KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts rushed for 132 yards and three touchdowns to key a dominant running attack while the Crimson Tide defense and special teams contributed touchdowns of their own as the top-ranked University of Alabama football team (7-0 overall; 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference) decisively defeated the ninth-ranked Volunteers of the University of Tennessee (5-2 overall; 2-2 in the SEC), 49-10, on Saturday afternoon before a capacity crowd of 102,455 at Neyland Stadium on the UT campus.
Hurts directed the Tide offense to five touchdowns, Eddie Jackson returned a punt 79 yards for a score, and free safety Ronnie Harrison returned an interception 58 yards for a touchdown as Alabama moved ahead early and remained in command all afternoon. The Alabama defense limited the explosive Tennessee offense to a season-low 163 yards, including season lows in rushing (32 yards) and passing (131). Meanwhile, the Tide offense grinded out 594 yards of total offense, the most in a game since 2010 (591 vs. San Jose State) and the 16th-most yards gained in a single game in Alabama history (the most ever by an Alabama team against Tennessee).
The Tide rushed for 438 yards against the Vols, the most by an Alabama team since the Tide rushed for 457 yards against Tennessee in a 56-28 win in 1986 in Knoxville. Two Alabama players rushed for more than 100 yards in the game as Hurts had 132 and three touchdowns while Scarbrough finished with 109 and a touchdown on five carries. Hurts completed 16 of 26 pass attempts for 143 yards, throwing one interception. Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart had eight catches for 54 yards and wide receiver Calvin Ridley had five catches for 65 yards to lead the Tide.
Alabama’s defense produced 10 tackles for loss, three quarterback sacks, broke up six passes, intercepted a pass and had numerous quarterback hurries in the game. Free safety Ronnie Harrison led the impressive effort with seven total tackles (six solos), intercepted a pass that he returned 52 yards for a touchdown and broke up two passes on the day. Linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton had six tackles (five solos), including two for losses. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick also had six tackles (four solos).
Punter JK Scott punted four times for 200 yards, averaging 50.0 yards per boot, including two of more than 50 yards and a long of 62.
For Tennessee, quarterback Joshua Dobbs completed 16 of 27 passes for 92 yards and one interception. Running back Jalen Hurd had 28 yards on 13 carries while running back Alvin Kamara rushed for 21 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts. Wide receiver Josh Malone led the Vols with five catches for 61 yards.
The teams exchanged punts in the early going after Tennessee took the opening kickoff. Midway through the first quarter, Alabama took possession at its own nine-yard line following a penalty for an illegal block in the back on Tennessee’s second punt. The Tide march 91 yards in nine plays to a touchdown, on a drive capped by a 29-yard touchdown by ArDarius Stewart. Stewart caught a shovel pass for six yards on the second play of the drive to the Tide 15, then Stewart took a short pass from Hurts for six more to the Tide 21. Damien Harris rushed for 12 yards to the Tide 33, then 18 more to the Tennessee 49. Running back Josh Jacobs rushed for 13 yards to the Vols 36, then gained seven to the UT 29. On the next play, Stewart took a handoff on a reverse from Calvin Ridley, who had taken a shovel pass from Hurts to start the play. The play was officially ruled a rush by Stewart by the statisticians, for a 29-yard touchdown run. Adam Griffith’s point-after conversion kick was good, giving Alabama a 7-0 lead with 3:17 left in the first quarter.
A 28-yard punt return by Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, combined with a 15-yard personal foul on a late hit out of bounds, set up the Vols at the Tide 40 to start a possession with 1:00 left in the first quarter. But the threat ended emphatically. Alabama free safety Ronnie Harrison intercepted a Josh Dobbs pass at the Tide 42 and raced untouched 58 yards to a touchdown with 14 seconds left in the opening period. Griffith’s kick was good, giving Alabama a 14-0 lead. It marked Alabama’s eighth defensive touchdown of the 2016 season (leading the nation) and the Tide’s 10th non-offensive touchdown this season.
Tennessee’s defense created a scoring opportunity early in the second quarter. Vols defensive end Derek Barnett sacked Hurts for a loss of 14 at the Tide 11 on a third-down play, forcing a fumble that was recovered by defensive lineman Quay Picou. Kamara took it in from there on two rushing plays. Kamara gained four yards on first down to the Tide seven, then took a handoff up the middle for the remaining seven yards and a touchdown. Aaron Medley’s point-after kick was good and the Tide lead was cut to 14-7 with 9:41 left in the second quarter.
Alabama responded with a scoring drive, moving 65 yards in six plays. From the Tide 35, Harris kick-started the drive with three consecutive rushes, gaining 13 on the first play of the drive, four more on the second play to the UT 48, and losing two yards to the 50. A pass to Stewart gained nine yards on a third-and-eight play to a first down at the UT 41. After a pass to Ridley lost four yards, Hurts faked a handoff to Jacobs at left guard and kept around right end, breaking free and racing 45 yards to a touchdown. Tight end Miller Forrestal set up the score with a clearing block on the right side. Griffith’s extra-point kick was good, giving Alabama a 21-7 lead with 7:22 left in the second period.
