Tide rolls over Vols, 48-17
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (UT Athletics) – Tennessee got a pair of touchdown passes from senior quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and a career-best day from freshman wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, but it wasn’t enough for the Vols to keep pace in a 48-17 setback to No. 2 Alabama at Neyland Stadium on Saturday.
Guarantano, who had scoring passes of 38 yards to Hyatt and 27 yards to senior wide receiver Josh Palmer, finished the day 13 of 24 through the air. He moved into seventh on UT’s career passing yards list (5,976) after throwing for 162 yards vs. the Crimson Tide. Guarantano moved past Jeff Francis (1985-88), who threw for 5,867 yards during his career.
Guarantano also moved into sole possession of sixth place on Tennessee’s career passing touchdowns list with 38, after throwing two on Saturday. Guarantano was tied with Jonathan Crompton, Heath Shuler and Andy Kelly – who all had 36 career passing touchdowns – entering the day.
Hyatt finished the day by tying his career best with two receptions for a career-high 86 yards. He posted his longest catches of the season with a 38-yard TD in the second quarter, his first, and a 48-yard reception in the third period on another Vol scoring drive.
Palmer, meanwhile, led the Big Orange in catches with four and amassed 57 yards. Sophomore running back Eric Gray paced UT on the ground with 57 yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, Tennessee (2-3) was led by junior safety Trevon Flowers, who had his second double-digit tackle effort of the season. His 10 stops, eight of them solo, vs. the Crimson Tide (5-0), matched the 10 he had vs. Missouri earlier this season. He also forced a fumble. Redshirt senior Kenneth George Jr. recorded seven tackles, including six solos for a squad that will be idle next weekend before resuming action on Nov. 7 at Arkansas.
After the teams exchanged punts on their opening possessions of the game, Alabama produced points on its next two drives. Running back Najee Harris crossed the goal line from one yard out to culminate a six-play, 70-yard drive at the 7:30 mark, and quarterback Mac Jones kept and scored from one yard out with 2:54 remaining. Placekicker Will Reichard booted extra points after each score to provide the Crimson Tide with a 14-0 lead after the opening stanza.
Senior placekicker Brent Cimaglia put Tennessee on the board with 12:11 left in the second period, booting a 33-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 60-yard drive and cut the Bama lead to 14-3. Key plays on the drive included Guarantano connecting with Palmer on an 11-yard pass for a first down, Gray moving the chains twice with rushes of 11 and nine yards, and senior running back Ty Chandler picking up another first down with an 11-yard rush of his own.
The Tide responded on its next possession, marching 75 yards in nine plays, with Brian Robinson Jr. rushing up the middle from seven yards out. Reichard tacked on the extra point to push the lead to 21-3 with 8:12 left in the second quarter.
The Vols got the ball back and showed resiliency on offense with a 75-yard drive of their own. After Guarantano extended the series with an athletic third-and-seven scamper for eight yards, the senior signal-caller found Hyatt in the end zone on the very next play for a 38-yard scoring strike. The touchdown was the first of Hyatt’s career and the reception was his longest at that point. Cimaglia’s PAT pulled UT within 11, 21-10, at the 6:13 mark in the second frame.
Bama bounced right back, though, going 75 yards in five plays. Harris capped off the drive and recorded his second touchdown of the afternoon by bouncing it outside from two yards away. Reichard added the extra point to push Bama’s advantage back to 18, 28-10, with 4:04 to go in the half.
Tennessee’s defense prevented Alabama from scoring on its last two drives of the half, forcing a punt and then getting a George Jr. pass break-up of a “Hail Mary” on the final play. Flowers led the Vols with eight tackles in the opening 30 minutes, including seven solo stops and a tackle for a loss.
Tennessee took the second-half kickoff, but the Vols’ drive ended with their first turnover of the game. On third and five, Alabama’s Malachi Moore stripped the ball loose from Gray, collected it and rambled 28 yards for a touchdown. Reichard made the kick to boost Alabama’s lead to 35-10.
The Vol defense responded by causing havoc of its own, forcing a Bama turnover in the third period as Flowers’ hit on receiver Slade Bolden caused a fumble that was recovered by senior safety Theo Jackson. UT, however, was unable to move the ball and was forced to punt.
Harris found the end zone for the third time with 4:19 to go in the third. His one-yard rush and Reichard’s PAT made it 42-10, Crimson Tide.
Tennessee’s offense bounced back, covering 85 yards in four plays over a span of only 1:20. Guarantano hooked up with Hyatt for the rookie’s second career-long catch of the day, a 48-yarder. On the next play, the senior QB connected with Palmer in the corner of the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown pass. Cimaglia’s PAT after Palmer’s fourth TD catch of the year made it 42-17, Alabama.
Alabama tacked on two more field goals in the fourth quarter to make it 48-17.