Vols unable to dig out against ‘Bama

Carter County Sports

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Facing its third Top 5 opponent of the season, Tennessee rallied but dropped a 34-20 decision to #4 Alabama before 102,455 at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night.

The Vols (3-5, 0-4 SEC) fell behind 27-0, but rallied to get back to within 10 points at 27-17 in the third quarter with 17 consecutive points.

Alabama improved to 7-1 and 4-1 in the SEC.

With Justin Worley sidelined due to injury, redshirt sophomoreNathan Peterman drew his second career start for Tennessee. After two series, he was replaced by sophomore Joshua Dobbs, who went on to spark the Vols’ offense. Dobbs finished 19-of-32 for 192 passing yards with two touchdowns. He ran for 75 yards on 19 carries. It was the most rushing yards by a Tennessee quarterback since Tee Martin had 81 vs. Syracuse on Sept. 5, 1998.

Alabama’s potent combination of quarterback Blake Sims and wide receiver Amari Cooper got off to a great start with two touchdowns in the game’s first 6:05. Sims finished 14-of-24 for 286 yards with two passing touchdowns along with a rushing score. Cooper had nine catches for a career-high 224 yards with two touchdowns. Cooper’s receiving yards total is the most in Alabama history and the most against Tennessee in history.

Down 27-0, the Vols posted 17 consecutive points to draw within 27-17 in the third quarter after Dobbs connected withVon Pearson on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 5:52 left in the third.

Alabama’s Derrick Henry ended the Vols’ scoring streak with a 28-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left in the third quarter for a 34-17 Bama lead.

Aaron Medley booted his second field goal of the game from 24 yards to make it 34-20 with 9:42 left in the fourth.

The Vols rushed for 181 yards, the most Alabama has allowed this season. They previous high for a Tide opponent was 107 by Florida on Sept. 20. The total was the most by Tennessee in the series since 2010 when the Vols rushed for 184 yards.

Tennessee also racked up 383 yards of total offense. That’s the most for the Vols vs. Alabama since 2003.

Senior linebacker A.J. Johnson led the Vols defensive charge with a team-high eight tackles. He moved to third in career tackles as he passed Earnest Fields (407) in the game. Johnson now has 410.

Both teams were stellar on third-down conversions. The Vols made 11-of-19 while Alabama was 11-of-15.

Alabama raced out to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter. Cooper took the first pass of the game from Sims and dashed 80 yards down the right sideline to put the Tide up 6-0. Cooper scored his second touchdown with 8:55 left in the first quarter on a 41-yard pass from Sims. The lead moved to three scores as T.J. Yeldon ran around the right end from a yard out, making it 20-0 with 3:12 left.

The Vols got on the board as Dobbs connected with Josh Malone for his first college touchdown on a 9-yard reception with 7:03 left in the first half. That made it 27-7. Medley added a 27-yard field goal at the first half expired for a 27-10 Alabama lead at intermission.

Tennessee returns to action next Saturday as the Vols travel to South Carolina to face the Gamecocks on Nov. 1. That game kicks off at 7:30 p.m., and airs on the SEC Network and can be heard on the Vol Network.

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