KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Tennessee fought back in the second quarter, scoring touchdowns on back-to-back drives, but the Volunteers fell to No. 1 Alabama, 58-21, on Saturday at Neyland Stadium.
“I think we learned a lot about our football team today,” UT head coach Jeremy Pruitt said. “There are some guys we had on our team that this game was way too big for them, and I think everyone was able to see that. It helps us, and we’ll move on with it. We play a good football team next week, so we have to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for South Carolina.”
Today’s “Third Saturday of October” matchup marked the 101st meeting between Tennessee (3-4, 1-3 SEC) and Alabama (8-0, 5-0).
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jarrett Guarantano completed 5 of 10 passes for 63 yards before exiting the game with an injury in the second quarter. Redshirt senior backup quarterback Keller Chryst entered the game with 8:40 left in the first half and went on to complete 9 of 15 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensively, the Vols were led by redshirt junior wide receiver Jauan Jennings, who caught six passes for 102 yards, and sophomore running back Ty Chandler who had three receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown. Chandler also added 21 yards on the ground. His touchdown reception makes him the first Tennessee running back ever with TD catches in three consecutive games.
Alabama starting quarterback Tau Tagovailoa finished 19 of 29 for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Jalen Hurts entered in the third quarter and finished 2 of 3 for 21 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception.
Tennessee’s two touchdowns during the second quarter were jumpstarted by back-to-back three-and-outs forced by the Vols’ defense. During those drives, the Crimson Tide were held to two yards and negative six yards, respectively. The back-to-back three-and-outs were the first the Tide had suffered with Tagovailoa running the offense this season.
To begin the game, Alabama went 58 yards down the field in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead. The Tide added another touchdown in the first quarter after recovering a forced fumble at Tennessee’s three-yard line.
Alabama totaled two more scoring drives in the opening frame on a 77-yard pass by Tagovailoa and a three-yard Damien Harris run.
In the final drive of the first quarter, the Vols got off eight plays for 33 yards, including a 20-yard pass from Guarantano to Jennings.
Tennessee’s defense came alive in the second quarter, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs. Guarantano then connected on a 30-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Josh Palmer before exiting the game with an injury. Chryst entered with 8:40 left in the half and proceeded to find Chandler on consecutive throws of 10 yards or more, including a 10-yard touchdown pass. Sophomore kicker Brent Cimaglia added an extra point to make it a 28-7 ballgame.
Alabama answered with an eight-play, 43-yard drive of its own, capping it with a 2-yard touchdown run.
On UT’s following drive, Chryst marched the Vols 81 yards down the field in 1:58 for Tennessee’s second score of the night. The North Carolina native completed a 23-yard pass to Jennings before targeting him again for 40 yards. Chryst then threw to junior wide receiver Tyler Byrd for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Crimson Tide added a nine-yard touchdown to round out the half, scoring on nine plays in 2:01.
Alabama furthered its lead in the third quarter, scoring on a safety before going 54 yards in four plays for Tagovailoa’s fourth touchdown pass of the game.
Tennessee attempted a field goal with 6:07 left in the third quarter from 41 yards out but missed wide left.
With Hurts at quarterback for UA and under six minutes left in the third, junior defensive back Baylen Buchanan tipped a pass by Hurts that fell into the hands of Kyle Phillips, who then returned it 27 yards to the end zone. Cimaglia’s made PAT cut the Crimson Tide’s lead to 51-21. Phillips is the first opposing player to have a pick-six against Alabama since junior linebacker Daniel Bituli returned an interception 97 yards for a TD in 2017.
The Tide scored the final points of the game in their final drive of the third quarter on a 21-yard rush by Hurts.
Defensively, Tennessee was led by redshirt junior linebacker Quart’e Sapp, junior defensive back Nigel Warrior and Bituli with eight tackles apiece.
The Vols head to Columbia, South Carolina, next Saturday to face the Gamecocks at 7:30 p.m. ET. The game will be aired on SEC Network.