A Tide march keyed by a 37-yard run by Hurts reached the UT 12, but Alabama’s attempt to extend their lead was snuffed out when Bennett pressured Hurts, deflected his pass, and intercepted the ball at the Tide 25. Bennett returned the theft seven yards before Hurts dragged him down at the UT 32 with 1:24 left in the half. The ensuing possession yielded six yards and a punt as the Tide defense forced a three-and-out by the UT offense for the fifth time in the half.
Starting at its own 16, Alabama took the ball with 1:02 on the clock and managed a 64-yard drive in seven plays to the Tennessee 20. Harris rushed twice for 17 yards to start the drive before a 22-yard run by Jacobs reached the UT 41 with 14 seconds left on the clock. A pass to Ridley gained 12 to the UT 29 before Hurts rushed for nine yards to the UT 20 to set up a 37-yard field goal try by Griffith with two seconds left in the half. Griffith’s kick had plenty of distance, but it was wide right and no good. That left the halftime score Alabama 21, Tennessee 7.
Through the first half, Alabama had dominated statistically. The Tide rushed for 245 yards to Tennessee’s 11; had a 309 to 41 edge in total offense; had 16 first downs to Tennessee’s six; and had limited the explosive Vols offense to 2-of-10 on third downs while forcing seven Tennessee punts. Hurts had 92 rushing yards in the half while Harris had 72 on 11 carries.
Hurts became the first Alabama quarterback since Tyler Watts in 2001 to eclipse 100 rushing yards twice in a season on the opening drive of the second half, but that possession ended in a punt. Alabama forced a UT punt on the ensuing possession, a kick of only 16 yards that sailed out of bounds at the Tide 49 with 10:10 left in the third period. Hurts went to the air immediately, hitting Stewart for 23 yards on a crossing pattern to the UT 28. Harris gained five yards on first down to the Vols 23. After an incomplete pass, Hurts took a keeper for 21 yards to the UT two-yard line. On the next play, Hurts faked a handoff up the middle and calmly kept around right end behind good blocking for a two-yard touchdown run. Griffith’s conversion kick was true and Alabama led, 28-7, with 9:02 left in the third quarter.
Tennessee marched to a field goal on the next possession, moving 49 yards in 10 plays. Dobbs completed all five pass attempts on the drive for 43 of the 49 yards. The drive stalled at the Tide 19 and Medley came in to kick a 37-yard field goal with 4:03 left in the third quarter, moving the score to Alabama leading 28-10.
Hurts opened it up on the first play of the next drive. From the Tide 25, he hit Ridley on a deep post for 31 yards to the UT 44. On the next play, Harris took a handoff at right guard for 14 yards and a first down at the Tennessee 30. That play moved Alabama past 300 yards rushing in the game (306) with 3:41 left in the third period. Ridley took a shovel pass for five to the UT 25. Stewart took a pass from Hurts at the left side for three yards to the UT 22. On third-and-two at the 22, Scarbrough took a handoff up the middle for four yards and a first down at the UT 18. A handoff to Jacobs lost six to the UT 24, creating second-and-16. Hurts found Howard wide open in the middle of the field for a gain of 23 yards to the UT one-yard line. Hurts then kept to the right side on a run-pass option, choosing to run for a yard and a touchdown. Griffith’s kick was good and Alabama led, 35-10, following the eight-play, 75-yard scoring drive that ended with 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
To that point in the game, the Tide was averaging 7.2 yards per first down play having gained 230 of the team’s 447 total yards on first down plays (230 yards on 32 plays including 128 rushing yards on 20 attempts for a 6.4-yard average).
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Tennessee punted. Trevor Daniel’s punt traveled 49 yards to the Tide 21 where Eddie Jackson hauled it in, ran through two arm tackles right after catching the ball, angled left and hit the sideline with only Daniel to beat. Daniel tried to body tackle Jackson low, but Jackson evaded that attempt and broke free down the Alabama sideline to complete a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown. Griffith kicked good and Alabama led, 42-10, with 14:42 left in the fourth period. The score marked Jackson’s third touchdown of the season (two punt returns and one interception return) and the fifth touchdown of his career (three interception returns and two punt returns).
After a Tennessee punt on the next possession, Scarbrough took a handoff and raced around left tackle for an 85-yard touchdown run. Griffith’s kick was good, giving Alabama a 49-10 lead with 11:38 left in the fourth quarter. From that point on, it was time for the reserves to fully take over. That ended the scoring, in spite of Alabama making one final drive deep into Tennessee territory late in the game.
The 39-point victory is the second-highest margin by either team in the series, eclipsed only by a 51-0 Alabama win in 1906. Only a pair of 35-point Alabama victories in 1963 (35-0) and 2013 (45-10) come close in the modern era.
Alabama continues its 2016 season Saturday, Oct. 22, by hosting the Aggies of Texas A&M (6-0 overall; 4-0 in the SEC) with kickoff slated for 2:30 p.m. Central Time. The game will be televised by CBS Sports.