Alabama Fights Past Tennessee, Instant Analysis

    It was a rough, tough, gut-check game for Alabama, getting by Tennessee with a hard 19-14 win.

    October 24, 2015

    It was a rough, tough, gut-check game for Alabama, getting by Tennessee with a hard 19-14 win.

    Alabama 19, Tennessee 14 Instant Analysis

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    1. Alabama, Jake Coker, there’s your scare.

    Just about everyone gets two weeks off to prepare for Alabama, and Tennessee looked like it. The defense appeared to be fresh, the linebackers were all over the Alabama ground game – even with Derrick Henry rolling for over 100 yards – and it was a rocky performance by a Crimson Tide team that looked so dominant at times over the course of the season.

    In the end, this was the game Alabama needed its starting quarterback to be solid.

    Jake Coker threw an interception, but that was about it for the mistakes as he came up with the plays he needed to move the chains late, and he got the team the win it needed to have when it didn’t play its best.

    Alabama needed a gut check late drive, and Coker did his part to get the team into the end zone.

    It might not have been a special performance, completing 21-of-27 passes for 247 yards, but Alabama needed a steady leader late, and it needed the offense to take control of the game to own the clock and be steady. Coker trusted his receivers, they made the plays in the one-on-one battles, and Alabama got out of a nasty game alive. It might not have been perfect, but it was a strong win when everything wasn’t going right. If you’re Alabama, you take it and you move on, but more importantly, once again, you realize that your quarterback can handle himself just fine. However …

    2. It’s nice to have a running back like Derrick Henry.

    Not everything worked like it was supposed to, and he didn’t have any home runs like he came up with in previous key games, but Derrick Henry pounded out a tough 28-carry, 143-yard, two score day. While the rest of the team seemed a little sluggish at times, Henry showed the quickness and athleticism late despite being keyed on and beaten all game long. If it’s possible to be a slippery 6-3 and 242 pounds, Henry proved he could be it. When Tennessee started to grind down at the end, it was Henry who took over the focus, even if Coker turned out to be the one who beat the defense that loaded the box. It seems like this is being said every week, but even though Leonard Fournette is obviously the man, especially in the Heisman chase, Henry shouldn’t be that far behind.

    3. Tennessee’s missed opportunity.

    Beating Alabama would’ve been the moment Tennessee has needed. As nice as the win over Georgia two weeks ago, and as rough as the losses to Florida and Arkansas were, everything would’ve changed for Butch Jones and the Vols with a win in Tuscaloosa. Not only would it have been the signature moment, and not only would it have been the big chance to prove that this really is a top-shelf program again, but it would’ve meant a possible share of the SEC East title, depending on what happens in the Florida-Georgia game next week.

    The rest of the Tennessee schedule? At Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, at Missouri, Vanderbilt. It’ll take a huge upset for the Vols to lose any of those, and had they been able to pull this off they almost certainly would go on to finish the SEC season at 6-2 with one of the losses coming to Arkansas out of the West. A win over Alabama, and a Georgia win over Florida would’ve almost certainly meant a three-way tie in the East, but that’s gone now.

    So there you go, Georgia-Florida. Your showdown in Jacksonville next week is, for all intents and purposes, for the East title. 

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