No. 1 Alabama rolls past Tennessee as Tagovailoa goes down to injury
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The cigar smoke circling throughout Bryant-Denny Stadium following Alabama victories over Tennessee typically signifies celebration. Saturday night, the puffs coming from the Crimson Tide faithful helped subdue some of the anxiety swirling the air.
No. 1 Alabama rolled past Tennessee, beating the Volunteers 35-13 to notch its 13th straight win in the annual rivalry. However, the news of the night came when Tua Tagovailoa limped to the locker room after injuring his right ankle midway through the second quarter.
"Tua will probably be out for a week," head coach Nick Saban said following the game. "I don't know the extent. He's got a twisted ankle. I think he's probably not going to be able to play for this next game. I know he's going to get another MRI and all that in the morning, and we'll decide exactly what to do from there."
The starting quarterback rolled his ankle while taking a sack on Alabama’s second possession of the second quarter. He left the game a play later, making his way to the team’s injury tent. From there, he exited to Alabama’s locker room and did not return for the remainder of the game.
Tagovailoa injured his left ankle during last season's SEC Championship Game as Jalen Hurts led the Crimson Tide to a comeback victory over Georgia. Saturday, the left-hander was replaced by Mac Jones, who did enough to help keep Alabama 's undefeated season alive.
Jones finished the game 6 of 11 for 72 yards. The redshirt sophomore had attempted just 21 passes in five previous games this season. Tagovailoa finished Saturday night 11 of 12 with 155 yards and an interception.
Without Tagovailoa, Alabama failed to establish the aerial assault that came into the day ranked No. 3 in the nation. Instead, the Crimson Tide returned to its roots of previous years — grinding out the game on the ground.
Najee Harris reached the century mark for the second consecutive week, recording 105 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Brian Robinson Jr. added a 9-yard touchdown run while recording 40 yards on seven carries.
Tagovailoa’s injury came with the Crimson Tide leading 21-10. After Jones struggled to move the offense on his first three drives, Tennessee cut the deficit to a single possession when kicker Brent Cimaglia connected on a 32-yard field goal with 11:54 to play in the third quarter.
Alabama answered back with a 10-play drive capped off by 6-yard touchdown pass from Wildcat quarterback Slade Bolden to tight end Miller Forristall to extend its lead to 28-13.
The drive was extended by a roughing the passer penalty on Tennessee defensive back Darrell Taylor after Jones threw an incompletion on third-and-10 from the Crimson Tide 24-yard line. From there, Harris helped Alabama march up the field, carrying the ball five time for 28 yards to set up the score.
The roughing-the-passer penalty was one of 13 fouls for Tennessee, resulting in 93 yards. Alabama was also plagued by penalties as it was flagged eight times for 93 yards.
Tennessee had a chance to bring the game within one score midway through the fourth quarter as the Volunteers lined up for fourth-and-goal from the Alabama 1-yard line. However, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano fumbled the ball into the end zone where it was recovered by Crimson Tide defensive back Trevon Diggs who returned it 100 yards for a touchdown.
Alabama (7-0, 4-0 in the SEC) limited Tennessee (2-5, 1-3) to 231 total yards on the evening. Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis provided constant pressure throughout the game, recording two sacks and three tackles for a loss while tallying seven total tackles. Safety Jared Mayden had five tackles to go with an interception and two pass breakups.
Tagovailoa wasn’t the only player to leave due to injury. Freshman kicker/punter Will Reichard left the game following a 33-yard punt in the second quarter. He was replaced by walk-on Ty Perine, who averaged 46.5 yards on two punts.
Alabama will host Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) next week at 6 p.m. CT inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium for its annual homecoming game.