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October 21, 2012
UA defense stands tall to Vols' no-huddle offense
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. | The Tennessee Volunteers were in a hurry Saturday night at Neyland Stadium, and at times the University of Alabama had trouble slowing them down.
The Crimson Tide's defense came in ranked No. 1 in the nation in total defense, scoring defense, pass defense and rushing defense, but Tennessee was able to exploit its fast-paced no-huddle offense to gash UA for some big gains and even sustain a few drives.
While Tennessee didn't copy the warp-speed no-huddle offense Ole Miss utilized with some degree of success a few weeks prior - Tennessee has operated its offense that way all season - it showed again that Alabama has at least some vulnerability to that approach.
The no-huddle offense run at a fast pace is designed to keep the defense from substituting to create matchup advantages against the defenders who have to stay on the field, and to keep the defense from lining up properly to match up against the offense. In spots, at least, UT was able to accomplish that.
The UA defense had the upper hand at the start, forcing three-and-outs on Tennessee's first two possessions, but the Volunteers were able to get ahead of the curve and catch Alabama flat-footed. Quarterback Tyler Bray had a 15-yard completion to running back Marlin Lane swinging out of the backfield and hit big-play receiver Cordarrelle Patterson for a 25-yard gain in a matchup against safety Robert Lester before the drive stalled out at the Alabama 14-yard line.
Tennessee settled for a field goal, which may not have seemed like a big deal but for the fact that it marked the first points scored against Alabama in a first quarter all season.
The Vols were able to hustle their way to their only touchdown later in the first half. After Bray connected with tight end Mychal Rivera for a 43-yard gain to the UA 5-yard line, Alabama tried to make a defensive substitution to get a goal-line unit onto the field. Tennessee snapped the ball while the Crimson Tide still had 12 defenders on the field, resulting in a penalty that moved the ball closer to the goal. A.J. Johnson crashed into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run on the next play.
Alabama's defense controlled the action for the most part despite Tennessee's few successes. Bray completed just 13 of 27 attempts for 184 yards and was intercepted twice. Lester and linebacker C.J. Mosley each picked off a pass.
"It's a great defense," Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said. "Nobody's really done much on them, but we thought we matched up good.
"It's tough to run it against this team. It's tough plowing against them."
Marlin Lane, starting in place of injured Rajion Neal, had the most productive outing of any running back so far against Alabama, running for 55 yards and adding 48 receiving yards on 20 total touches.
On the whole, however, Tennessee's running game was stuffed, with the Vols gaining 79 yards on the ground and averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.
Mosley made seven tackles to lead Alabama, including one tackle for loss. Defenders Xzavier Dickson and Damion Square each batted down a pass to disrupt Tennessee's passing game. Vinnie Sunseri and Trey DePriest made six tackles each.
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.