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October 25, 2010

Upon Further Review: Alabama at Tennessee

Most University of Alabama football fans were left wondering the same thing after watching junior wide receiver Julio Jones set the Crimson Tide single-game receiving record of 221 yards Saturday night at Tennessee.

How did he not get a touchdown?

"I feel all right," Jones said after topping David Palmer's mark of 217 set at Vanderbilt in 1993. "The only reason I was (able to get the record) was the offensive line. Without them I couldn't do what I did.
"It was a goal, but I need to do that week in and week out."

After Jones was pulled near the end of the first quarter against Ole Miss last week, when he aggravated his left hand fracture six days after having surgery, Jones apparently went to Nick Saban and asked him not to hold back.

"He had a real chip on his shoulder this week and you could tell by the way he practiced," senior quarterback Greg McElroy said.

Coaches and the quarterbacks seemed to sense it and went to Jones on the first three pass attempts against the Volunteers, resulting in a 14-yard gain, a 1-yard screen that had a missed block and a crossing pass that just went off his fingertips.

Then they started looking to him downfield.
When Tennessee left cornerback Art Evans alone with him, and the quarterbacks correctly reading one-on-one coverage, he torched him. Evans had such a long day that he even grabbed Jones by the hair on his final catch of the first quarter, a 14-yard gain.

Having a week off might do wonders for Jones and his teammates, as just about everyone has some sort of injury. When they get back, it's essentially a three-game season against ranked division rivals and the season on the line.

"We're still here," sophomore running back Trent Richardson said about Alabama's offensive success at Neyland Stadium with 536 total yards (210 rushing, 326 passing).

"Everyone has a bye week before they play us. We need this off week."

Here are the awards from the 41-10 victory:

Player of the game: To put junior Jones' school-record 221 receiving yards into perspective consider that he almost doubled his previous career high of 128 at LSU in 2008. Strangely enough, he's only had one 100-yard performance at Bryant-Denny Stadium, 102 last year against the Tigers.

Play of the game: Richardson's 65-yard touchdown looked like the call was run left and pick a hole, but was aided by some terrific blocking by the left side of the line and junior wide receiver Darius Hanks. He went between sophomore right guard Barrett Jones, who got to the second level, and sophomore left guard Chance Warmack before aiming for the checkered end zone.

Statistic of the game: Alabama scored touchdowns on its first four possessions of the second half, driving 295 yards on 23 plays (12.8 average) for 28 points. Meanwhile, on its corresponding possessions Tennessee drove 163 yards on 34 plays (4.79) and zero points.

Did you notice? : Saturday was the most lopsided game in the "Third Saturday in October" rivalry since Alabama beat Tennessee 35-0 at Legion Field in Birmingham in 1963. The Crimson Tide has also won the last two games in Knoxville by a combined score of 70-26.

Did you notice II: When Oregon won at Tennessee earlier this season, 48-13, the score was 13-13 at halftime. Aided by a 76-yard interception return and an 80-yard punt return, both for touchdowns, the Ducks finished with 447 total yards (202 passing and 245 rushing). Interestingly enough, the Volunteers led in time of possession, 31:13 to 28:47.

Here are 10 other notable things from Saturday:

"They're not booing, they're saying Juuuuuuulio": Jones beat Tennessee just about every way imaginable, including sideline catches with just his toes in-bounds, slants and, of course, the deep ball with plays of 47, 42 and 38 yards. His prettiest catch had to be the 19-yard reception in the third quarter when Jones laid out and appeared to land on the ball, knocking the wind out of him. If so, second place was his 9-yard reception in the first quarter when Richardson made a great block. The play near the end zone that was ruled incomplete could have been challenged and reviewed, but there probably wasn't enough evidence to overturn. Jones had used his injured hand to cushion his fall and was flexing it after the play. Alabama had 141 yards after the catch, but Jones was topped in that area by junior Marquis Maze's 68, easily his season high.

Explosive plays: The Tide had its best showing since Duke, with eight explosive plays and six big plays. Reminder, Saban defines a big gain as a run of 16 yards or more or a pass of 21 yards or more, and an explosive play a run of 13 yards or more or a pass of 17 yards or more. The defense yielded six explosive plays and four big plays.

