up 31 points at Arkansas. Defensive lineman Williams had four stops with a tackle for loss. He believes the Crimson Tide defense is making strides.
“The rest of the season we’re starting to set a Bama standard in stopping the run and just executing and everybody doing it,” Williams said. “We’re not perfect as a defense. We’ve still got a few things we’ve got to cover up.
“We’ve got to get turnovers, get disruptive plays, affect the quarterback and stop the run. We want to be the physical team on the field. That all goes into what we want to accomplish on defense.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.