Last week, Alabama came out firing on all cylinders in the first half before struggling in the second half to put Arkansas away. This week was quite the opposite. The Crimson Tide got off to a slow start and trailed Tennessee at halftime 20-7.
Everything was trending toward another Tennessee victory against Alabama, but Nick Saban never lost faith in his team.
"We're not out of this game," Saban said during his halftime interview with the Crimson Tide Sports Network. "We got to stay positive. We got to get our players to play like we can play. We're two scores down in the game. We got to play a little better on defense and move the ball on offense."
Saban was absolutely right about the team not being out of the game. Two plays into the second half, and Alabama scored a touchdown to bring the game within six points. Alabama outscored Tennessee 27-0 in the second half.
Here are some key takeaways from the game.
Running Game Slow Start
Alabama's running game got off to another slow start but finished strong. The Crimson Tide could only rush for 16 yards in the first half. In the second half, the offensive line opened up more holes to help the run game rush for 122 yards led by Jase McClellan. McClellan was a workhorse for the Tide, rushing for 115 yards on 27 carries.
Left Tackle Position Continues to Be a Problem
Alabama's offensive line once again allowed Jalen Milroe to get sacked at least four times for a sixth consecutive game. Milroe was sacked four times with one sack, resulting in a fumble recovered by the Vols. Left tackle Kadyn Proctor was the guilty party responsible for allowing the defender the pathway to Milroe. That position needs some cleaning up before it costs Alabama another loss that can't be afforded.
Defense Makes Key Plays
If the defense hadn't made huge, key plays Saturday, Alabama would have had their second loss of the season. Tennessee was able to get into the red zone four times on Saturday, but the Crimson Tide defense held them to just 13 points in those four trips. Tennessee attempted two fourth down attempts in their own territory, that the defense came up with the stops both times. The biggest play of the game from the defense was a strip sack by Chris Braswell that Jihaad Campbell scooped up and returned for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
One of the main focuses that Nick Saban asks from his quarterback is protecting the football. On paper, Jalen Milroe did not do a good job protecting the football. To be fair, both of his turnovers were not totally his fault. Milroe had a pass intercepted in the endzone that deflected off of a receiver, falling right into a defender's hands. His other turnover was on a sack in which he fumbled. He may have held onto the ball a bit too long, but the pass rush got there in a hurry and was from his blind side.
Offensive Play Calling
The Alabama offensive play calling, just like the game, was a tale of two halves. In the first half, the offense looked very vanilla. Plays were not designed around Jalen Milroe's strengths, resulting in just seven points and 133 total yards. In the second half, it was a completely different story. Right out of halftime, Alabama had a two-play 75-yard drive capped off with a 46-yard touchdown catch by Isaiah Bond. The second half tailored more to his strengths with more designed runs for Milroe, as well as simple pass plays on first downs that opened up the run game.
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