NCAA Football News

Tennessee Shows It's on the Right Track in Close Loss to Alabama

If you were to ask Tennessee head coach Butch Jones if he would have been happy to have the ball with 2:24 to play and two timeouts in hand at Alabama with a chance to win the game, he'd have probably taken it.

He would have shaken your hand, jumped for joy and belted out a couple verses of "Rocky Top," too.

That's exactly where he found himself on Saturday, but the strength of the Alabama defense shined through when it mattered most.

Jonathan Allen came barreling through the middle of the young Tennessee offensive line, which started two true freshmen, to sack quarterback Joshua Dobbs on the Vols' final drive of the game, putting the Vols behind the sticks.

Then in an obvious passing down on 2nd-and-24 with 1:18 to play, Ryan Anderson came in hot off of the right side, sacked Dobbs, caused a fumble that A'Shawn Robinson recovered and closed the door on a classic showdown between two SEC rivals in Tuscaloosa.

Moral victory? Jones did his best to downplay the moral-victory talk after the game, according to Tennessee's official Twitter account.

Except the Vols have plenty to be proud of, and this was absolutely a moral victory.

This wasn't a case of Tennessee laying an egg against a team it had on the ropes. It was the one backing the opponent into a corner. 

The Vols went cruising down the field on a four-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that culminated with a 12-yard Jalen Hurd touchdown run with 5:49 to take a 14-13 lead and silence the crimson and white crowd.

Tennessee wasn't the bully in the game. In fact, that was the first lead Tennessee had held on the Crimson Tide since 2011. But it wasn't the overmatched lightweight either. For the first since the 2009 game in Tuscaloosa that ended with a blocked field goal by Alabama's Terrence Cody, Tennessee belonged.

As Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network noted on Twitter, it was equally as impressive for Tennessee as it was for Alabama, which was more than a two-touchdown favorite according to OddsShark.com.

It wasn't the second-straight signature win for Tennessee, which came back from a three-score deficit two weeks ago to stun Georgia. But it was validation.

Validation that Jones has this program going on the right track.

After all, the Vols could have packed it in and looked forward to the offseason after starting 2-3, losing two touchdown leads in all three losses and working through key injuries, including one to stud defensive end/linebacker Curt Maggitt, two key members of the secondary and several in the wide receiving corps.

They didn't.

They fought back when everybody counted them out against Georgia last time out, and then went toe-to-toe with Alabama—the gold standard of the SEC—in front of a hostile crowd.

It was no fluke that Tennessee gave Alabama a game. The Vols held the Crimson Tide offense to just 364 total yards on the night, just 2.8 yards per rush, and harassed quarterback Jake Coker early and often.

We found out on Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa that there is such a thing as a moral victory.

Tennessee earned one against Alabama.

That's big moving forward.

While the SEC East is Florida's to lose, Jones and the Vols have learned valuable lessons during the first two months of the season. 

Jones learned not to coach scared after three horrible losses, Dobbs learned to trust himself in the passing game when he was forced to air things out down three touchdowns against Georgia and the entire program learned it can be a top-tier SEC program on Saturday afternoon.

The next step is becoming one of the first teams mentioned in that conversation.

That might not happen this year. With Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri and Vanderbilt left on the schedule, the Vols shouldn't lose another game before bowl season, nor should they be talked about all that much if they run the table.

They're on the right track, though.

 

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report, as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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Tennessee vs. Alabama: Score, Highlights and Twitter Reaction

In a low-scoring, defensive clash, the No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide outlasted the SEC rival Tennessee Volunteers, 19-14, on Saturday to keep their College Football Playoff hopes alive and well.

It wasn't a vintage performance for the 7-1 Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, but the defense came through in a big way. Also, running back Derrick Henry once again spearheaded the offense with 28 rushes for 143 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with two minutes, 24 seconds remaining.

Tennessee will be left to wonder what could have been as kicker Aaron Medley missed three field goals in what ended up being a five-point loss.

Nevertheless, Alabama came away with its ninth consecutive victory over the Vols.

