Smokey Scheme: How Tennessee Smoked Alabama’s Defense
The love for Pete Golding was growing as Alabama defense was dominating opponents. Alabama's defense entered the matchup against the Vols leading the SEC in total defense and points per game. After this year's version of The Third Saturday in October that love has died and been replaced with a familiar distain for the 5th year defensive coordinator.
The Crimson Tide defense had given up 12.7 points and 250.8 yards per game and
Tennessee was able to blow those numbers out of the water. Hendon Hooker and Jalin Hyatt had a record-setting day. Hooker tied the Vols record for most consecutive games with touchdown pass on his way to 385 passing yards and 5 touchdowns, while Hyatt went for 6 catches for 207 yards and a school record 5 TD reception.
The Vols also maintained a solid running game with three players going over 50 yards each. So, Tennessee had their way through the air and on the ground on en route to 569 yards on the day.
It's important for fans to understand why the Volunteers were able to have such prolific success against the Crimson Tide. It's unfortunately very simple, and that's the frustrating part.
Tennessee kept Alabama spread out across the field the entire game. The Volunteer wide receivers spread out further than normal and stacked, creating natural passing lanes when the receivers would break inside. Alabama's secondary also did a horrendous job passing off receivers and got caught looking in the backfield as receivers ran down the field quite often.
Also, the pass rush was nonexistent. The Tennessee offensive line did an amazing job neutralizing the strength of Alabama's defense. A week ago, Texas A&M QB Haynes King was pressured over 20 times while Hendon Hooker had all the time in the world.
The combination of no consistent pass rush and route combinations allowed Hooker to pick apart the Alabama secondary. Topping it off were the defensive pass interference calls that kept drives alive. Most notably, the potentially game-sealing interception by Kool-Aid McKinstry that was erased. That drive ended in Hooker connecting with Hyatt for the 5th time.
Overall, this was the worst performance by an Alabama defense under Nick Saban resulting in the most points allowed under Saban since the 2020 63-48 victory over Ole Miss. The 52 points is also the first 50-point game given up by Alabama since 1907 against Sewanee when they gave up 54 points.
Alabama has a week to regroup and figure things out heading into next weeks matchup against The Mississippi State Bulldogs and the Air Raid offense under Head Coach Mike Leach.