By Stephen K. Lee
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Despite a valiant performance by the Tennessee defense and a late offensive surge to seize the lead in the fourth quarter, the Vols fell to No. 8 Alabama, 19-14, on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) stayed within one score from start to finish thanks to an outstanding effort by its defense, which tallied 10 tackles for a loss and five sacks and made a pair of big red zone stops in the second half.
UT’s five sacks were its most against Alabama (7-1, 4-1 SEC) since recording five in 2005 and the most the Tide has given up since allowing seven against Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl at the end of the 2013 season.
Alabama has now won the last nine games in the series.
Jalen Hurd ran for 92 yards on 18 carries and had the go-ahead 12-yard rushing touchdown with 5:49 left. Joshua Dobbs finished 13-of-22 for 171 yards and one touchdown and also ran for 19 yards on 16 carries.
Alvin Kamara led the Vols with four catches for 44 yards and also carried the ball five times for 21 yards.
Alabama star running back Derrick Henry ran for 143 yards and two scores on 28 carries. Jake Coker was 21-of-27 for 247 yards and one interception.
ArDarius Stewart led all receivers with 114 yards on six catches.
The Vols mixed the run and the pass well on their opening drive, going 50 yards down the field to the Alabama 25-yard line. However, UT could not cash in with points as Aaron Medley missed a 43-yard field goal wide right.
Alabama took a 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter when Henry capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 20-yard rushing touchdown.
Tennessee answered on its next possession as Dobbs marched the Vols 75 yards down the field in 10 plays. The drive included a terrific 18-yard pass to Johnathon Johnson down the left seam and an Alabama pass interference that put UT at the Tide’s 13-yard line. Dobbs hit Josh Smith in the left corner of the endzone for an 11-yard touchdown strike.
Brian Randolph came up with a big interception down the right sideline with 6:06 left in the first half, halting an Alabama drive at the UT 25.
The Vols had a chance at taking the lead right before halftime. Hurd rumbled up the middle and down the right sideline for a 29-yard gain on third-and-16 to put UT in Alabama territory. The Big Orange came up short when Medley’s 51-yard field goal try went wide left.
Tennessee led Alabama in yardage at the half with 177 yards to the Crimson Tide’s 133. Hurd had 65 rushing yards on 11 carries and Henry led the Tide with 53 yards on nine carries before the break.
Alabama drove 73 yards on 12 plays on its opening drive of the second half, but the Vols’ defense made a goal-line stand with Cameron Sutton batting way a potential two-yard touchdown pass on a quick slant. The Crimson Tide settled for a 19-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead.
UT went 57 yards over 13 plays on a drive at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth. The Vols tried to tie the game with 14 minutes left on a 51-yard field goal attempt by Medley, but it missed wide right.
Alabama extended its lead to 13-7 when Adam Griffith made a 28-yard field goal with 7:08 remaining after a 12-play, 56-yard drive. The UT defense made another great stand deep in its own red zone, stopping the Tide on third down at the 11-yard line.
Tennessee took its first lead of the game with 5:49 remaining after a quick four-play, 75 yard drive. Dobbs completed a 27-yard pass to Smith and a 34-yard pass to Josh Malone to set up Hurd for a 12-yard rushing touchdown. After a Medley extra point, UT led 14-13.
The Tide retook the lead on its next possession, driving 56 yards and eating 6:58 off the clock before Henry scored on a 14-yard run. Alabama went for two points but came up short, making its lead 19-14 with 2:24 to go.
Tennessee’s final drive ended when Ryan Anderson sacked Dobbs for a 10-yard loss at the UT 11-yard line. Dobbs fumbled and A’Shawn Robinson recovered the ball at the nine-yard line.
Alabama kneeled out the clock to seal the five-point win for the Tide.