Despite the result, Tennessee's offense looked solid out of the gates. A missed 43-yard field goal by Medley on the opening drive of the game gave the Tide solid field position on their first drive, though.

Bama took advantage of that as Henry rumbled for a 20-yard touchdown about midway through the first quarter, as seen in this video, courtesy of CBS Sports:

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Henry improved upon his school record for most consecutive games with a rushing touchdown and closed in on an even more impressive mark as well:

While Alabama seemed poised to run the Vols out of the stadium, Tennessee had an answer on its ensuing drive, as quarterback Joshua Dobbs capped a 10-play drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Josh Smith.

The junior signal-caller may have been inspired by the fact that current Denver Broncos and former Volunteers quarterback Peyton Manning was present on the sidelines, as seen in this photo, courtesy of Tennessee Football on Twitter:

The offense dried up for both teams from that point forward, although Tennessee had an opportunity to seize the lead entering halftime.

Medley missed his second field goal of the day from 51 yards out, however, which left the score deadlocked at 7-7.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Saturday was another example of Alabama's first-half struggles in home SEC encounters this season:

Per ESPN College Football, head coach Nick Saban isn't accustomed to playing such tightly contested games against the Vols:

Saban was visibly miffed by his team's first-half performance and made it clear that it needed to improve significantly in the second half, according to ESPN's Brett McMurphy:

The Tide took Saban's words to heart, as they came out of the locker room firing with a 12-play, 73-yard drive. They sputtered at the 2-yard line, though, and were forced to settle for a field goal.

Tennessee had a chance to answer with a field goal of its own early in the fourth quarter, but Medley was wide again on a 51-yard try.

That gave the Crimson Tide a chance to put the Volunteers on the ropes, but they were once again unable to punch it into the end zone. Adam Griffith converted a 28-yard field goal to put Alabama up, 13-7, with just over seven minutes left in the contest.

Despite Tennessee's offensive struggles, Alabama left the door open for the Vols to potentially take the lead.

That is precisely what happened as Dobbs completed passes of 27 yards and 34 yards to Smith and Josh Malone, respectively, before Jalen Hurd ran for a 12-yard touchdown. Medley tacked on the extra point, and Tennessee shockingly led, 14-13, with 5:49 remaining:

Per Josh Ward of WNML in Knoxville, Tennessee, that play remarkably gave the Volunteers their first lead over Alabama since 2011.

Tennessee's mettle and ability to convert on third downs drew praise from Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports:

That put Alabama in a pressure-packed situation, but Saban's team responded as it so often has over the years.

Quarterback Jake Coker wasn't having a great game prior to that drive, but he came through with key completions to ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley to keep the chains moving. It was Bama's workhorse who finished the job, though, as Henry went nearly untouched for a score from 14 yards out:

The Tide's two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful, which made the score 19-14 with 2:24 left and gave the Vols one last chance to steal the game.

Tennessee couldn't repeat its previous drive, though, as linebacker Ryan Anderson strip-sacked Dobbs. Alabama recovered the ball and took a series of knees to close it out.

Manning's face said it all, courtesy of SEC on CBS:

As pointed out by Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports 1, it was yet another disappointment for the Volunteers considering how hard they fought in a hostile environment:

Simply getting a win was huge from Alabama's perspective, but there are several issues that must be ironed out before playing No. 5 LSU in two weeks.

In addition to making few big plays in the passing game, the Crimson Tide's pass protection was suspect, as Tennessee pressured Coker often and sacked him five times.

Alabama is still in a good position to win the SEC and make the CFP, but it won't get there if it performs like it did Saturday against a higher level of competition.

 

Postgame Reaction

Alabama was able to escape with a much-needed win Saturday, but it was clear that the Crimson Tide were far from their best against a gritty Tennessee squad.

Saban didn't hesitate to acknowledge that following the contest as he mentioned his team's lack of explosiveness, according to Aaron Suttles of the Tuscaloosa News:

Because of that, Saban admitted that he is looking forward to his team getting a week off before a huge meeting with LSU:

Despite the fact that Bama wasn't at its best, Saban was still complimentary of his team's ability to come through with a win.

