That went just about as expected.
Alabama rode an excellent first quarter start all the way to a 37-point victory while dismantling the Vols on Saturday, 58-21. It was the most points ever given up by either team over the long rivalry.
It was a stark contrast from the Auburn game, but so was the opponent. Alabama may go down as one of the best teams of all-time in NCAA history.
However, the same can’t be said for this week’s final grades.
Things are bound to go bad when you come out and fumble the ball on your first offensive drive of the game. Not only did the Vols turn the ball over, but Alabama scored immediately to push their lead to 14-0.
Tennessee went three-and-out on their first three possessions. Their initial first down of the game came by way of a defensive penalty. They had just six total yards of offense after the first quarter.
But it got better in the second quarter. Keller Chryst came in after Jarrett Guarantano was injured and led the Vols on two scoring drives in the second quarter. Outstanding plays from Ty Chandler and Jauan Jennings keyed both scores. Both drives went a combined 11 plays for 156 yards and two touchdowns.
From that point on, they gained just 84 yards on 24 plays. Overall, the team finished with 31 yards rushing, which was an even worse performance compared to the prior week.
Nine penalties and a 3/13 mark on third downs were major killers as well. The offensive line gave up three sacks and the big hit that forced Guarantano out of the game.
The lone bright spot on the day was the fact that UT was a perfect 2/2 in the red zone and converted their lone fourth down attempt.
Other than that, it was another forgettable day on the offensive side of the ball.
Final Grade: 1.0 (D)
A defensive unit that is responsible for allowing the most points in 101 matchups is never going to get a good grade.
Sorry for ruining the suspense, I know it was just killing you.
If you’re still reading, then it was clear that while the defense had a few good moments, Tua Tagovailoa is insanely good. There won’t be many defenses that keep the Alabama offense out of the end zone this season.
But 28 points in the first quarter is quite absurd. I don’t care if the Tide had done it all season up to this point. I don’t care if one of the touchdowns came from a drive that started on the Tennessee 3.
Find a way to make plays. It’s simple. Unfortunately for the Vols, they really don’t have the players that can make plays on that side of the ball.
It wasn’t just the 327 yards passing and the 208 yards rushing. Every time Tennessee gained a bit of momentum, the defense broke. Each second quarter touchdown from the Vols was answered immediately with a Bama touchdown. It destroyed any and all momentum the team had after scoring.
Granted, UT did force consecutive three-and-outs with Tagovailoa under center for the first time this season, but that gets lost in the haze that is a 37-point defeat.
Final Grade: 0.5 (D-)
What has been a pretty consistent unit throughout 2018 had a pretty bad day on Saturday.
Even punter Joe Doyle had a kick bounce off the side of his foot and travel about 13 yards down the field.
Brent Cimaglia missed his first kick of the season (outside of the blocked kick at Auburn) on a 41-yard attempt that went wide left.
The Vols attempted another onside kick and fell short…again. This time, the ball bounced up and off of Jeremy Banks’ chest before traveling 10 yards downfield.
In all, it just wasn’t a good day for anyone on this team.
Final Grade: 2.0 (C)
This is one is tough to grade, because I’m quite unsure as to how much of this was bad coaching and how much of this was poor execution.
And how much of it was a game between two unevenly matched teams?
Regardless, Tennessee continued to try and force their non-existent inside run game with no success, just like against Auburn. When they finally did decide to throw the ball downfield, the result was an amazing play by both Josh Palmer and Guarantano.
Defensively, the Vols were in pretty decent shape, but like I said earlier – Tagovailoa is just something else.
Jeremy Pruitt’s halftime comment is enough to give this a grade a boost.
“I promise you, I will recruit 25 other guys that will play the right way so we don’t have to play in another game like this.” @JamieErdahl reports on a tough lesson Jeremy Pruitt gave his team at the half. pic.twitter.com/FbhdENvysy
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 20, 2018
Final Grade: 2.0 (C)
Overall Grade: 1.38 (D)
Hardly anyone expected this game to be a win, but there were many who expected the Vols to compete just a bit harder.
The biggest win would have been to come out of this game completely healthy. The Vols may have paid dearly in that regard depending on the health of Guarantano.
It’s time to focus on the rest of the season in what is a very winnable slate of remaining games.