McElroy's day: The senior took a beating, with at least five really hard hits including the brutal sack by Herman Lathers. He was pressured six times and had three passes broken up, which accounted for most of his misses during the 21-of-32, 264-yard performance. He was 4-for-8 on third downs, but the one that really stood out to fans was at the Tennessee 8 when he didn't take a sack and threw the ball away (although Alabama missed the subsequent field-goal attempt). It's a reason why he was 1-for-4 in the red zone. At halftime, Alabama had attempted 25 passes (with a couple more called but the ball was never thrown) compared to 14 carries, but Tide almost finished with a 50-50 split (34 carries, 35 pass attempts). McElroy's last attempt, the 36-yard catch-and-run to Maze to beat a blitz, featured a nice block by freshman receiver Kevin Norwood. Redshirt freshman A.J. McCarron completed all three of his attempts including the 47-yard shot to Jones. He also connected with him on a 10-yard slant (although the ball was thrown behind the receiver) and the 5-yard touchdown pass to Richardson.

Against the run: Tennessee had carries of 59, 15 and 13 yards all through the Tide's left side. The 59-yard touchdown beat a blitz with sophomore safety Robert Lester attacking from around the left side and on one of the other runs redshirt freshman Darrington Sentimore appeared to turn the wrong way, thus creating the hole. The only significant run the other direction was the 22-yard gain that Milliner eventually knocked the ball loose and out of bounds.

Mark Ingram's day: Something was clearly wrong with the running back during the first half despite his 42-yard run after talking to trainer Jeff Allen and making a quick trip to the locker room. Ingram didn't look comfortable after his 3-yard run out of the pistol formation and headed to the sideline after his 1-yard loss on a short pass when he lost his footing on the sideline tarp. On his longest carry since Duke, Warmack had the key block, and senior tackle James Carpenter's block helped him score his second touchdown. Good thing Ingram uses an eye shield because during his 8-yard run near the end zone three defenders were reaching at his helmet.

The hit: The reason why there's no hit of the game listed is because no helmet-to-helmet shot should ever be glorified, especially when someone could have been severely injured. It's obvious that coming off a block freshman cornerback DeMarcus Milliner didn't mean to deliver a head shot on Tennessee's second play when receiver Denarius Moore lost his footing trying to cut back, making himself more vulnerable. Although the 2-yard end-around was nearly stopped in the backfield and very close to being a fumble, the Volunteers' leading receiver didn't return.

The pistol returns: Alabama ran almost entirely out of the pistol or with the quarterback under center, and the running backs responded favorably to the downhill style with 215 rushing yards. Richardson's long touchdown and two 9-yard carries were out of the pistol, but the real surprise may have been the numerous times Alabama went play-action and threw out of the formation, which may have been just as much for future opponents as Tennessee. The Tide ran one play out of the wildcat for 3 yards when McElroy went in motion before the snap.

Thrown at: UT didn't complete a pass against Milliner or junior safety Mark Barron, while junior Phelon Jones, who filled in for DeQuan Menzie at star, showed that he's made major strides. Six passes were thrown in his direction, with just three completions for 8 yards and an interception (he and sophomore linebacker Dont'a Hightower missed picks). The Tide broke up eight passes with two were by defensive end Marcell Dareus (one while pressuring, the other in coverage). Alabama's still having some trouble picking up receivers out of the backfield, which led to Tennessee's longest completion of 26 yards, and the only other explosive pass play was by splitting a zone. Like previous opponents the Vols also had a receiver run behind the line and catch a pass before turning up field, this time for 11 yards. A 16-yard completion appeared to be blown coverage and a 15-yard gain was after Lester slipped. Coming in Alabama had five turnovers in the red zone, but none since Florida until Lester's interception at the goal-line for his fifth pickoff of the season.

Special teams : Alabama changed things up on kick coverage, adding more speed which paid off with wide receivers Kenny Bell and Brandon Gibson both making tackles as did Richardson. Sophomore B.J. Scott was also added to the unit and in addition to playing at cornerback, where he had a late interception and face-mask penalty, totaled three tackles. Freshman Cody Mandell only had two punts and it appeared that sophomore Jeremy Shelley just missed the field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright.

Penalties: Alabama had six penalties, one of which was declined, although two were after the reserves had been inserted (Scott's face mask and Will Lowery's pass interference). The other three were Kirkpatrick's pass interference, Wes Neighbors' illegal block to the back and Barron's face mask. Kirkpatrick was also flagged for a personal foul on the Tennessee sideline when he was pushed by defensive end Ben Martin, who wasn't suited up, and gave a shove back to receiver Gerald Jones. Kirkpatrick missed an opportunity to really help his team even though Martin's actions were inexcusable. Officials should have stuck with their original penalty on defensive back Brent Brewer for taking his helmet off because even though there was an equipment issue, he gloated over a tackled player which is unsportsmanlike conduct. He also could have been penalized for a late hit.


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