Per Bleacher Report's Christopher Walsh, Saban gave his players a lot of credit for battling back when things looked dire:

Tennessee head coach Butch Jones was proud of his team as well and insisted that improvements are being made, according to WATE Sports:

While Henry and the defense figure to receive most of the credit for Alabama improving to 7-1, Saban made sure to mention an unsung hero.

It isn't often that quarterbacks fly under the radar, but Coker's 21-of-27 passing performance did to some degree. It didn't go unnoticed from Saban's perspective, however, as he liked what he saw out of his signal-caller, per Marq Burnett of the Anniston Star:

When Alabama plays next, there is little doubt that much of the focus will be on the battle between Henry and LSU running back Leonard Fournette.

That is understandable since both are Heisman Trophy candidates, but the Tide will likely need Coker to make some timely plays like he did Saturday.

Saban is seemingly fully cognizant of the fact that Alabama has a long way to go before it can be crowned SEC champ and CFP participant, but it got the job done against Tennessee and now has an extra week to prepare for the Tigers.

 

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D.D. Bowie Flips Commitment from Alabama to Ole Miss: Latest Details, Reaction

Four-star athlete D.D. Bowie will be playing in the SEC in 2017, but it'll be for a different school.

Bowie, who committed to Alabama's class of 2017 back in June, has flipped his decision and will enroll at Ole Miss, according to Varsity Preps Player Evaluator Demetric Warren.

Chris Kirschner of SECCountry.com reported Bowie is on an unofficial visit in Oxford and is the first recruit in the '17 class for Ole Miss.

Bowie is a 6-foot-1, 197-pound wide receiver/cornerback from Morton High School in Morton, Mississippi. The junior has had a stellar 2015-16 season for Morton. Although listed as a wide receiver, Bowie has run for 676 yards and 13 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps

He's also caught 21 passes for 704 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games this year. Bowie is on pace to best his sophomore season numbers, in which he caught 41 passes for 945 yards in 2014-15.

If these averages are any indication, Ole Miss has a star receiver in the making to take over the production created by Laquon Treadwell.

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Seth Russell Injury: Updates on Baylor QB's Neck and Return

Baylor University quarterback Seth Russell has a fracture in one of the bones in his neck, according to the Dallas Morning News' Chuck Carlton.  

Continue for updates.

Russell to See a Specialist Next Week Saturday, Oct. 24

Following Baylor's 45-27 win over Iowa State, head coach Art Briles told reporters Russell had suffered a neck strain, per Carlton. However, X-rays and a CT scan revealed the fracture. Carlton added "no timeline" has been announced regarding Russell's injury. 

Taking over as the full-time starter at Baylor in his junior season, Russell has been a touchdown-producing machine, throwing for 29 touchdowns in his first seven games of the season. 

Russell was breaking records and gaining plenty of silverware in the process, especially after his Week 7 performance against West Virginia:

He's led a potent Baylor offense that hasn't scored fewer than 45 points in a game in 2015 on its way to a No. 2 ranking in the national polls. 

Baylor's man under center wasn't just getting it done through the air. A bruising runner for a quarterback, Russell has rushed for an additional 402 yards this year: 

With Russell out, the only other Baylor quarterback to attempt a pass this season is freshman Jarrett Stidham, who has been given reps in garbage time of some of the Bears' biggest blowouts of the season. 

He's been plenty accurate, completing 23 of 27 passes, but he'll now have to lead a high-powered offense full-time as they enter the meat of the Big 12 schedule. If they want to keep their playoff hopes alive, Stidham will have to keep playing at that kind of efficient level and keep the well-oiled machine that is the Bears rolling. 

 

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference.com

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Ohio State vs. Rutgers: Live Score and Highlights

Ohio State 21, Rutgers 0 — Late 2nd quarter 

Game action is now underway between No. 1 Ohio State (7-0) and Rutgers (3-3). ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 are televising the matchup regionally from Piscataway, New Jersey.

