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Inside the significance of Mack Wilson’s pick in Alabama’s win over Tennessee

Marvin Gentry - USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee could probably win-out the rest of its schedule, but with the minimal amount of talent it has and fans wanting Butch Jones out of Knoxville, the Volunteers have nothing to play for. 

After failing to score a touchdown in two weeks before facing Alabama, Jones’ group found itself inside the one-yard line during the fourth quarter. A feverish pitch would possess Bryant-Denny Stadium as the Crimson Tide faithful did not want to relinquish an offensive score. 

Three unproductive attempts – including a false start penalty – set up quarterback Jarrett Guarantano and company with a fourth down at the five-yard line. Despite Jones’ confidence growing prior to the ensuing play, the aftermath of what would happen killed his mood. 

Pressure from linebackers Rashaan Evans and Anfernee Jennings forced a poor decision from Guarantano as he threw the ball into the arms of sophomore Mack Wilson. While Tide fans roared with approval and Wilson grabbed the “Ball Out” turnover belt, the Volunteers soon realized that it had gone three consecutive games without breaking the plane for six points. 

“It was great,” Saban said of Wilson’s play. “I think the fans had a lot to do with that. They contributed to the false start penalty when they (Tennessee) had the ball at the one. It gave us a chance on third and goal at the five and they had to pass the ball down there, which it gets a little restricted. On the fourth down play, we did a great job of matching the pattern and got pressure on the quarterback.  It was exciting to see our players not wanting them to score.” 

He got chewed out for a penalty a few weeks ago; however, Wilson’s response on Twitter to how Nick Saban handled him spoke volumes toward his potential rise to greatness.

He shares the team lead in interceptions (three) and is tied for second in the Southeastern Conference per ESPN. 

Wilson has the most picks of any linebacker for one season in the Saban era.  

Behind his efforts, Alabama continues its play of not allowing conference opponents to record touchdowns in the first half of games. Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt saw his unit shutout Vanderbilt and surrender just three points to Ole Miss. Both Texas A&M and Arkansas found the end zone, but their accomplishments came in the second half as the game was out of reach.  

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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