We are watching the game, providing live analysis as the action unfolds:

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Utah vs. USC: Live Score and Highlights

USC 28, Utah 17—Halftime

The USC Trojans are attempting to knock off the third-ranked Utah Utes during a Pac-12 matchup on Saturday in Los Angeles.

Fox is televising the conference matchup. Bleacher Report is providing scoring updates, highlights and analysis. Feel free to join the conversation in the comments.

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Texas A&M vs. Ole Miss: Live Score and Highlights

Ole Miss 16, Texas A&M 3 - Early Third Quarter

Stay tuned for breaking news, commentary and analysis throughout this SEC West clash on ESPN, as the Aggies and Rebels fight it out for an edge within the conference standings. 

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Texas on the Right Track but Making a Bowl Game Won't Be Easy

Three weeks ago, the knives were out in Austin. An extremely ugly 50-7 loss to TCU dropped Texas to 1-4 in Charlie Strong’ second season, and it was fair to wonder if Strong would make it to a third season, much less postseason play this winter.

Since then, Strong has done plenty to right the Longhorns’ listing ship. A 24-17 Red River Rivalry win over Oklahoma was perhaps the most important of his career, and following an open date, the Longhorns ground out a rain-soaked 23-9 win over Kansas State.

At 3-4, talking about a bowl game is once again permissible for those in burnt orange. But the hole that Texas dug itself in the season’s first half won’t be easy to dig out of. Scratching out another bowl trip is possible for Strong, but it’s far from probable.

Let’s get it out of the way. The next two weeks should be easy for the Longhorns. Iowa State can be feisty at times, especially in Ames, but the Cyclones simply don’t have the talent to compete with the Big 12’s upper echelon. And they certainly won’t catch Texas off guard after pushing the ‘Horns hard in a 48-45 loss in Austin last year.

Nov. 7 brings a visit from Kansas, which is perhaps the worst Power Five program and a serious threat to go 0-12 this season. Unless something goes seriously wrong, Strong and Co. will be 5-4 in early November, needing just one win in their final three games to make a bowl game.

That’s where things get dicey. Those three games? At West Virginia, vs. Texas Tech and at Baylor. In other words, much, much tougher. Texas routed the Mountaineers and Red Raiders last season, but the Red Raiders are much improved.

Even before Saturday’s game against Oklahoma, Kliff Kingsbury’s team had already surpassed its win total from 2014’s 4-8 season and averaged 49 points per game, which ranked No. 3 nationally.

West Virginia is struggling at 3-3, but the Mountaineers still possess a potent offense that averages 36 points per game, No. 25 nationally.

And Baylor just keeps rolling at 7-0, with the nation’s top scoring offense (averaging 63.8 points per game entering Saturday).

That’s a problem for Strong’s group. Texas has scored more than 27 points in a game just twice this season, beating Rice and falling to Cal. Saturday, the Horns struggled to put away K-State, outgaining the Wildcats, 373-274.

Quarterback Jerrod Heard passed for just 99 yards on 15 attempts, but backup Tyrone Swoopes did score three rushing touchdowns in short-yardage situations. As a team, Texas rushed for 313 yards, its most since 2013.

If the Longhorns can control the clock with a ground-based offense, they’ll have a chance to slow down the more potent offenses ahead. But it won’t be easy. To lock down a bowl game, they’ll have to score more points.

The most important game? The Nov. 14 trip to West Virginia, which could lock down a crucial sixth win and a postseason trip. Beyond that, making postseason play will be difficult without some serious, sudden offensive improvement. 

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Florida State vs. Georgia Tech: Live Score and Highlights

The Florida State Seminoles and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will square off inside Bobby Dodd Stadium at 7 p.m. ET, and it's a game that Georgia Tech desperately needs to win. 

The Yellow Jackets (2-5, 0-4 ACC) have dropped five games in a row and are still looking for their first ACC win this season. Florida State (6-0, 4-0 ACC) will look to stay in contention for the College Football Playoff and come out of a tough environment in Atlanta, Georgia with a win. 

The game can be found on ESPN2, but follow the live blog here for updates and analysis. 

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